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The Goose Girl (thoughts)

May 9, 2008

Once Upon a TimeAsk and ye shall receive! Since so many of you seem curious about my ‘dissenting’ review, here we go. :) This is my third Once Upon a Time read, and it’s one I have distinctly mixed feelings about. In fact, since I know how popular it’s been in the OUaT challenge, I went and read everyone else’s reviews before writing my own. But now I’m back, and I’m a little nervous about explaining my thoughts since I think they go against the general tendency (and I know that the author is aware of book blogs, which makes it worse, and she seems like such a nice/cool person and she had to be taught at home for part of high school because of chronic fatigue, which is just like me except I was diagnosed w/ fibromyalgia, and I love discovering people who sucessfully manage their CFS/fibro, but I can’t lie, can I?).

Here goes. I love fairy tales-I love reading the originals, I love retellings, I love stories about ‘faeries’ that aren’t anything like the Grimm Brothers. I also appreciate the YA genre: I don’t automatically assume that the writing is somehow Less Serious. I wanted to say that first, so you can keep it in mind as you read the rest.

At the pure story level, I enjoyed this book; it took about a hundred pages to get going, but that doesn’t really bother me, and I thought it was interesting to see how Ani, the dethroned princess, grew as a person and went about trying to reclaim her place. I like the world Hale has created for the fairy tales, with all of its little rituals and traditions and clothing (have I mentioned I love fantasy? the kind of fantasy that creates whole new worlds, and cultures, and sometimes reads like an anthropology book?). I liked the idea of Ani talking with birds and her horse (and since I knew the original fairy tale, I knew what was coming with the horse…but as a kid, I would have stopped reading the book right there. I had a strict ‘no animals harmed’ policy towards movies and books.), and I appreciated that Hale made the geese mean (because they are. Geese attacked me when I was four and my sister was two, and my mom had to put us up on top of the car to save us. But I digress.). And I thought that Ani’s love interest was pretty adorable.

All of that being said, this book disappointed me. I think I was expecting more layers and depths, more like The Book of Lost Things or The Stolen Child or The Wee Free Men (which somehow I never got around to reviewing, so I found a review to link to). The Goose Girl never challenged me: Ani did all of the things she was supposed to, and all of the other characters behaved perfectly consistently with their good or bad labels (there are two exceptions: Conrad, the goose boy and a relatively minor one, and Ani’s aunt in the beginning, whom I loved and kept wishing would pop up again with her ambiguity, but she never did). It somehow didn’t capture the je ne sais quo (yes, I realise how pretentious that sounds, but I couldn’t think of an English alternative) about fairy tales that gives you goosebumps and makes you look at forests a bit more suspiciously. Instead, this was entertaining fluff, and while I appreciate fluff, I wouldn’t rush out and tell anyone that they had to read it right away.

So, perhaps I can chalk it up high expectations. I certainly wouldn’t discourage anyone from reading this book, but I wouldn’t encourage them either. It was a rather average read…even the early Harry Potter books had a bit more complexity that this.

Favourite Passages
When Ani shadowed Gilsa into the coop anyway, Gilsa slapped her hands away from the task and then asked her what the chickens were saying.
“‘People are here to take the eggs’ and so on. Chickens aren’t the best conversationalists.”
“I’m glad,” said Gilsa. “Makes me feel better about eating them.”

Ani stood. “We came back here to beg for your help, and before I even ask you’re waiting for me at the door.”

16 Comments leave one →
  1. May 9, 2008 4:56 am

    See Eva, I knew I’d enjoy reading your thoughts even though we disagree. I do think that The Book of Lost Things and The Wee Free Men (I haven’t read The Stolen Child yet) are very different sorts of books. Considering that this one disappointed you, it might seem silly to recommend the rest of the series to you, but forgive me for doing it all the same. Enna Burning in particular is different from The Goose Girls in some of the ways you pointed out…there’s definitely a lot more ambiguity in that one.

