Book: The Goose Girl

The Goose Girl
Shannon Hale
2003

This is a novel retelling the fairy tale of “The Goose Girl”. This is a less well known fairy tale these days, but it is a really good one. It does have some of the same issues many other fairy tales do with things not quite making sense if you think about them too hard. This novel attempts to explain those things and generally make a coherent story. And in general it does a good job of that. The plot is well done and the characters are fairly three-dimensional.

Hale’s writing is excellent in this book. It is wonderful wordcraft. The issue is the pacing. I had some trouble with this book despite the great writing and interesting story because the middle was so slow and long parts of it just dragged. The beginning was really interesting and got me wondering about how things would play out, even though I knew the fairy tale quite well already. The problem started near the beginning of part 2 of the story and continued until nearly the end of the book. But then the ending was really good. The pacing was quite frustrating because I shouldn’t want to keep reading a boring book just because the beginning was good. I think part of the pacing problem was the main character’s ineffectualness. She was just so unable to do anything to really help herself and that was the primary focus of the middle section of the book. The plot really doesn’t move forward much and the action pretty much revolves around the main character thinking and wishing she could do more.

I liked the inclusion of the princess’s ability to understand and communicate with birds and wind. It created some interesting philosophical discussions that the author didn’t shy away from. The discussions of the lady-in-waiting’s “people talking” ability actually added a lot to explaining the fairy tale and was believable because it wasn’t explained as a magical ability, which allowed the reader to draw comparisons between the description of the ability in the book and things experienced in real life. I liked this added dimension of philosophical discussion. It is rare that such discussions are so explicit in novels aimed at children and teenagers.

The book was good, but would have been much better if the middle had been condensed some. I liked the way the fairy tale was interpreted and the world was wonderfully developed. It’s nice to see politics take such an important role in a fairy tale story. I also really liked the thought-provoking discussions. That said, I was still bored throughout the middle. I would recommend this book to people looking for an interesting fairy tale adapt ion, but probably not anyone else. I do intend to check out Hale’s book The Princess Academy at some point and hope it does not suffer from the boring middle that The Goose Girl suffered from!

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