Sunday, January 8, 2012
Breakdown of a Heroine: Rose from East
Who is Rose?
Rose in the youngest of nine children, born as the replacement for her sister who died. Her superstitious mother believes that birth direction determines people's personality. So when Rose is born, she lies about Rose's birth direction, claiming that Rose is a practical and tidy East born. Only Rose isn't East born, she is North Born - wild and wandering, curious about the world. By basing Rose's personality on birth direction this book took a risk. Rose could have easily been a flat simplified character. But I liked Rose, she was a nice combination of traits--kind, determined, intelligent and adventurous.
Strength of Character
Rose is both brave and stubborn, a combination that's very believable. She loves her family, but she also longs for adventure. She's very loyal and very honest, which explains why she's so upset about her mother's lie. She isn't the type of heroine who has a sword or weapon. In fact, her favorite hobby is weaving and she's exceptionally gifted at it. But she's brave, caring and always true to herself. She uses her wits, not a weapon to try to solve her problems.
Rose's family is poor, with not enough food for their 8 children or enough money to treat their ailing daughter Sarah. Then one day a talking white bear shows up at their doorstep with a proposition. If Rose willingly comes with him, her family's fortunes will change and her ailing sister will recover. If not they will lose their farm and Sarah will die.
After much arguing among family members (this doesn't happen in the original fairytale but is a nice change), Rose decides to go against her father's will. Part of it's anger, because her mother has lied to her about being a North born her entire life. But also because she loves her family and her sister.
The white bear takes Rose to an enchanted castle. Here we really see Rose's personality, her endless curiosity but also her surprising amounts of patience. At the castle she becomes determined to find out why she's there and who the enchanted white bear really is.
There is little romance except towards the end. It's always unobtrusively in the background. It's a fairytale, and like most fairytales it has an enchantment and a prince. But unlike most fairytales, the girl never needs rescuing. Instead she becomes the rescuer, risking her own life and travelling East of the Sun and West of the Moon to break the enchantment and correct her mistakes.
This book is lovely. As soon as I finished I downloaded the original fairytale to compare notes. East tells the same story as "East of the Sun and West of the Moon" but adds the necessary depth to make the story work for a modern audience. My initial reaction was "How come this never got Disney-fied?" because Rose is a Disney Princess I would support. *holds up "Rose for Princess" sign* But upon reading the original fairytale, I realize how much work Pattou put into expanding and improving this story. The basic tale is the same, but the characters are so much realer in the retelling than they ever were in the original. Even the villain, who is terrifying, has motives that you can understand. It's not just "I am doing this because I am the bad guy." You can almost sympathize with her while cheering for Rose.
If you like fairytales and want something that's different then this is highly recommended. It's not like most modern books. It's not meant to be funny or snarky or mopey in any way. It's reads like a fairytale, probably because it's so true to the original, which is delightfully different from a lot of the books out there. If I had to compare it to another book, I would say the vibe reminds me of Shannon Hale. The audiobook is good with full cast narration that gives the varied perspectives (there are a lot of POVs) distinctly different voices.