  2. May 9, 2008 5:05 am

    I loved reading your review as well! And I can definitely see what you mean. It’s the exact thing that I so loved about it! It’s pure and utter simplicity…it sort of took me away and let me be enchanted without having to examine “gray” areas. Obviously, I wouldn’t want that in every book I read. In fact, probably one book like this is enough…a nice sweet read that I can go to when I just want to be comforted and get away from the real world.

  3. May 9, 2008 6:12 am

    Thanks for being honest. I’ll now have to take a peek at your review of The Book of Lost Things, which I am almost finished reading myself.

  4. May 9, 2008 8:30 am

    Yes, good! If I read this now, I’ll go in with LOW expectations, which will make it a better read, no? Bravo.


  5. May 9, 2008 9:40 am

    Cool. I’m glad you are sticking to your real feelings on the book. I haven’t read any Hale, hope to someday, but I’m not sure I will be one of the swooners. I really like complexity and character development first and foremost. Thanks for the review

  6. May 9, 2008 12:22 pm

    Thanks for this. I won’t be reading it, not just because of your review, but also due to the humongous size of my book list. Why read something mediocre when there are great reads waiting for us in the world?

  7. May 10, 2008 5:30 am

    Have not read Goose Girl yet, although I intend to. I loved The Book of Lost Things, but was intensely disappointed in The Stolen Child. However, those were books for adults, and Hale writes for children. I really enjoyed Hale’s Book of a Thousand Days, but while it may have been classified YA, it was suitable for very young readers (and me). :)

    I frequently find myself disagreeing with others opinions on books, but I love hearing why they like (or dislike) books I’ve read. Yet writing a review of a book I don’t care for (when everyone else likes it)…makes me uncomfortable. Sometimes I can’t even explain too much about why I dislike a book because I don’t want to give too much away. A tricky thing, eh?

  8. May 10, 2008 5:58 am

    You know, Eva, this is pretty much how I felt about Princess Academy, after hearing such great things about Goose Girl. I like Princess Academy, but, as you said, it just didn’t challenge me and I felt it was pretty predictable. I was thinking maybe Princess Academy was geared to a younger audience than Goose Girl, and that GG would be different, but now I’m not so sure. Huh.

  9. May 10, 2008 7:21 am

    Okay. so if you were going to give me hope by posting on a book that, for a change. doesn’t sound worth adding to my TBR tome, did you really have to give me the names of a billion others that sound like they need to be there?

  10. May 10, 2008 3:23 pm

    Good for you, Eva, to write your true thoughts. And you did so judiciously, graciously, and with an even hand. A great review!

  11. May 10, 2008 6:11 pm

    Nymeth, that’s interesting that there’s more ambiguity in the second one! Maybe Hale decided she liked it more?

    Debi, it’s definitely a comfort read!

    Stephanie, no problem. I loved Book of Lost Things!

    Raych, you make me laugh! :D

    Kat, thanks for stopping by. :)

    Chartroose, I agree! My TBR list is insane anyway, lol.

    JenClair, I’m glad I’m not the only one who doesn’t like writing negative reviews! And I agree-Hale writes for children. But The Wee Free Men was for kids too!

    Somer, if you read GG, I’ll be curious to know what you think!

    Emily, lol-I’m glad you’re back! I’ve missed your comments the past week. :) Sorry about multiplying the TBR list…I think TBR lists are like snails!

    TJ, thank you!

  12. May 11, 2008 2:37 pm

    I just finished this book today. Even though I liked it, I agree with what you said. It was a simple tale and certain things were very predictable. I think I’d like to read other things by Shannon Hale perhaps.

  13. May 12, 2008 2:56 pm

    Kim, I wonder how her other books stack up! I know a lot of bloggers were really into Austenland…but I avoid pretty much anything about Jane Austen that wasn’t written by her!

  14. June 13, 2008 10:10 pm

    I have really high expectations about this one as well. And Shannon Hale is really cool. I met her at a book signing and she was super nice. This one is my next Hale read.

  15. June 14, 2008 8:17 am

    Natasha, can’t wait to see what you think of it!


  1. The Goose Girl, by Shannon Hale « The Bluestocking Society

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