Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story

Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story

by Carolyn Turgeon

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307407993
Publisher: Crown/Archetype
Publication date: 03/03/2009
Edition description: Original
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 399,190
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 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 82 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.
arielfl on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I picked this up to join in the Once Upon a Time reading challenge held every spring over at Stainless Steel Droppings. I just did not like it. It was so slow, boring, and repetitive. It is a short book and I struggled every day just to get through it. The story goes back and forth in time between modern day New York and 300 years ago in some unnamed kingdom inhabited by fairies. Lil is a fairy who was been sent to live in modern day New York after she screwed up helping Cinderella meet her prince. It seems she fell in love with the prince herself and took Cinderella's place at the ball. Lil feels that she can redeem herself by uniting a modern day couple of Veronica and her boss George in New York. The parts of the book that were set in new York read better than the fairytale for me. I was only going to give this one star but the twist in the last five pages made me up it a half a star for finally showing some creativity. It seems like my dislike for this book leaves me in the minority.
ImBookingIt on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I picked this up thinking it would be a fun, fluffy chick-lit style book. It had a few of those moments.All in all, it was a much more serious book than that, balancing the fun with looks into human nature, and with an ending that took me by surprise.I read this as part of the 24 hour readathon, and wish I'd read it sometime with more leisure to reflect on it.
abackwardsstory on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Bookworms, I was so in love with Carolyn Turgeon¿s latest novel, Mermaid (review here), I had to rush out and buy Godmother as well. Like Mermaid, Turgeon¿s sophomore title looks at the flip side of fairy tales. Do you ever wonder about the fairy godmother¿s life when she¿s not making a perfect happily-ever-after for her charges? The first time I ever considered her plight was when I read The Fairy Godmother by Mercedes Lackey. There¿s so much hard work that goes into the job that all of these fairy tale heroes and heroines take for granted. Godmothers are people, too, though, and flawed ones at that. In Turgeon¿s Godmother, Lil is a fairy godmother tasked with getting Cinderella to the ball...but winds up falling in love with the prince herself. In the fairy world, loving a human¿especially one destined for another¿is forbidden, so Lil is banished to the mortal world. The novel begins in the present day. Lil is an old woman living in NYC. Every day, she works at a used bookshop while George, the store¿s owner, goes off looking for rare books. Every night, she returns home, poor, hungry, sore, and worst of all, lonely. Even after all these centuries in the mortal realm, she misses her fairy brethren so much that she constantly has dreams about all the good times they once had together. She also has nightmares of the time everything went horribly wrong. One day, a young woman named Veronica comes into the store to sell some old books, including one about the Cottingley Fairies Hoax. Turgeon introduces a bit of history to readers here, while melding the incident into her own lore. Lil realizes that the ¿fake fairies¿ on the cover are of her sister and their friends. That night, she bumps into a man who looks familiar to her and realizes that her family has finally returned for her. If she plays her cards right, she might be able to go home. She decides to set Veronica up with George. If she can be a godmother in the mortal realm and bring these two people their own happily-ever-after, she¿ll be redeemed.Godmother is an intense read, at times very dark and psychological. It¿s full of twists and turns readers won¿t see coming, especially as the climax appears on the horizon and everything starts coming together. I¿ll tell you now...certain revelations left me stunned. I can see book clubs discussing certain aspects of this novel for hours; it¿s definitely a title that will appeal to all types of readers. I really loved Turgeon¿s characterizations of Lil and Veronica. My heart ached for Lil; I was rooting for her the entire time. In the mortal world, she was in so much pain and suffered so much heartache. Veronica was full of life and one of the quirkiest characters I¿ve met in a long time. I hoped something good would finally come her way. The two women had a fascinating relationship with one another, as though they were a real family.
shelleyraec on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Not the light read I was expecting, this book walks a tightrope between fact and fantasy and it's difficult to determine what is which. Is Lil Cinderella's fairy godmother, banished from faerie for falling in love with Prince Charming or is she is senile old woman, confusing her sister's tragic death with a beloved story? There is no definitive answer so it is for the reader to decide - a unique and imaginitive story that will likely polarise the readership. Put your preconceptions aside and choose your own ending.
