Chris's Reviews > East

East by Edith Pattou
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** spoiler alert **

I'm conflicted about this novel. I really am.

On one hand, "East of the Sun, West of the Moon" is one of my favorite fairy tales and this isn't a bad retelling of it.

On the other hand, there are several parts to this novel that don't quite gel.

Let's nickpick.

But first, in case you don't know, "East of the Sun, West of the Moon" is a wonderful fairy tale. It is why I love polar bears. It is a Northern version of Cupid and Psyche, but instead of some silly boy with iddy biddy wings, it has a POLAR BEAR!

ROAR!!!!

So in short, polar bear is really a prince who has to be saved by a girl who screws up once, but redeems herself and her love by saving them both in the end.

Now, to the nitpick.

My first problem, my first nitpicking problem, is the names. Most of the whole family has English names - Neddy, Eugenia - yet they are basically Norwegians. Did I miss something? And why is an Inuit woman named after a place in Sweden?

Second nitpicking problem - I've seen better world building. However, in all fairness, I've seen worse, much worse.

Third nitpicking problem - The emotional bond between Beauty (called Rose in this novel) and her Beast just doesn't seem real. I get she is kind, but love?

Fourth nitpicking - Rose is one those too perfect and too different cliché heroines.


All the nitpicking aside, there are some interesting bits in this book, but here's where the conflict comes from, at least for me. It's like something that looks and sounds really good, but somehow doesn't come off really well, kinda like an apple omelet. I also can't promise I make sense for the rest of the review because I'm trying to puzzle this out.

Pattou does something very interesting when she retells this tale, and that is to use multiple viewpoints. Her narrators are Rose (the heroine), the Bear (the enscrolled human), Rose's Father, Neddy (Rose's brother), and finally, the Troll Princess (Rose's rival and the evil witch).

This is also slightly disturbing. Most of the voices are male. It's true this is a YA book, but it seems to be geared towards young women and girls more than young men and boys. Then why, I have to wonder, are the men given more place? Why do we not get the view of Rose's mother or her sister? One of whom comes off as silly, cruel, and silly again; the other is simply someone who needs help. Wouldn't it be more interesting to hear from the sister who was aided by Rose's going with the bear instead of hearing how silly the mother is, how husband and son seem to reject her?

It also is slightly disturbing because Rose is far closer to the male members of her family than her sisters. I understand this YA, and I understand that YA novel geared towards girls is going to have a mother/daughter rift. What teenage girl doesn't feel like an outcast from her family, or that her mother doesn't understand her? I get that, I get it's a trope. But if Rose shares a bed with her sister (or sisters) wouldn't she be a little close to one of them? Wouldn't her agreeing to go off with the bear make more sense if the reader saw her interact with members of her family other than her brother and father? (I'm discounting her damaged relationship with her mother).

Malmo, the Inuit woman, is the only truly older woman (i.e. old enough to be a parent of an adult) that is shown in a good light. Every other older woman is shown to be stupid, silly, or cruel (or all three). While Rose does form a type of relationship with Malmo and two other females, none of these relationships seems as deep as the ones with her father and brother. It seems like the women are more tools (they are, basically, the helper figures of the fairy tale). It is also telling that when Rose decides to make friends with the Bear's servants, it is the male servant she reaches out to. Malmo is also interesting because Rose thinks that she works with the older woman like a long married husband and wife. Funny, considering some of those Inuit stories about women romancing their daughter-in-laws.

Yet, despite this, Rose succeeds because she can sew, because she knows material. This knowledge she gained from her mother and an older neighbor. Additionally, Rose's book knowledge and small language knowledge comes from her mother. This seems to indicate that the mother did spend time with her, so why aren't we shown this? Additionally if Rose was always running off, how did she get these lessons?

It's true that Rose isn't the only female voice of the novel. The Troll Princess gets to have her say as well. Like Rose, the Troll Princess has an older woman as quasi helper. Like Rose, the Troll Princess' closest relationship seems to be with the male member of her family (her father; her sin is not respecting him. Rose is better because Rose respects her father). But the Troll Princess, too, is part of the problem. Princess and Rose are too similar. When she gets to the Troll kingdom, Rose describes the other humans there with the troll word for human, soft skin. She sets herself apart from them. She sees herself as better (she also is the best slave ever). Like the Troll Princess, Rose uses someone and then spares no thought for his fate (and it is a sad fate). It is hard to see this as much better than the Troll Princess and her version of inhumanity. At least, the Princess has an excuse. She's a troll.

So I'm conflicted about this book. It's not good, but it's not bad.

And at least it has polar bears
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Comments (showing 1-21 of 21) (21 new)

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Bettie☯ My My - parades and raining and all that. I'm reading this book version of a bag of sweets and am loving it for just that.


Chris I think why I get "snippy" with fairy tale retellings for girls is that the first I ever read were by Robin McKinley and hers are great. I hold them up to that standard.


Bettie☯ Chris wrote: "I think why I get "snippy" with fairy tale retellings for girls is that the first I ever read were by Robin McKinley and hers are great. I hold them up to that standard."

This was a lovely read but ultimately just too saccharine for my taste, perfect for young girls though. Need something a bit grittier for my next read.

:O)


Claire B. Now for some nitpicking of my own. Pardon me, but I'm a big stickler for spelling.
1)redeems
2)kind of (sorry about this one, because even I use that sometimes, but now nobody can say I'm not thorough!
3)interesting
4)multiple
5)disturbing
6)interesting again... *shakes head disapprovingly*
7)disturbing again... Really?
8)none (I'm sad now.)
9)succeeds (Don't make me have 10!)
Phew. Just 9. But next time, spell check. Please?


Bettie☯ What is wrong with these spellings that you have listed:

multiple
interesting
redeems
succeeds
disturbing
none

These are entirely correct for English English, maybe you have US English spell check, what what!?


message 6: by Wanda (new)

Wanda Correct in US English too.


Bettie☯ Wanda wrote: "Correct in US English too."

That's good to know because I thought I was missing something obvious.

Thanks.


message 8: by Chris (last edited May 08, 2012 06:14AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Chris I think the objection to "kind of" and "none" was because of formal vs. informal language. Now, I see my Goodreads reviews as mostly informal which is why I use the language here, but in a paper I wouldn't. And yes, I know I need to use spellcheck more often. (And I think the objection is more to the fact I didn't love the book, which is fine. I just wish people would respect different tastes. I also found it funny that she forgot her closing ) for #2 ).


Bettie☯ Chris wrote: "I think the objection to "kind of" and "none" was because of formal vs. informal language. Now, I see my Goodreads reviews as mostly informal which is why I use the language here, but in a paper ..."

riight - so that comment was about your review not about the book *penny drops at last*


message 10: by Chris (last edited May 08, 2012 06:43AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Chris I've noticed that when I don't like or love a YA book that is extremely popular with young girls, some one usually says something bad about the review. I was most likely the same way as a kid. I should note that the young adult I passed the book along to loved East. You should see what happened when I posted my review of Tiger's Curse. Which I can't seem to find. What's going on?


Bettie☯ I can't see that review!


Chris I know! I don't know why!


Bettie☯

some who didn't like it beamed it up into the ether? lol


Chris They can do that? Geez, some people liked it.


Bettie☯ Chris wrote: "They can do that? Geez, some people liked it."

I don't think they can do that for real, can they? I was just joshing with the beamed-up thing.


message 16: by [deleted user] (new)

Chris wrote: "I've noticed that when I don't like or love a YA book that is extremely popular with young girls, some one usually says something bad about the review. I was most likely the same way as a kid. I ..."

There's been a bunch of reviews of that book deleted for an unknown reason. I can't see yours either.


Bettie☯ Thinking - was your edition one that isn't tied in to the others. That happens quite often.


Chris It was a preview copy. I won it though a giveaway. SO maybe. I posted about on the Feedback forum, so we'll see what they say there. I read it around the same time as I read this book. Gave them both to the same teen afterwards.


message 19: by [deleted user] (new)

Some reviews did get lost in the big amazon data transition. Do you do regular exports of your book data, Chris?


Chris I keep copies of the reviews, so I have the review in my reading journal. I can simply repost it without a problem.


message 21: by [deleted user] (new)

If you had a backup, you could look to see if it did disappear in January. I have never heard of GR removing anyone's reviews, so I think it may have gotten lost somehow, unintentionally. I've started saving all of my reviews, too, because I lost a review this way. Unfortunately, the comments are gone. I don't know if GR can retrieve them for you.


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