Thanks to NetGalley and Van Horton Books for the ARC.
SLIPPER by Hester Velman (published April 17, 2018 by Van Horton Books) is the retelling of Cinderella. And, trust me, it is nothing like the Disney version. This Cinderella suffers a lot more than a torn dress and dirty fingernails thanks to all of that cleaning she had to do. This Cinderella survives rape, a witch hunt, war, and massacres. Life teaches her some very hard lessons – yet it takes her a long time to learn anything from them. And, in the end, the glass slipper doesn’t even fit!
Lucinda (AKA Cinderella) is a penniless orphan growing up in the mid to late-1600s. Because her aristocratic family believes her to be a bastard, Lucinda is not treated very well. At best, she is ignored by her family. At worst, she is forced to work as a servant in the family’s sprawling countryside mansion. Lucinda’s only friend is her godmother/family cook Bessie Goose (who, in this story, becomes the inspiration for Mother Goose), and the other household servants who spoil her.
I somewhat enjoyed SLIPPER in the beginning, but then, around halfway through, I decided that I didn’t like the novel. By the end, I was on the fence about it. It is an interesting story, but, as Lucinda got older, I found that I couldn’t stand her. Lucinda is a very imaginative child, and she has herself convinced that her daydreams will one day become reality. That her Prince Charming will one day come rescue her from her miserable life. I didn’t think that Bessie Goose was the most likeable of characters either. Instead of giving Lucinda some lessons in life and common sense, she instead allows the girl to remain ignorant. After being raped by her uncle, Lucinda throws herself at a captain in the English army who is betrothed to her cousin, believing that this man in her knight in shining armor. Leaving her home in the English countryside, Lucinda follows the captain to France where he is a captain in the army. Lucinda and Bessie join the baggage train, and Lucinda becomes the captain’s mistress. Lucinda begins to see the captain for what he really is, but she continues to cling to her dream that he’s her Prince Charming. She also develops an unhealthy interest in the whores who are also part of the baggage train. At this point, it’s too late for Bessie to give the teenage Lucinda any life lessons because Lucinda isn’t about to listen to anything that anyone has to say. When Lucinda finally realizes that the captain is never going to marry her, she turns to physician John Prynce. Upon learning that Prynce is responsible for both of her parents’ deaths, she flees the baggage train and makes her way to Holland. After a brief marriage to a boorish painter, Lucinda moves to Paris where, as a female artist, she is treated as a novelty and flattered by men who wish to make her their mistress. She also meets Charles Perrault, the man who will take her life story and use it to create the Cinderella fairy tale. He also uses Bessie’s stories (passed on to him through Lucinda since Bessie is now dead thanks to Lucinda’s recklessness) and turns them into the Mother Goose tales. It’s in Paris that Lucinda finally begins to open her eyes and realize that her daydreams are what got her into this mess. She then returns to England to see if she can work things out with Prynce.
While SLIPPER was an interesting and well plotted novel, it just wasn’t for me. I just didn’t like Lucinda at all. Most of the time I was irritated with her – as well as Bessie – for her naivety and recklessness. I spent the majority if the novel wanting to reach through the pages to smack Lucinda upside the head for her foolishness. Yes, life has dealt Lucinda a lot of crap, but she brings a good portion of it onto herself. The rest of the female characters are wicked – filling the roles of wicked step-mother and step-sisters even though they are Lucinda’s aunts and cousins. The male characters leave a lot more to be desired. I didn’t want a stereotypical Prince Charming, but it would have been nice to have a male character that was at least remotely likeable.
For me, the most interesting part of the novel was learning about the origins of some of the classic fairy tales. I also enjoyed that there were historical figures woven into the storyline. That helped add to the historic backdrop of the time period.
If you’re a diehard fan of Disney’s Cinderella, this novel probably won’t be for you. If you’re open to adaptations of the fairy tale, give SLIPPER a try.