Rhinoa on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Lil is an old woman living in New York. Her day job is in a second hand book store owned by newly divorced George. They specialise in finding old and first editions of books and Lil has always ben drawn to fairy tales, in particular Cinderella. You see Lil is a fairy godmother, none other than Cinderella's fairy godmother. She was flattered at being chosen to help Cinderella reach her destiny, she is to marry the Prince and become Queen. The problem is that Lil goes to take a look at the Prince herself and falls in love with him. She takes Cinderella's place at the ball and is then banished by the Elders to live in the human world.Lil thinks that after three hundred years she has finally found a way to go home. She sees her sister in the corner of her eyes often in the light as it dances and longs for the fairy realm below the water. One morning Veronica enters the book shop with a book of the Cottingly fairies and Lil sees her sister and friends in the pictures. This is surely a sign that her time with the humans is almost over. Veronica is young and vibrant and would be just the thing for George who has withdrawn into himself. If Lil can make a match between them, surely she can repair the damage with Cinderella and atone for her past mistake.Of course the story is not quite so simple. It looks into human pain and suffering that occurs from loss. We start to question Lil's story and wonder what the reality of her past is. It's a beautifully told story that really captured my imagination and attention. Of course I am slightly biased as I love alternative versions of fairy tales, but this really stood out as being in the same league as Briar Rose by Jane Yolen which I thought was amazing.I can't remember who recommended this to me, but you have my hearty thanks. I loved this book so much. The characters were so alive somehow and the tale was told with care and attention to detail. I loved that Veronica kept her journal online and Lil was able to learn a great deal about her life. She is someone I would really like to befriend, she seemed like a lot of fun. My only tiny niggle was that we didn't get to spend more time getting to know George as well. Another 50 pages would have been even better.
mcelhra on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This book was a retelling of Cinderella from the Fairy Godmother's point of view. It takes some liberties with the original Cinderella story. In this book's version, the Fairy Godmother was young and beautiful like Cinderella. She majorly screwed up when trying to help Cinderella get to the ball and was banished to live as a human on earth as punishment.The beginning and middle of this book was so slow I had trouble maintaining interest. The last twenty pages were exciting - I would have expanded this section and fleshed it out more. I spent most of the book waiting for something to happen and when it finally did, it was over in a flash.
TiffanyAK on LibraryThing 8 months ago
It wasn't really my cup of tea as far as books go. It did get quite a bit better towards the end, and get me interested, but I still can't say I really enjoyed it. But, it does really make you wonder about Lil, and what the truth is. Was she a fairy godmother, banished from her people for committing a great wrong, or is she so grief-stricken from events in her all-to-human life that she created the story in her mind? In any case, I'm sure a lot of people will love it. It just didn't appeal to me much personally.
SugarCreekRanch on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This is a beautiful, magical, emotional story. There are some extremely powerful scenes that will stay with the reader long after closing the book. The plot is suspenseful and unpredictable. This one is going on my all-time favorites list.
bookwormygirl on LibraryThing 8 months ago
What if the story we¿ve all come to learn and love about Cinderella were not exactly true? What if our vision of the fairy godmother - all plump and rosy - was not accurate?The story switches back and forth between present day New York and the days leading up to that fateful night where Lil (the Fairy Godmother) is to have Cinderella appear at the ball and have her prince fall madly in love with her, have plenty of children and live happily ever after. At least, that is what was supposed to happen. Lil had no idea that she would fall in love with the prince herself and usurp Cinderella¿s place in the prince¿s heart.Lil is now an elderly woman living in New York, struggling to make ends meet, working at a local bookstore. She has been outcasted by her fairy-kin and has struggled to make a living as a human for years. One day at work she meets Victoria (a cool hairdresser with an old soul) and feels a connection with her. And when her boss, George, tells her that he needs a date for a charity ball that he is attending... Lil finds that these similarities could just be the opportunity that she has been waiting for in order to redeem herself.Although I did not feel much of a connection with Lil, I felt I could relate much more with Victoria. I became intrigued a couple of chapters in and read this very quickly. Ms. Turgeon does a magnificent job describing Lil¿s feelings (from falling in love to the depressive state she lives in while residing in NY). I found myself looking forward to the chapters on Cinderella and was surprised by the turns the story took. I really have to say that the ending took me by surprise and, call me cynical, but it somehow worked for me. It was sad, touching, and truly a unique story.I picked this up thinking that it would be a light, fluffy read about one of my favorite fairytales. Boy was I mistaken. There was surprisingly nothing light in this tale - but don¿t let that deter you from reading this darker (somewhat morbid) version of the classic fairytale.
