Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story

Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story

by Carolyn Turgeon


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Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story by Carolyn Turgeon

A new take on Cinderella, told from the perspective of the fairy godmother living in modern-day Manhattan

Lil is an old woman who spends her days shelving rare books in a tiny Manhattan bookstore and lonely nights at home in her apartment. But Lil has an intriguing secret. Tucked and bound behind her back are white feathery wings--the only key to who she once was: the fairy godmother responsible for getting Cinderella to the ball to unite with her Prince Charming.

But on that fateful night, something went terribly and beautifully wrong. Lil allowed herself the unthinkable: to feel the emotions of human beings and fall in love with the prince herself, going to the ball in place of Cinderella in her exquisitely gorgeous human guise. For her unforgivable mistake, she was banished to live among humans, far from her fairy sisters and their magical underwater world. But then one day she meets Veronica--a young, fair-skinned, flame-haired East Village beauty with a love of all things vintage and a penchant for falling in love with the wrong men--and suddenly it becomes clear to Lil that she’s been given a chance at redemption. If she can find a soul mate for Veronica, she may be able to right her wrong and return to the fairy world she so deeply longs for.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307407993
Publisher: Crown/Archetype
Publication date: 03/03/2009
Edition description: Original
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 576,731
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.88(h) x 0.61(d)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

CAROLYN TURGEON is the author of severl works of fiction, including Rain Village, Mermaid, and The Fairest of Them All. Visit her website and blog at carolynturgeon.com.

Reading Group Guide

1. Talk about Lil as a narrator. How does your opinion of her change throughout the book? Do you like her? Is she a reliable narrator?

2. Describe the relationship between Lil and Veronica. What brings the women together? What do you think of their friendship?

3. Fairies are a constant presence in the novel, in the human world as well as in the world of Lil’s past: in the fairytales in George’s shop, in the fairy paintings in the Frick, in Veronica’s book about the Cottingley fairies. Talk about other representations of fairies you’ve come across. What do you think accounts for the popularity of these representations in our culture? What makes fairies such a robust subject for the imagination?

4. Lil is often hungry. What does this mean? What does her relationship to food say about her emotional state generally?

5. What are the differences between the fairy world and the human world? What does each world offer to Lil? What is attractive and unattractive about each world? Do you agree with the way Lil characterizes the human world?

6. How does the Cinderella in this book differ from more traditional representations? How would you describe this Cinderella? What do you believe accounts for the choices she makes?

7. Characterize the relationship between Lil and Cinderella, and how it progresses and shifts throughout the book. What do you make of those shifts?

8. Retellings of the Cinderella story, as well as of other stories and myths, are more popular than ever. Why do you think is? Why are these stories so powerful? What function, if any, do you think they serve for us?

9. Why is the prince so attractive to Lil? What do you think of her emphasis on him seeing her? Is Lil in love with the prince in your opinion? Why or why not?

10. Two phrases are repeated through the novel, both from books Lil sees in George’s shop: “What happens in the world of faerie is manifested in the world of men” and “All my old loves will be returned to me.” What do these phrases mean? How would you explain the import of each within the novel?

11. Lil, Veronica, George, and Cinderella have all experienced significant losses. What has each of them lost? How do they deal with those losses? Is there anyone in the book who has not experienced some kind of loss?

12. Several of the characters are preoccupied with the past, their own and/or the past in general. Why? What does it mean for them?

13. Another theme in the book is physical beauty, and the deterioration of physical beauty. How does the aging of Lil’s physical body affect her? Can you relate to Lil’s relationship to her body?

14. How do you explain the events at the end of the book? Do they change your opinion of Lil? Do they change your reading of the story?

15. Fast-forward six months after the book ends. Where do you see each character? Are they better or worse off than they were before?

