Themes Explored: independence, coming-of-age, fear, endurance, beauty, adventure, ingenuity, family dynamics, loneliness, friendship, resourcefulness, romance, destiny, fate
Synopsis: It starts when Alexandria, a poor, plain goose girl, offers her own bread and water to a hungry old woman-who just happens to be a witch in disguise. Poof! Alexandria is suddenly extremely beautiful. Soon a prince and a king are fighting for her hand, and they’ve locked her in a tower to keep her “safe.” Clearly the only thing to do is escape-which is when her problems really begin! (Adapted from Goodreads)
Review: Nearly every summer before my twelfth birthday, I participated in the summer reading challenge offered by my local library. I usually found these challenges overly simplistic, I tended to finish a month’s worth of reading challenges in a week. However, the library gave out books as prizes and one summer I picked out Goose Chase. How could anyone resist a purplish color cover with a goose wearing a crown? Well, my brother resisted but that fact is beside the point. Ever since, this book has remained one of my favorite fractured fairy-tails. The book is only 214 pages, so it takes about 1-2 hours to finish. But it is a sassy and witty read, even for readers well out of the target age group. Every now and then I need a palate cleanser after reading a disappointing book, so I reread Goose Chase.
Alexandria Aurora Fortunato managed to support herself just fine after her mother died. Of course she does all this without killing her flock of geese; her mother’s last request was that Alexandria not hurt a single goose. So Alexandria and her geese eked out a meager existence until the day a witch appeared. The old woman thanks Alexandria for her kindness by bestowing three gifts upon her: a face prettier than the dawn, tears that transform into diamonds, and gold dust falls from her head every time she brushes her hair. A fancy dress, glass slippers, and ruby tiara are thrown in for free. Of course the drawback is that one day Alexandria’s marvelous good looks are spotted by someone and brings two suitors to her door. First comes King Claudio the Cruel of Gilboa and the slightly bumbling Prince Edmund of Dorloo. Unfortunately, they decide to lock Alexandria in a tower until she makes up her mind. With suitors such as these, who needs enemies? Thankfully, her geese manage to stage a jailbreak but she soon finds herself in a hostage situation again. She then has to not only rescue herself but also the annoying Prince Edmund. They end up traipsing across the countryside on a mad dash mission to stop King Claudio.
Goose Chase is a highly entertaining fairy tale. Fourteen year-old Alexandria has no desire to marry and must escape malevolent forces. For such a short book, the characters are wonderful. King Claudio is, unsurprisingly cruel, and his first two wives died under mysterious circumstances. He is the least developed character because he is not a main character. When the plot needs a maniac to keep things interesting, King Claudio emerges from the shadows to taunt the main characters. As is typical with most fairy-tales, the villains are pure evil and Claudio fulfills the expected stereotype. On the other hand, Prince Edmund does not quite live up to whole “knight in shining armor” hero typical of fairy tales. He is described as someone who is “somewhat less intelligent than a clod of dirt”. Over the course of the story, it becomes apparent that Edmund is not dimwitted, just sheltered and terribly naïve. His interactions with Alexandria are hilarious and showcase his character’s evolution from flashy prince to somewhat mature teenager. After all, he is only about sixteen years old. Thankfully, Kindl does not have Edmund act much older than his age, which is a nice change from a lot of fairy-tales.
Alexandria handles her transition from goose girl to princess remarkably well. Considering that she goes from independent living to a tower, she never loses her resolve to regain what her suitors stole from her. She is smart, ingenious, capable of rescuing herself, and really does not want to be a princess. The life of a goose girl suited Alexandria just fine. I love this retelling because the heroine is not actively seeking to win over some mythic prince to solve all her problems. And her fierce independence makes her a much more relatable character. Overall, Alexandria is a well-developed and delightful heroine with a slightly acidic wit. Her personality is slightly over-the-top, which is why Prince Edmund’s more subtle depiction provides such a good foil. Alexandria is full of wild and half-thought out solutions, Edmund is more realistic. The geese regularly appear to offer “advice” and keep Alexandria on the right path. While the geese thankfully never talk, Kindl infuses them with rather human like personalities. They manage to appear whenever Alexandria and Edmund contemplate risky maneuvers or are in a difficult situation. This book really makes owning geese sound pleasurable, though the real things will never live up to these depiction.
Kindl’s writing style mimics an older style, she uses words ending in “tis, ‘twas’ trow, and others. However, the writing slips into a more contemporary style a couple times. This does become slightly annoying because the inconsistence becomes obvious after a couple chapters. For such a short book, the plot does a great job fleshing out a fairy-tale realm. There is just enough uniqueness to set this world apart from other retellings. Pace wise, the narrative moves at a brisk pace and never drags. As with all fairy-tales, everything works out for the heroes and the villains receive their comeuppance. Let’s just say that the ending is both surprising and predictable. Overall, Goose Chase is a nice retelling with traces of the Rapunzel story weaved into the narrative. I recommend it to any fairy-tale enthusiast.
Goose Chase, Puffin Books, 2002, ISBN 9780142302088