3.02.2011

Currently Reading: The Goose Girl

"I'm sorry, my lady," said Geric, rubbing his arm, "but I failed to force an apology out of the offending goose."

"You're not likely to, either. He's a naughty bird. They all are."

"Poor company."

"Oh, but I like my geese. Like cats, they can't be told what to do, and like dogs, they're loyal, and like people, they talk every chance they get."


Author: Shannon Hale

Synopsis: Princess Anidori-Kiladra of Kildenree, thought of no use in her own country, is forced into an arranged marriage with the prince of Bayern. As she travels to meet her prince, her lady-in-waiting, Selia, mutinies with the help of nearly all her guard, and Ani has to flee for her life. With the aid of a Forest family, she makes her way into Bayern, disguises herself, and goes to work tending the king's geese.

Selia has successfully installed herself in the palace as the prince's fiancée, put a watch out for someone of Ani's description, and begun to provoke war between the two countries. As Bayern prepares to attack the peaceful Kildenreans and the wedding approaches, Ani has nothing with which to stop Selia but her golden Kildenrean hair, her ability to speak to the wind, her newfound friends, and the truth. But then, with a little hard work, those just might be enough.

Notes: I read the Grimms' tale this book is based on a long time ago, and probably should have read it again for familiarity, but the key points I remember were there. I love a good fairy tale retelling, and have looked forward to this one for a long time.

Shannon Hale's worlds and people consistently come alive for me. The wind-speaking, the horse speech and various bird languages, especially that of the geese, came off as wholly believable and interesting. And I loved Ani. It made me happy to watch her come to life as she lived among the poor and worked for her truth and her country. Of course, I knew the ending of the story—I've read two sequels. But that didn't stop me from getting caught up in the suspense of her tale.

The romance proved mostly (intentionally) humorous, especially compared to the sweet, slower-built love that Hale heroines Miri and Enna get. On the other hand, Shannon Hale can write some good funny stuff, and the friendships and the character progression are far more important to the story. Getting the history of Ani's friendship with Enna and Razo was one of my favorite things about the book.

Now I just have to read Forest Born, and I'll have gotten through all of Ms. Hale's young adult novels. Wait. Dang it. Hey, Shannon, now that your twins are born, want to write some more books???

Recommendation: Yes. And if you want to make the experience perfect, have some chocolate chip cookies while you read.

11 comments:

  1. So have you read Enna Burning and River Secrets, the books that come between Goose Girl and Forest Born?

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  2. Kathy, yes. Loved both of them! Probably shouldn't have read them out of order, but had to work with what the library had in. :)

    George, I'll look forward to hearing what you think of it!

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  3. Arabella here--
    I read Forest Born first, then The Goose Girl, and I'm about to start Enna Burning. Kind of funny for a diehard read 'em in order person, especially as it was so full of spoilers. That said, each book stands on its own pretty well. I love Hale's stories and her writing caliber, although for me Forest Born dragged a bit. She does a very good job with both people-ing and world-building.

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  4. couldn't agree more. I really love this book best of the series, (although Enna, with her wildness, has a special place in my mind).

    I love a clearly human heroine, and Ani is very human; snotty and selfish and downright unlikeable at times. Love that conflict and the transformation of character that happens with her.

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  5. I was more impressed with her storytelling ability than her writing until I discovered that the story wasn't her own. I thought some of her embellishments were brilliant, however - the gifts of people-speaking, animal-speaking, and nature-speaking, for instance.

    The writing itself was by turns fantastic and yawn-inducingly average. Many of her similes and metaphors are brilliant in their accuracy and originality, but she leans on them and on discriptive prose to the detriment of developing any of the characters but the protagonist. I found the writing to be overly flowery at times (Geric's eyes are "the color of warmed honey"? Pardon me while I yak up my dinner), and many of the characters seemed flat, cliche, and underdeveloped. I liked Gilsa, but Ideca seemed to be the exact same character and not nearly as interesting. The boy laborers only seemed to have separate names to indicate that there was more than one of them. Otherwise they were all the same character. I find undeveloped characters to be very grating in a novel, like a play backdrop erected too hastily whose lack of quality actually becomes a distraction.