remikit on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Don't read this if you like science fiction / fantasy. It is not fantasy.
ethel55 on LibraryThing 8 months 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.
DevourerOfBooks on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Lil is an old woman living alone in New York and working in a used bookshop, but she has a secret: Lil used to be a fairy. Not just any fairy, mind you, Lil was the fairy godmother responsible for getting Cinderella to the ball. Cinderella was fated from birth to marry the handsome prince, but in order to do that she had to go to the ball and in order to go to the ball, she needed her fairy godmother¿s help and encouragement. When Lil allowed herself to feel human emotions -desire for the handsome prince - and go to the ball in lieu of Cinderella, she is quickly banished to the world of humans by the fairy elders. There she lives, barely making it, until she finds the chance to make amends, to unite two people who remind her for all the world of Cinderella and the prince.This book was just absolutely lovely. I adored Lil. She was a slightly pathetic figure: the fairy who can¿t fly, the woman who can barely afford rent or to feed herself; and yet she was strong and determined to make amends for her past mistakes and be readmitted to the world of the fairies and see all her old friends - and her sister - again. The story was brilliantly thought out and imagined and the descriptions rich, but the ending is what really made the book for me, it was perfect. Turgeon could not have ended her story better.This book is a little on the lighter side without being what I would consider `fluffy.¿ You don¿t need to be a fan of fantasy or fairies to read this, it could probably bridge the gap between those who prefer chic lit and those who read more literary fiction.
nomadreader on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story dances between two times: long ago, when the fairy godmother was charged with getting Cinderella to the ball, and modern day. Our modern day heroine is Lil, short for Lillian, who is a fairy in the body of an old woman, albeit one with giant, white, feathery wings she must conceal from humans. She works in a rare booked store in Manhattan.Lil is a sad but lovable narrator. I found myself enjoying the modern scenes set in Manhattan much more than the slowly evolving story of Cinderella. Each chapter begins with the long ago tale, but it became increasingly clear to me the outcome of Cinderella and the ball (it's not the fairy tale we grew up hearing) far earlier in the book than it's actually revealed. These breaks into the past disrupted the flow of the story. Still, Lil is a delight.I confess I don't read many books dealing with fairies, so I can't speak to the originality of the banished fairy. Before this book, I wasn't familiar with visual depictions of fairies or the plethora of fairy lore.Overall, I enjoyed the book enough to read it in two days, but I didn't love it. I fully admit I am not a fan of fairy tales, and I imagine this predilection colors my view of this book. I do want to read Carolyn Turgeon's other novel, Rain Village, about a Midwestern girl who becomes a trapeze artist.
Maggie-the-Cat on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I'm not sure if I appreciated the ending or not. I rather liked the direction the book was going and then "Wham!" The characters were likable and I appreciated the new twist on an old favorite. Lil is the Fairy Godmother who stole Cinderella's prince. She is now in the mortal world trying to get back to the land of fairy. Her best hope is to connect a pair of old souls and everyone will live happily ever after. There is a twist on the twist though so reader's beware- as with any fairy tale- everything is not always what it appears to be.
malachitemoon on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Wow. This book is amazing. First off, the writing itself is superb. The descriptions of the bookstore and of the city itself made me feel as though I was there. I read this book aloud to my daughter and I savored every word as it rolled off my tongue. The story itself is engaging with a twist that I never saw coming, and I pride myself on spotting the twists long before they ever show up. At the end, I was left happy, but in shock. Highly recommended.
