Book: Personally, I Blame My Fairy Godmother, Claudia Carroll
Release Date: May 3rd, 2010
Rating: 3 stars
Cinderella is one of my favourite fairy tales, and the Disney version is one of my favourite movies. And I'd previously read a fantastic Cinderella retelling (Cinder by Marissa Meyer – read it if you haven’t already!) so I had high hopes for another modern take on this classic tale.
While I won’t say I'm disappointed with this book, I can’t honestly say it was a great retelling of Cinderella. It was good; don’t get me wrong, just... not great.
Our main character (or Cinderella) is Jessie Woods, a 29 year old TV presenter who seems to have it all – a fabulous career, a “Prince Charming-esque” boyfriend and a gorgeous mansion to live in. So when everything in her life simultaneously seems to crash and burn around her, Jessie finds herself stone broke at the door of the family she refuses to acknowledge to the public eye – her stepmother and two stepsisters. Without any money, Jessie is forced to earn her keep by doing all the housework for her stepfamily.
This is the part where the book and Cinderella seem to part ways in being alike. We all know that Cinderella goes to the ball, meets her true love, and lives happily ever after. This book doesn’t quite take that approach. Jessie spends the majority of the first half of the book wallowing in self-pity over the turn her life has taken. She spends weeks just hanging around the house in her pyjamas, while constantly trying to contact her Prince Charming boyfriend, Sam Hughes, who infamously dumped her once she loses everything. In fact, I'd say she turns semi-stalker-ish in her attempts to reconcile with him when it’s glaringly obvious he doesn’t want any more to do with her.
Once Jessie does realise that it’s completely over between them, she finally starts trying to get her life back on track. This is the part where the novel really picks up, and I finally begin to actually like the character of Jessie. While I didn’t like how she seemed to dig a hole for herself and stay there when things first went belly-up, I had to respect how she tried to turn her life around and earn some more money.
At the beginning of the book we have her stepfamily portray the typical “evil” stereotype that they appear in Cinderella. They’re horrible to her, force her to do all their housework and treat her like crap. But soon we begin to delve into why they’re so mean to Jessie, and it’s totally understandable and a bit relatable. Her stepmother, Joan, had her moments, but her stepsister Sharon soon became my favourite character. She and Jessie develop a lovely bond as the book progresses as Jessie helps her with her love life and Sharon helps Jessie out of the trenches by helping her find work. Maggie, her other stepsister took a bit longer to warm up to, I'll admit, but we eventually see the warmer side to her too, and they way the three of them become so close by the book’s end is just lovely.
Sam, the wicked ex-boyfriend, was a self-absorbed, egotistical ape-man who only cared what the public thought of him and only loved Jessie when it suited him. And while our true “Prince Charming” isn’t properly introduced until the second half of the book, I really enjoyed Steve’s character and loved the scenes he and Jessie had together.
While I found the writing style a bit tedious (there were many moments when Jessie told us what another character was saying, instead of actually telling us in dialogue) and I have to criticise the lack of some of the elements missing from the actual fairy tale (namely the fairy godmother! Where was she?), I still found the book enjoyable once I got into it. While not as good as other retellings I’ve read, I would still recommend it to readers.