I had a hard time finishing this book by Edith Pattou. Not because of the book, though. Because my life wouldn’t let me sit down and just savor this book like a wanted to. I finally did, about 3/4 of the way through, because it was just too compelling. So, I let the home and Christmas stuff wait for a night. 🙂
The story is a retelling of the old fairy tale East of the Sun and West of the Moon. When I first read about this book in Chinaberry, I had no idea about the fairy tale, so we checked it out from the libarary as well. It’s a simple Norweigan fairy tale, one I think I’ve heard before. A white bear takes a girl from a poor family in exchange for wealth. He then takes her to live with him in his enchanted castle. It’s a fairly uneventful time, except that every night, someone comes to sleep with her in the bed. After a while, she aches to go home, and the white bear relents, with one condition: she must not be alone with her mother. She breaks this condition, tells her mother about the stranger in the bed, and her mother gives her a candle. Back at the castle she lights the candle and sees that it’s a man in the bed with her. Unfortunatly, though, with this act, she seals his fate: he’s taken away to marry the troll queen in the castle east of the sun and west of the moon. The girl then sets out to search for the man (whom she realized, too late, was the white bear). She walks for ages, picks up a golden spinning wheel, loom and harp, until the north wind takes her to the castle. There she trades the wheel, loom and harp for visits to the prince, finally succeeding in waking him up and breaking the troll queen’s curse.
East follows the basic fairy tale fairly well, but since I wasn’t attached to the original tale, I had no problems with Pattou’s changes to the story. She fleshes out the family, giving them reasons and motivations behind the departure of the girl (Rose, in the book). The relationship between Rose and the white bear is fleshed out. And the whole journey to find the bear is completely different. Rather than relying on magic, Rose relys on friends, common sense, and plain old inginuity. And, yes, she finally succeeds in the end, and it’s a completely satsifying success. Even the little (mostly unecessary) epilogue in the end doesn’t detract from the great ending to the story.
It was a wonderful book. Perhaps it was good that it took me so long to read. Maybe I enjoyed it more that way.