Give me books, fruit, french wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors. --John Keats

Friday, January 15, 2010

"The Goose Girl" by Shannon Hale

Finally the long-awaited book was returned to the library, and this time I was lucky enough to be the one to check it out. I interrupted my reading about war in the Val d'Orcia for a breath of fresh air, and did not regret it for a moment. This book was every bit as magical as I expected it to be.

Once again throughout this book Hale exhibits her prowess with words. In one example of many, when the Crown Princess was sitting at her father's deathbed, a lesser writer would have said her chest felt hollow, or perhaps empty. Hale, however, describes Ani's chest as "an abandoned snail shell," making a clear point about her empty feeling while at once adding depth to the idea by letting the reader know Ani also felt wrenched and contorted inside, worthless and discarded.

I knew well the original fairy tale of The Goose Girl. This was good and bad. Good, because it is often quite enjoyable to read a familiar old story that has been fleshed out and given beautiful color and texture; bad, because the book held few surprises for me. It was obvious that Selia would be the maid to usurp the identity of the princess, and I knew the general direction the plot was headed at each turn. Also, a disappointing result of having read the sequel first was that I knew Geric was the prince to whom Ani was betrothed, so there was no surprise for me there, although I do wonder if I might have suspected his identity even without that foreknowledge.

As much as I have enjoyed Hale's writing, I am not sure that I will seek out any of her other novels. The third in the Books of Bayern series, River Secrets, follows a minor character named Razzo who was never especially compelling for me, although he does play a larger part in the second book than in this one. The fourth book, Forest Born, follows a character not even introduced (that I recall) in the first two books, Razzo's sister Rin. And Bayern is not like Narnia, constantly calling me back even after all these years. I am even more resistant to reading either of Hale's two books written for adults, as they both seem to be of the "chick lit" variety and I don't want them to ruin my opinion of her as an author. However, I will make my official excuse by pointing to my overlarge stack of books I already have waiting to be read.

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