Sunday, February 7, 2010

Book Review - Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story by Carolyn Turgeon

Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story
Author: Carolyn Turgeon
Year: 2009
Page: 288
Genre: Fiction

New to me author? Yes
Read this author again? Possibly
Tearjerker? No
Where did it take place? US
FTC Disclosure: Borrowed from the library

Summary (from
In a decidedly different take on Cinderella, Turgeon limns the travails of Lil, the fairy godmother chosen to ensure that, because she is fated to marry the prince, Cinderella gets to the ball. Lil, however, lets herself feel human emotions, falls in love with the prince, and goes to the ball in Cinderella’s place. The fairy elders banish her to the human world, where she lives, wings furled and bound behind her back, as an old woman working in a tiny Manhattan rare-book store. This take on the tale unfolds in alternating first-person accounts, one of Lil in the past, the other of Lil in the present, yearning to rejoin her sister and friends in the fairy world and finding a way to redeem herself when she meets Veronica, a vibrant young woman, and realizes that by finding a soul mate for Veronica, she could make up for that night so long ago. Lil is complex and appealing, and vivid imagery and lyrical writing give shape to a charmer with a very satisfying, enigmatic ending.

First Sentence:
I loved arriving at the bookstore first thing in the morning, when the streets were still quiet, the sun half risen, and the whole place felt like a secret meeting room.

Why did I pick this book?
Read Stephanie's Written Word's review and thought re-telling of a fairy tale is something I had not read before, so willing to give it a try!

My thoughts:
  • Book lovers will be charmed by the first few pages - which one of us wouldn't want to work in a book store where the books are loved? (An independent one too! One that has rare and used books!) 
  • I really liked the concept of the book. I read that some reviewers didn't like the ending. I thought the ending was a bit abrupt and a little unclear (needed to google to make sure I understood what happened correctly - I did, but it was an educated guess). I can certainly understand why others didn't like how it ended (again, can't elaborate to avoid spoilers), however I actually quite liked it and thought it was successful because it was unexpected. Definitely a memorable one. The ending really makes or breaks a story doesn't it?

  • I liked the characters - who wouldn't want a grandma like Lil, a friend like Veronica (or hairstylist!), a significant other like George... but they had their faults and were not perfect, which made them more realistic

  • The reason I only gave it 3.5 instead of 4 stars was because I felt the book could be shorter. I found it was a bit too descriptive that I skimmed through some paragraphs just to find out what happened next. I guess I just like books that are concise and to the point, but not boring or too "sterile". Also, the story alternated between past and present, but it wasn't clear at first and got a bit confusing - I guess I am one of those that like to have each chapter labeled "past" or "present" - it doesn't always work with such labels (i.e. if the author doesn't want to spoil the surprise for the readers... e.g. like the author wanted you to think it happened now but it actually happened in the past, or vice versa) but for this book I don't think it posed a problem. It'll just make the story easier to follow

  • Have you read other books that are re-telling of other famous stories? I don't believe I have (I remember someone told me about a humorous book that is a collection of the supposedly true stories behind these tales - Little Red Ridding Hood may be one story in the book - but I don't remember what it's called... it has probably been 16 years since I heard of it) Would love to have some recommendations! I love hearing stories from different perspectives :)

  • This book was a fun read, but also not a fun read... hate speaking in riddles, but that's exactly how I felt about it (explanation = spoilers)

  • I also don't think the cover really portrayed the book well... it's a difficult book to design a cover for I think - to not give the story away - and see what I said above? It's a fun book and not a fun book - so do you make the cover fun? Or not fun?

  • The quote is a bit long - but I have always wondered the same. Many of you probably do too

I loved the scribbles in the margins, the notes in the front of the books that told their stories, the ways they passed from one person to another. "To Jennifer, Christmas 1921. May these words stay with you." The stray phrases and numbers jotted on the side of a page -- "Indian Taj, 74th Street" emerging from the margins of Utopia, "BUY PUMPKINS" blaring up at me from the back cover of To the Lighthouse. As I sat behind the register, carefully erasing the penciled marks, I felt as if each book had a secret to tell, only to me.

In this one, my favorite one, someone had scribbled on the inside of the back cover, in French, "Tous mes anciens amours vont me revenir."

All my old loves will be returned to me.

I had often imagined who had written it, the faded pencil, the strange scrawl. Sometimes I imagined a young girl, daydreaming. Sometimes an old woman like me, left with nothing but memories. I wondered what had happened to the woman, if she'd ended up having a life rich with love or if she'd lived how I had lived, starving and alone. It could have been anything, an artist's note or a quote to tell a friend, but I felt I could see this woman, her face lit with hope, the pencil poised in her hand like a swooping bird. (p3-4)


Have you read this book? 
If you have, I would love to hear what you think!
I'll link your review here if you wish!

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  1. I definitely know what you mean when you say that the book was fun but also not fun... personally I wasn't a huge fan of the ending so that sort of ruined the book for me, but I'm glad it didn't for you!

    I also enjoy fairy tale retellings. The only one I can remember off the top of my head that I've read is Grimm's Grimmest, which isn't so much a retelling as reverting back to the original more gruesome form of the fairy tales. I''d recommend it if you have the stomach for it ;)

  2. Other retellings: There is a children's/young adult series called The Grimm Sisters that retells fairy tales from the brothers Grimm. J.M. Coetzee has written many novels that revisit literary classics. Foe is his re-working of Robinson Crusoe. Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea retells Jane Eyre from the point of view of the first Mrs. Rochester, the madwoman in the attic. Bridget Jones is a retelling of Pride and Prejudice. So many books, so little time....

  3. I read this one a couple months ago and was a little confused by the ending too. I think the book was a little melancholy considering the description and the bright cover which gave me the impression it would be otherwise. There is an alright series by Frank Beddor about Alice in Wonderland. I like the idea of the retelling of fairytales. I agree with you it could have been shorter :)

  4. Sounds like an interesting read. I don't usually like re-tellings of famous stories, although I don't know that I've run across many.

    Thanks for posting your review on the Bibliophilic Book challenge so that I could find it and your blog.