    And then there were a few breaches of verisimilitude. A goose bites her and she falls down? I think a goose could shove you over if you were short and not expecting the blow, but I had a hard time imagining falling completely on your back from the bite of a goose, no matter how much it hurts. Sometimes the action didn't seem realistic - Ungolad throws a rock at her ankle, and all she hears or sees of him is the tip of his braid disappearing? I couldn't suspend my disbelief that far. And finally, I wish she had left the audience a little more in suspense as to Geric's identity, especially for such an obvious turn of the plot.

    It was quite entertaining, though, and it kept me wanting to read late into the night, hours after I should have gone to bed. Which I suppose is the mark of a successful storyteller. :) And as I said, some of the writing was fantastic (and undoubtedly far better than anything I could produce). I think you wrote elsewhere that "Princess Academy" was your favorite of Shannon Hale's books? I'll look up that one next. She seems like a gifted storyteller, and I'm interested in reading one of her original tales.

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  6. *oops, just saw that I spelled "descriptive" wrong.

    *And I guess I also felt like it was unrealistic that she falls into the stream after a rock hits her ankle. I just couldn't see it happening. I even re-read the scene to try to imagine a plausible version of the events and couldn't make it happen. But maybe that's just proof of my lack of imagination!

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  7. *I wish Shannon Hale had kept us in suspense about Geric's identity (you probably figured out that I meant the author but I switched between pronouns without saying whom I meant).

    Oh, one other thing I liked a lot - the aunt's allusion to the prologue of St. John's Gospel when she tells the story of the Creator speaking one Word. That was neat.

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  8. You know, I didn't think of any of the characters as flat (though I don't recall Ideca right off; make of that what you will). On the other hand, I'd already read a book about Enna (Enna Burning) and a book about Razo (River Secrets) before reading this one, so Razo and Finn and Conrad (was it Conrad? The goose boy, anyhow) all seemed like very different characters for me with no effort.

    You're quicker on the catch with physical implausibility than I am. I'd have to read those scenes again to even recall whether I noticed anything off! But, you know, that's why I have you as a gamma reader. :D

    Princess Academy is spectacular, in my opinion, certainly a standout in its age group. If you thought the similes overly flowery in The Goose Girl, however, you may be less pleased by the writing itself than I was. I recall loving the similes in PA because I thought them very evocative of Miri's daily life, her setting and culture. It's a tighter book than TGG, though.

    Oh, and GREAT catch on that allusion. I love it. Don't remember, in my semi-somnolence, whether I noticed it on my own, but I think it's awesome. ;)

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  9. Oh no, I thought most of the similes were fantastic - that was one of the things that stood out to me about her writing. There was a particularly brilliant one about Anidori's anxiousness to get going already when taking leave of her mother. (Something about feeling like a cat who is stretching and trying to shake off a nap.)

    I just thought there was often too much prose, to the detriment of actually saying anything. And too many cliches: "Geric closed his eyes for a moment as though trying to shut out the image." (I'm paraphrasing here.) People don't do that in real life. Only characters in overwritten novels do it.

    Hale had me grinning a few times, though. One of the most memorable scenes was Gilsa asking Anidori what the chickens were saying (again paraphrasing):

    "Oh, mostly 'The people are coming to take the eggs' and things like that. Chickens aren't the best conversationalists."

    "Good," said Gilsa. "It makes me feel less guilty about taking the eggs."

    I thought one of the biggest strengths of the book was how believable the animals' speech and various personalities were, along with the words of the wind.

    I'll try out Princess Academy next time I need an entertaining break from heavier stuff. And by heavier stuff, I don't mean Plato, I mean C.S. Lewis. I'm trying to get into That Hideous Strength, and I hit a bit of a hump when he spent two pages describing Bragdon Wood. I think I'm fortified enough to muster through it now.

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    Replies
    1. Haha, that Bragdon Wood segment is definitely dull. Pity it's right at the beginning. Can't wait to hear what you think of the rest of the book, though.

      Ah, yes, the things that only characters in novels do. I'm afraid to think of how much of that I might accidentally put in my own books. I feel a spot-check coming on... ;)

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