Happily Ever After Isn't As Long As You Think
By: J. S. Chancellor - Sep 02, 2010
I didn’t intend to read this novella in one sitting. However, as good stories are apt to do, this one quietly pulled me in and by the time I realized it—I was past the point of no return.
I’ve read quite a few Cinderella sequels: some playful, some humorous, some full of talking animals and other familiar fairy-tale elements. Argyle’s Cinderella, while playful in some areas, humorous in others, is haunting in its elegance and simplicity. The prose itself is pitch perfect for the narrative, to the point where as a reader you forget that you’re reading. It’s presented like the glass slipper that it is: beautiful, translucent, and full of unexpected magic.
The characters are solid, memorable, sturdy and some of them ephemeral (I’ll leave that for you to figure out…I don’t do spoilers). The plot is deftly paced. But what struck me above everything else is Argyle’s use of imagery. So many passages echo after they’ve been read…not because of how they were written, but because of what they said.
…After a moment Cinderella realized she was touching her crown, thinking of the grease on Marion’s chin as she ate her food and told Rowland things weren’t fair…
…Neither of these images represented what Cinderella saw now: a skeleton of a woman so thin and aged she looked as if she belonged to the worn stone walls. Her skin was gray, her eyes dull and lifeless. Her hair had fallen out in clumps, leaving only strings to cover her baldness…
I am actually leaving my favorite passages out because I want them to have the same effect on you as they did on me. They aren’t mere descriptions. They tell the rest of the story.
Cinders takes unexpected turns, ironic turns, turns that some readers won’t appreciate. Those aren’t the readers for whom the story was intended. Few writers have the skill and foresight to craft a fairytale that is applicable to real life, while maintaining the elemental integrity of the story. Argyle does this seamlessly and while you think for a time that you’re simply hearing another classic tale, slowly, you begin to see another layer—the bones beneath the flesh—and it is this layer that adds the most brilliant aspect to Argyle’s prose. With this layer, she breathes life into characters that we’ve become all too familiar with and gives them new purpose, presenting us with another fairytale, a slightly darker, more visceral one. Read carefully and you’ll see exactly what I mean. There is no question that each and every line was arranged with clear purpose and if you look closely, you’ll see the reason for the novella’s title.
Keep your eye on this girl. I don’t say that often. This brief journey into Argyle’s imagination left me wanting to see more of what she’ll create in the coming years and there are few things more exciting for a reader than discovering, not just a book that holds promise, but an author with whom we know we’ll share many adventures in the future.
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