Sunday, September 14, 2008

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Earlier this month I signed up to participate in Bluestockings Society's Lit Flicks Challenge. The challenge requires me to read five books which have been adapted to film and watch two of the adaptations. My list is posted here. The first I chose to read is Ella Enchanted (#3 on my list). This review focuses mainly on the book, but I do mention the movie.

I first became aware of Ella Enchanted through the 2004 movie with the same title staring Anne Hathaway. I really liked the movie -- it was clever, fun, and just a good clean story, but realizing it was based off a novel I knew I needed to read the book before I could have a final opinion. I'm not a hard and fast "read the book before you see the movie" person, though at times I do believe it is better to wait to watch the movie until after you've read the book. In this case I'm glad I did the reverse.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine is the story of Eleanor "Ella" of Frell, a young girl who lives in a kingdom where elves, giants, ogres, and fairies are just as common as people, dogs and parrots; and where handsome princes are only a dance away. 

This would be just another story of a girl and a prince, but for one problem... one ra
ther unique and big problem. It all begins shortly after Ella's birth, when her fairy godmother, Lucinda, chooses to give her a special gift -- that of obedience. Ella must always obey whatever commands are made of her. At first the gift seems innocent enough, but it is not long before it becomes obvious that this gift is really a curse and Ella is likely to spend the rest of her life doing whatever anyone tells her, even to the danger of herself and those she loves... That is unless she finds her fairy godmother and gets her to reverse the curse... or unless Ella finds another way to set herself free.

Ms. Levine's humor and creativity make Ella Enchanted a fresh and unique retelling of Cinderella, but with lots of twists and turns. The story, intended for 9-12 year-olds is only 234 pages and a delightful and easy read (I finished it in a day).

As I said, I did enjoy Ella Enchanted, the movie, but having now read the book I realize how little the two have in common. The characters are pretty much the same and the curse is the same, but that is about it. The rest of the movie's story takes a completely different direction and has little to nothing in common with the ancient fairy tale about Cinderella. Not to say that it's bad, just different. Between the movie and the book I have to say I liked the book best because it had such rich detail and there is time for the reader to get to know the characters and become attached. Instead of a rushed romance between Cinderella and her prince like we see in many of the adaptations for the ancient fairy tale this story develops true friendship which blossoms into true and selfless love.

I definitely recommend this book for your reading list. I borrowed my copy from my local library, but it would be a fun addition to any reader's personal collection, especially if you have a daughter to share it with. Readers of Ella Enchanted will enjoy the movie and I believe people who've seen the movie will still find the book enjoyable, even if it lends to be more of a traditional fairy tale.

Note: If you've read Ella Enchanted you may also find Ms. Levine's other works equally enjoyable. I have reviewed one other book by Gail Carson Levine and you can read it here.


Carrie said...

Cute! I've neither read the book nor seen the movie but was curious about both so I appreciated your review.

Laura said...

All four of my daughters have loved this book, and we have at least three copies of it. However, I have never read it. I think I will now - thank you for reviewing it.

Anonymous said...

Oh! I haven't read this book or seen the movie, but I must do both now. You're a machine for finishing a book for the challenge already!

Jessica @ The Bluestocking Society

ibeeeg said...

One of my daughter's just saw the title Ella Enchanted and said she loved the movie.
After reading her review, I am going to suggest to her to read the book. I think she will take me up on that especially if I read it as well.

Cesia said...

I'll have to add this to my "to read" list!

- Cesia.

Sarah said...

I heard this was good. Liked your review!