The Big Confession

Until tonight I have not finished a “fat” novel since Thanksgiving vacation.

(I feel nearly as though I just confessed a venal sin.)


I have mentioned before I am not the sort of reader to stick with a book out of sheer loyalty if I have a bad feeling about it, so I’ve finished far fewer books than I’ve started.

Yes, it comes of having less time to shut out the world, and some of it is a protective instinct toward my family: that if I once surrendered to another world I would be unwilling to leave it until the story was concluded.

This one I trusted and was glad to finish:

East, by Edith Pattou, is definitely a keeper.

It is (as I guessed by the title before I saw the cover) a novelization of a complex folktale involving a prince enchanted into the form of a white bear.  The heroine agrees to leave with him and lives with him almost a year before she brakes the conditions of his disenchantment and must go on a further quest to free him.

I bought it, hoping against experience that I might have found one of those stories that I still wish to write: One that honors the magic of the original story while expanding and weaving in the significance of real life for an audience that is still developing their views of the world.

That is a tall order for myself or anyone, so I shouldn’t be surprised that I find so few stories that fit; but this is one that does.


To summarize, I am looking for (and to write) stories that are:

  1. Based on real folktales
  2. Novelized in a believable way that make me feel the addition or rearrangement of details mesh with the original (honoring and building on the themes present, rather than lampooning them)
  3. Written for a Young Adult audience.  Emphasizing the values and virtues I desire to see grow in the young people I meet.

(My limited list is at the bottom of this post.)

East met these criteria.  I was happy to see marriage both valued and modeled, chastity and respect the norm, and music (my perennial gripe usually sits here) actually included along with the work of daily living.  Time is also well-portrayed, and as someone who lives in “Northern Lands” sometimes similar to those she describes, I appreciated the amount of care and research that went into this work.

I’ve looked up a contact address for her, and plan to send her a note of thanks as this book, in it’s own way, is exactly what I’ve been looking for.


The list of books:

  • Beauty— Robin McKinnley
  • Goose Girl—  Shannon Hale
  • Moorchild— Eloise McGraw
  • The Perilous Gard— Elizabeth Marie Pope
  • Ella Enchanted— Gail Levine
  • Fairest— Gail Levine
  • East— Edith Pattou

Runners up (not quite based on folk tales but fitting the feel I’m looking for):

  • Shadow Spinner— Susan Fletcher
  • The Bridge— Jeri Massi
  • Crown and Jewel— Jeri Massi
  • The Wolves of Willoughby Chase— Joan Aiken
  • Just Ella— Margaret Peterson Haddix
This entry was posted in Reading.

4 thoughts on “The Big Confession

  1. Two notes:
    a) Some of this may be excused by the fact that I’ve been reading mostly (useful) non-fiction in the interum, but still, as a fiction-writer, I’ve felt the lack.

    b) Yes, I’ve read more of McKinnley’s stuff, and Napoli’s, and no, they really don’t meet all three (or is it four?) of my criteria.

  2. Ah! Bless you!

    (Or is is “bless me”? Sarah or Jen should know, if they’re reading today).

    For the record (whether or not it digs me deeper) I define “fat” roughly as something I can’t read in one sitting. This usually includeds the mental gymnastics of guessing whether “one sitting” might possibly have been long enough before children– as I could sit longer then. ;)

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