yoyogod on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This was an interesting take on the Cinderella tale. It is the story of the fairy godmother, Lil, who managed to screw up and didn't get Cinderella to the ball and fell in love with the handsome prince herself. For her sins, she is banished to the human world. Then, much later she is given a chance to redeem herself by helping a modern Cinderella go to the ball with her handsome prince.It's a good story that takes the premise of the Cinderella tale into new waters. It also introduces the use of the unreliable narrator to the story; even at the end of the book, I wasn't sure if Lil was really a fairy godmother or if she was just an ordinary old lady who was suffering from some form of dementia.Whether she was a fairy or not, she tells a good tale.
nycbookgirl on LibraryThing 8 months ago
First, let me warn you, this book is slightly darker than the cover portrays. It's not THAT dark, but I was assuming this was a more light-hearted fairy tale. I guess all fairy tales have a sort of sadness at heart to them though.Obviously from the title, the story is told through the eyes of Cinderella's fairy godmother, you know, the one from the story. Except she's a lot older. And somehow she's been living in New York City for a good many years. Every morning she bandages up her long fairy wings and goes to work at an independent bookstore in the Upper West Side.Apparently the fairy tale story of Cinderella, the one we all know, is not exactly the truth. Actually, something went horribly awry. So when the godmother, Lil, gets the chance to play "Godmother" to her handsome newly divorced boss, she might get the chance to make amends and go home.Sound pretty and simple right? But it's a little sad at times. Which is why I liked it. And I LOVED that it's very apparent that Carolyn Turgeon is a lover of books. I mean, her "prince" is a bookstore owner and a lover of books. And the modern Cinderella? She's such a great character. I wanted to know her too.Tthe book flip flops chapters between the present story, and the past real Cinderella story. So chapter by chapter the reader begins to understand what really happened in the old Cinderella story. And the ending...if you've read it, what did you think? I thought the ending was perfect. Sad. But a perfect ending.
theepicrat on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I was surprised at how Godmother turned out in the end, but I did not find myself too wild for the story altogether. We first encountered Lil in the present day and glimpsed at the fairy tale through her memories. Usually I have no major issues with this type of storytelling, but it just did not suit me well. While I expected Godmother to be a different Cinderella story, it was far more different than anticipated. A more dysfunctional fairy tale that leaves a bittersweet taste in my mouth.
whitreidtan on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Lil is a older woman who works at a bookstore, lives simply and frugally (out of extreme necessity), and has a great love for one of the books in the bookstore: a valuable copy of Cinderella. Is this the sum of Lil or is she also who she claims to be, the exiled fairy godmother from the Cinderella story? As Lil goes about her day, with her tell-tale wings bound tightly to her back, she describes her life as a fairy godmother and the mistake that led her to be cast out from her life. She made the mistake of falling in love with the prince herself and went to the ball in place of Cinderella. Convincing herself that she will be re-admitted to the fairy realm if she rights her wrong, she determines to help unite her new friend Veronica and her kindly boss George, both unlucky in love and bearing melancholy scars.Lil's rendition of the real Cinderella story starts off lightly but soon becomes more and more dark in feeling as she prepares to tell of her ultimate betrayal as a fairy godmother. Likewise, the story of her small existence in the human world starts to sound more menacing even as her plans for George and Veronica seem to be coming to fruition. The end to Lil's Cinderella story is unexpected, foreshadowing the end of the book. The ending completely changed my reading of the story. The impressive twist turns the lightness of the early story on its head and pulls the curtain off the life of quiet desperation that Lil has led for so long. This was a completely engrossing book, impossible to put down which I read in less than a day. But I am left ambivalent about it, although certainly still pondering it even weeks later so it clearly captured me in unusual ways. A real departure from my usual type of book, the glimpses of the magical world enchanted me but the loneliness of the human world counterbalanced the fantasy. So many questions remain in the end that I was left with a sense of unease, feeling decidely disturbed. Regardless of my own reaction, I don't think there's any doubt that this is a highly unusual and readable book, carefully crafted and taut with emotion.
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago