Book Review | Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine
Earlier this year I posted about loving re-imagined fairy tales; now unfortunately that particular book wasn’t one that I would re-read. I decided I needed to let you know about one that I have read over and over again to the point of needing to buy a new copy as my paperback is about to fall apart – Ella Enchanted. It was published in 1997 and I have had my copy since about 1999. I am positive it is something that I bought at a middle school scholastic book fair – do they still have those?
Ella is cursed from birth by a fairy to be obedient and the only person who can remove the curse is the original caster or she has to break it herself, but she doesn’t know how.
Her mother dies when she is young which brings Ella under her father’s control and he sends her off to finishing school with Dame Olga’s daughters, Hattie and Olive. Hattie figures out the curse to an extent and uses it to make Ella a servant at school. Ella can’t live like that so she searches for a way to break the curse. All the while she has been corresponding with Prince Charmont after meeting him at her mother’s funeral and their feelings blossom. Her merchant father remarries Dame Olga bringing the fairy Ella seeks back into their life and she blesses the couple with eternal love.
As all Cinderella stories the Prince falls in love with Ella, but how can she be with him with the curse of obedience over her?
Now some might be familiar with the basic outline of the story from the movie starring Anne Hathaway but be warned the Ella in the book is a much stronger character. Ella loves to learn languages which helps her out of a few situations along her adventures. She also works to respect and learn other cultures which in turn gives her protection, gifts, and most importantly friends. Through her learning and compassionate heart she helps the Prince on the Ogre campaign-teaching his men to speak Ogre so they can use the same oily tones back at them instead of being eaten. In this version there isn’t an Uncle out to kill Charmont, and I much prefer it that way. Ella has to rescue herself by finding the strength inside of her, but until that happens her antics trying to break the curse sometimes put her in danger and other times just make her sick.
This is a story that definitely reminds you of the importance of friendship and the way to treat other people.
The people she comes across in the book include ogres, giants, and elves. Ella receives a beautiful pottery piece from the elves because she shows respect and awe for their talent while her father always demeans them and never gets to see the work of the master artists. I think this is very applicable to us; we can choose to belittle those around us and never let them grow or see their full potential or we can place value on what they bring to the table. The way I see it that benefits everyone.
The book reminds us there are consequences for our actions: from marrying the Dame to the way Ella was treated, falling in love, cursing those around you, and choosing your friends.
Early in the book Ella talks to a fairy whom after a bowl breaks won’t put it back together because it is “big magic” and that has consequences she can’t control. However, she does use magic to clean it up so there are no shards on the floor. While our actions may seem small we never know how far reaching they can be for better or for worse.
I LOVE HOW LEVINE DEVELOPS THE CHARACTERS AND PULLS YOU INTO HER FANTASY WORLD.
She vividly paints the world around Ella and helps you to see even the good characters have flaws they have to overcome. This is a book I would recommend for adults as well as middle readers. Cinderella is one of my favorite tales to see updated; many different variations that have been written and if you have a chance you should definitely pick up the Newbery Honor Book Ella Enchanted.
DO YOU HAVE ANY FAIRY TALES YOU WOULD RECOMMEND?
Pick up your copy using this link, and we make pennies!