GODMOTHER by Carolyn Turgeon

Book Quote:

“They all laughed, but I stayed silent. They were starting to annoy me.  The elders had chosen me for this task, not them.  I was the one to get Cinderella to the ball now that human vanity had conspired against it.”

Book Review:

Reviewed by Jana L. Perskie (AUG 06, 2009)

Carolyn Turgeon’s Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story is a magical and very original novel that turns the conventional tale of the much abused Cinderella, her wicked stepmother, evil stepsisters, prince charming, etc., upside-down. The heroine here is the girl’s Fairy Godmother, Lil.

In another time and place, Lil was a beautiful fairy – “a perfect creature.” She, her sister Maybeth, and their friends Gladys and Lucibell flitted and floated through their days, filled with eternal sunshine, to the lake, to sleep and play among the water lilies. And in the evenings, they would fly, their wings whirring beneath the moon, with starlight reflecting their tiny images on the water. Lil, in her human form, had auburn hair, the color of fall leaves, lovely milk-white skin and emerald-color eyes. There was one major difference, however, that distinguished Lil’s anatomy from the others of her kind. Her wings were not like the delicate wings of hummingbirds or butterflies. To mark her special “sensitivity,” she was given wings made of feathers, beautiful silken white feathers. She was made “different” because she had been chosen by the elders for a special mission. A mission that was her future and her fate.

Lil was to cross over to the kingdom of humans to make Cinderella a queen. This is the very same Cinderella of folklore that we are all familiar with…with a few minor but important changes. Our Cinderella is a human being who experiences a real person’s feelings, longings, and pain – not a cartoon character. She is very lovely, and possesses extraordinary glamour, which she is not aware of. Cinderella also does not know that she is half-fairy. And, Godmother Lil certainly does not sing, “Salagadoola mechicka boola bibbidi-bobbidi-boo.” Her magic is much more subtle. Handsome Prince Theodore is planning to throw a ball, and it is the Godmother’s job to make sure Cinderella attends, at which point destiny will take over, the Prince will fall in love with her, and visa versa. Then the couple will wed. Voila! Cinderella will be queen. Mission accomplished! But the author’s version is…well…different. The Godmother winds up going to the ball in human guise, leaving Cinderella behind, and is expelled from the kingdom of fairies for her transgression.

In the real world, (not fairyland), at the present time, Lil is an old woman with “wrinkled, hanging skin, dull white hair that spirals out of control, and sunken dark eyes.” She hates catching a surprise glimpse of herself in a mirror, “this is not who I am,” she thinks on these occasions. She resides in New York City, and every evening, after work, she walks home to “undress, unwrap the bandages from around her chest, and draw a bath. She pours in a mixture of herbs…eucalyptus and wintergreen oils, rosemary and thyme, and dried mustard.” As the warmth seeps into her skin, her wings unfurl.

Daedalus Books, a kind of magical bookstore, is Lil’s place of employment, and probably her favorite hang-out. The bookstore is owned by George, and generations of his family before him. He is a handsome, young man, recently divorced, quiet, with a love of books, rare and otherwise. An old, ornate copy of Cinderella is his favorite. It is Lil’s also. On the books fly leaf someone had scribbled, “Tous mes anciens amours me revenir.” The English translation is, “All my loves will be returned to me.” This is a theme which echoes throughout the novel.

When a vivacious, eccentric, red-head from the east Village walks into the store one day, and shows Lil a book about the Cottingley Fairies, the old woman sees a chance to redeem herself and perhaps earn her right to return home…a place she has longed for over a period of three centuries.

The narrative switches back and forth between the magical world of Cinderella, and the busy streets of the Big Apple. I love Carolyn Turgeon’s lyrical descriptions of the beauty, light and lush colors of the fairy world. And, as a New Yorker, I must say her detailed portrayal of the city, its streets and neighborhoods, are lovingly composed, and describe my hometown better than many other writers have – and that’s a major accomplishment! There is also a psychological component, important to the storyline, and the author uses this very effectively to give her characters, especially Lil, more depth.

Make no mistake, this is not a tale full of sweetness and light. There are some real surprises here, especially at the end. However, I like “edgy,” and always preferred the Brothers Grimm to Walt Disney. What a terrific and most curious read!!

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-0from 92 readers
PUBLISHER: Three Rivers Press; 1 edition (March 3, 2009)
REVIEWER: Jana L. Perskie
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Carolyn Turgeon
EXTRAS: Excerpt
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: More fairy-tale-lie books:

Mirror, Mirror by Gregory Maguire

The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde

The Seas by Samantha Hunt

Willful Creatures by Aimee Bender

Spilling Clarence by Anne Ursu


August 6, 2009 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags:  · Posted in: Contemporary, New York City, Speculative (Beyond Reality)

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