Friday, August 20, 2010

The Glass Slipper by Eleanor Farjeon

A retelling of the classic tale of Cinderella brings to vivid life the trials and tribulations of young Ella, mistreated by her nasty stepmother and unattractive stepsisters, who dreams of going to the Prince's ball.

(I couldn't find any images of the cover I got on the Internet--so I took it upon myself [in other words, coerced my sister] to take a picture of it. I apologize for the shockingly low quality but eh, you do what you can. )

Oh, it makes me so dizzy (am I in a tizzy)? I'm really quite fizzy. Why, do you ask? It's alarming, this charming, disarming book I've been reading--the lovely, potent concoction (it proved quite the distraction) by wordsmith Eleanor Farjeon, The Glass Slipper! (No surprise there, seeing as it's the title and all. Really, it's quite hard keeping you all enthralled.)

Bad rhyming/syntax/flow aside, what I'm really trying to say is this book is a veritable delight. Farjeon has a knack for words and in her hands, this Cinderella retelling is far from plain. While I kept comparing the story to the 1950 Disney film (inevitable, I suppose, seeing as this was originally published in 1955), there is enough spunk in the plot, characters and setting to give this retelling unique. There are little surprises here--everyone knows the story of Cinderella--and Farjeon stays faithful to the French folktale, right to its very trappings (wicked stepmother, stepsisters, sweet Cinderella, and, ahem, the glass slipper).

What really sets this apart is the lyricism of the narrative. Farjeon has a delicious talent for arranging words, peppering them and making them leap off your tongue. It is for this reason that I wholeheartedly recommend this book to be read aloud to children; there is so much magic in the tongue twisters, songs, rhymes, flow and description that you simply can't help but recite them out loud.

Apart from this, the characters are perfectly endearing. You can't help but root for the optimistic (at times, unbelievably so) Cinderella, she of the sunny disposition and captivating innocence. The stepmother and stepsisters were suitably horrifying--particularly the stepmother, who darkened what was otherwise a lighthearted story with her abusive (though not graphically) ways. I didn't thoroughly warm up to the Prince, but his love for Cinderella was enough to redeem him in my eyes. My personal favourite though was the sputtering, really quite pompous Herald, whose lines I found the most amusing. He came across as hilariously, snarkily real, and I could practically see him spit out his speeches. Take this gem, for instance:

In vain, his hands to his ears, he pointed out to them that silence is golden, that the amorous are never clamourous, that to be loquacious is ungracious, and to be tacit is an asset--in ever-rising excitement they persisted in crying out to him that they had come for the slipper! To try on the slipper! Where was the slipper, the slipper, the slipper?--until, losing his temper once and for all, he shouted, "Stop that noise!"

The ladies stopped instantly; and this, oddly enough, offended him to the extreme. His courtesy had been wasted on them. They had obliged him to resort to Bad Manners. Where, he asked himself, had these ladies been brought up?
(pp. 195-196)

There are gems of wisdom to be learned here, and the romance between Cinderella and the Prince actually got me feeling a bit giddy. Such bubbliness! Such earnestness! Such eagerness! Very, very cute; though I thought both seemed to act significantly younger than their ages. Regardless, Farjeon's take on Cinderella is a delightful, magical romp, perfect for children who love their rhymes and adults who are a bit nostalgic for a simpler time. Read it if you want to taste the words in your mouth and have a bit of a dance in joy.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Note: I got this from the library (which explains the barcode slapped on the top of the book). However, the last time I checked, the book is available on if you want to own it (though the price for a new copy is quite high--around 112 American bucks). Tracking this book down is worth it though, especially if you have children/younger siblings whom you want to acquire funds from in the future. Seriously.