Customer Reviews

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Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 63 reviews.
ethel55 More than 1 year ago
What if the version of Cinderella that has been passed down through the years wasn't quite right? Perhaps the fairy godmother didn't resemble a plump bag of potatoes and was constantly tested by her strong feelings for all things human. Lil is an old woman now, ekeing out a small life for herself in Manhattan, working at a bookstore, and always thinking of the past--her sister and best friends. At night, she goes home alone to her apartment, sinks into a hot bath and lets her wings unfurl. Lil, you see, is that fairy who was destined to get Cinderella and the prince together, but something went terribly wrong. Now, with her apartment being sold and turned into offices, Lil begins to have a sense of urgency about her purpose among all these humans. Enter the luminous Veronica, the girl Lil believes will fulfill her destiny. The ball is a charity gala, the prince is Lil's boss, George, and Veronica will do nicely as the Cinderella stand-in. All around her, Lil sees sadness and glimpses of what she believes are the fairies, readying for the time she will finally rejoin them.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
"What occurs in the world of faerie will manifest in the world of man." This thought was the main theme of GODMOTHER. This was a dark retelling of the story of Cinderella. When I saw the cover, I thought,"a fun, light read." I was very wrong. This is a story about Lil, an old woman broken in spirit who lives a very meager life in New York. She works in a bookstore, and her life consists of working, eating, and sleeping. But Lil has a secret. If you saw her back you would see wings. She is actually the fairy who was sent to be Cinderella's godmother, but she made a terrible mistake that night. Lil fell in love with the prince and couldn't help the broken spirit of Cinderella. Since that night, Lil has been permanently in the world of man, thrown out of the world of faerie, until she can redeem herself and fix what she did to Cinderella. This book is not for the immature reader. It has a very dark, ambiguous ending. The characters all live lives of despair. However, this would be a good book to read in a book club or with a group of friends. It needs to be talked about. The writing was extraordinary and the author needs to be commended. So read GODMOTHER if you would like a more realistic version of the beloved fairy tale.
Jenna_K More than 1 year ago
The first chapter of Godmother sucked me right in and never let go. At the end of the first chapter when Lil unbinds her chest, soaks her aching body in a hot bath mixed with "eucalyptus oil and wintergreen oil, rosemary and thyme and dried mustard", and unfurls her feathery, white wings, I knew I had found a fantastical story. The second chapter delivered what I hoped for and more and within mere pages I was drawn deep into this achingly beautiful story. Not only did the author, Carolyn Turgeon, immediately pull me into the story, she had me feeling Lil's, and later Veronica's, aching and longing for something more, something better, a different time, a better place, the place where they were meant to be. The story goes back and forth between present day New York and the days surrounding the fateful night Lil, the fairy godmother, was supposed to get Cinderella to the ball to meet her destiny, because as we learn in the story, fairies are the keepers of destiny. There were no shortages of passages to linger over but here's one of my favorites... "This is what I had been brought to her for. Each human had so many selves, they said, and so much confusion. They do not know how to be who they are, who they are meant to be. That is how we help them" Because the author took me precisely where she wanted me to go, I was not expecting the twist at the end. As I raced through the last chapter my reading was about ten steps ahead of my rational thinking and I felt like I was sinking and kicking for the surface, for air, as my brain tried to figure out what just happened. When I closed the book the ending wasn't what I wanted for Lil. But the more I thought about the book the more the author amazed me at how eloquently she made me feel Lil's aching heart and body and in turn how it made me want perfect, sweet redemption for Lil. Then I saw the brilliance of the author and how she had taken me inside Lil's life and her secret torment and made me feel her every pain and heart ache so I could understand. This story is by no means a light and fluffy retelling of classic fairy tale. This book is deep, a thinking-woman's story, a haunting story of regret and redemption, framed by the retelling of every little girl's favorite love story. If you've ever felt the haunting ache of regret and lost love then you will find a lot to love and relate to in this book. UPDATE: I have made some slight changes to this review since I first posted it only because another review made me see the ending differently then I saw it. Even in rereading the ending the one sentence that points to what Lil does is ambiguous. If the other reviewer is right the ending upsets me a bit (though it's nothing I haven't read in a novel before) but I still stand by this book as a good read with great and imaginative writing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good, but not amazing. I am totally ok with the ending, but I was rather bored and skipped thru some of the sections.
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I have found a new favorite author! I love the twist and turns she has created in old fairy tales.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What a wonderful book to get lost in! The ending of the book leaves you guessing, and I loved it. Even now 3 years after I read this for the first time i still wonder about the ending. Since reading this book I have read everyone of Ms. Turgeons books and have loved all of them, and the wonderful modern spin she puts on the classic fairy tales we all grew up on.
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Overall an excellent read. It's an engaging story, and you constantly feel as if there's something strange and uncomfortable hidden behind the mask of the familiar. The ending was a pleasant surprise that made the read especially unique. The downsides are, perhaps, that the book isn't entirely sure which direction it wants to take. Whether this comes from genuine uncertainty from the author's part or is a deliberate move to leave the book open for interpretation I can't say, but I tend to prefer a more focused direction, even if the tale is meant to be interpreted multiple ways. The characters are engaging, although certain characters that are meant to feel unique come off as a cliche attempt at individuality. Lil and the other fairies, however, are delightful characters-especially the protagonist. Lil is instantly the sort of character you want to step into the story and, ironically, play fairy godmother for. You wish you could intervene here and there and help everything turn out the right way, or even just step in and give Lil a pat on the shoulder. Again, the entire book is an excellent read, but far from perfect. I much preferred Turgeon's Mermaid to this novel, and suggest anyone who is looking for a good fairy tale to seek out that one!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Different from what I usually read. I really liked it. Read it in a day.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I LOVED this book. This was a fantastic twist on a classic fairy tale. I can't wait to read more from this author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is incredibly powerful. I left every chapter inspired to see life anew and to experience it with all manner of passion. The story follows Lil, an exiled Godmother, as she seeks to right the wrong from her past and explain the real story of Cinderella. Captivating and highly imaginative.
readingnutBB More than 1 year ago
When I started this book was not sure where it would take me. I came to really believe in the Godmother and was rooting for her to fix her mistake. But the ending fell flat for me. There seemed to be a quick fix to the unanswered questions and I was left wanting more.
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