Sonderbooks Book Reviews by Sondra Eklund

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I don't review books I don't like!

*****= An all-time favorite
****  = Outstanding
***    = Above average
**     = Enjoyable
*       = Good, with reservations

cover

*****East

by Edith Pattou

Reviewed December 6, 2003.
Harcourt, Orlando, 2003.  498 pages.
Available at Sembach Library (JF PAT).
A Sonderbooks’ Stand-out of 2003:  #2, Young Adult Fantasy

Magnificent.  Achingly beautiful.

I find it remarkable that The Goose Girl and East arrived at the library on the same day.  Both are exquisite retellings of fairy tales.  They’re the two best books I’ve read in a long time, perhaps ever.  I ranked The Goose Girl first on my 2003 Stand-outs page, but that’s probably because I like that fairy tale better.  The writing in East is practically perfect.

I’ve loved fairy tales as long as I can remember.  I think I love fantasy novels because they remind me of fairy tales.  It isn’t any wonder that novelized fairy tales are my favorites of all.

East is based on “East of the Sun, West of the Moon,” a fairy tale I always found a bit odd.  Edith Pattou’s exquisite story makes it all seem to make perfect sense.  I like the way she set it in a specific time and place, in Norway at the time when the printing press had just been invented.

Rose is the youngest of a farmer’s eight children.  She’s a north-born child and is born to wander.  A giant white bear asks Rose to go with him.  In return, her sick sister will be healed, and the family will know prosperity again.

The white bear takes her to a magnificent castle.  Every night, someone comes to the other side of her bed.  She doesn’t speak to him or touch him.  (It’s a good, clean story.)  All the lights go out, and she does not know if he is a monster, or a man.  She does have a feeling that he is the white bear in some other form.

When her curiosity finally gets the best of her, disaster strikes.  To set it right, Rose must travel East of the Sun and West of the Moon.

I can’t praise this book highly enough.  The writing is beautiful, speaking from the perspectives of Rose, her father, her brother, the white bear and the troll queen.  The story feels fraught with symbolism, as all fairy tales do.  I think that this story would be excellent for reading aloud.  It’s one I want to turn around and buy and come back to again and again over the years.

Reader comments:  Rebecca gives this book 5 stars.

An anonymous reader also gives it 5 stars with the comment, "I loved this book so much. . . it was a beautiful story about a girl growing up!


Review of another book by Edith Pattou:
Hero's Song


Copyright © 2005 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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