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Zel (thoughts)

August 10, 2008

I’m not gonna lie: a bit part of the appeal of Zel by Donna Jo Napoli was the fact that the title started with a ‘z’. I wasn’t going to join the A-Z challenge, but once I did my review directories, the missing letters started to bother me. I actually already have a ‘z’ book that I’ve ‘read’ multiple times (it’s one of my favourite books-on-CD): Zorro by Isabel Allende. But even though I realised that, by that time I was really curious about Zel: it’s a re-telling of the Rapunzel story, which was my favourite as a little girl (when I was two, I would ‘read’ it because I had it memorised, and my mom loves to tell how I’d say “Wapunzel, Wapunzel, let down jew haiw”).

I’m rambling, aren’t I? I’m really tired. But hopefully I can get my main point across: this is a dark re-telling. I mean, it’s intense, and definitely for adults. It explores the destructive sides of maternal love, it explores how being locked in a room might drive someone insane, and there’s some Faustian deals going on as well. Fortunately, there’s also the power of true, fairy-tale love, and a reverence for the natural world that keeps the mood from getting too depressing.

This is the kind of book that I wouldn’t mind analysing for a lit class (which makes sense, since the author is an English professor at Swarthmore): there’s such richness to really dive into. But that’s something you should probably find out for yourselves-I’m sure you don’t want to read 1,000 words comparing the mother figures of the book. :) If you enjoy fairy tale retellings, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this: it took me a chapter or two to get into Napoli’s rhythm, but after that I was delighted. And I think you will be too!

14 Comments leave one →
  1. smalltownbeatnik permalink
    August 10, 2008 8:50 pm

    I’m an assistant junior high librarian, and I did some book talks last year on “Twisted Fairy Tales.” I have to say that Zel is probably one of my favorite retold fairy tales! I found it to be very clever and layered and reminiscent of Faust. Now I’m tempted to read it again!

  2. August 10, 2008 9:06 pm

    Zel sounds interesting, but definitely quite dark – I’ll have to read it. Thanks for your review!

  3. August 10, 2008 9:33 pm

    I read this one also for the A-Z challenge and really liked it. It was dark, disturbing, but very fascinating. I am looking forward to reading more from this author.

  4. August 11, 2008 1:41 am

    I read this a couple of months ago and really enjoyed it as well. I love fairy tale re-tellings so this was perfect for me.

  5. August 11, 2008 7:10 am

    The only one of Napoli’s books I’ve read is Mary Called Magdalene, and I enjoyed it. Really must dive into some of her fairytale retellings.

  6. August 11, 2008 7:47 am

    Wow. Sounds stunning! Onto the miles-long wish list it goes!

    For some reason, your ‘currently reading’ bit is showing up along the left-hand side of the main article column in the middle for me, partially overlapping with and obscuring the words of your posts. Don’t know if that’s specific to Firefox or what, but thought you might want to know.

  7. August 11, 2008 10:16 am

    I like retold fairy tales. This certainly sounds like one I need to go find!

  8. August 11, 2008 2:50 pm

    SmallTownBeatnik, thanks for commenting! (fairly certain this is your first visit) I agree-it is an incredible retelling and one that can be read over and over again. :)

    Charley, I’m glad you liked it! I feel like the book deserved a much longer review, but I’m just not up for it right now, lol.

    Natasha, she has several other fairy tale re-tellings, doesn’t she? And if I were an author, I’d totally think up an X or Z title. hehe

    Rhinoa, it seems up your alley!

    Andi, that sounds interesting-is it kinda like The Red Tent?

    Heather, thanks for letting me know about the layout-a couple of other readers have mentioend it. I can’t figure out *why* it’s doing that, and it doesn’t do it in IE, so I’m hoping WP is just being tempermental.

    Jeane, I think you’d like it. :) Zel has a close affinity with animals.

  9. August 11, 2008 6:58 pm

    Oooo, yet another book on your site that sounds like it’s right up my alley! Onto the Goodreads “to read” shelf it must go.

  10. August 11, 2008 8:01 pm

    I’ve already got this one on my list. I love fairy tale retellings, this one sounds especially good.

  11. August 14, 2008 1:09 am

    oooh, thanks for the tip. I didn’t really like Napoli’s Beast, but I’ll think I’ll give her another chance.

  12. February 5, 2013 9:26 am

    This is a good book to study for a lit class–I’m studying fantasy literature for children in a grad course at PSU.


  1. Review: Zel « Book Addiction
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