October 25, 2006

Florid of complexion, dull of hair

In an interview with Fairest author Gail Carson Levine, she relates the trouble she had writing Fairest, and discusses the book. Well worth checking out.

Aza's fifteen, and she knows she's not conventionally beautiful -- not at all beautiful like other people. For one thing, her face is doughy and big. Her height is ridiculous, her girth is truly mentionable. She sings -- and probably when she takes a breath she swells up like a ship under sail. She's just ungainly and huge and distasteful -- too strong to be a real girl, and too ugly to be thought of in terms of affection and romance -- at least that's what Aza thinks, and she projects those thoughts onto the world at large. In a culture that defines beauty and grace as being 'fair,' Aza understands that she is the least fair of them all.

It's not enough that she's a foundling, that she was placed in the Inn of her parents as an infant and abandoned. She's stared at rudely by people, and her own parents hide her away in the back of the Inn so that her appearance won't offend and lower business for them. The Gnomes like her, but they're ...well, green, so what do they know?

It's hardly reasonable to expect that someone like Aza would get within fifteen feet of the royal peers. But she does. It's even less reasonable to expect that a commoner like Aza would be asked to be the Queen's Lady in Waiting -- but she gains all of that as well. When Aza stumbles into the royal household, she is met with kindness by the nobility and curtness by the servants. Everything is upside down for her, and intrigues are not far behind.

From all appearances, Aza has the world she dreamed of, and the eyes of the prince upon her, but why in the world isn't all happily-ever-after? Do people really believe that people are as good and kind as their appearance makes them? What does that make the ravishingly beautiful Queen, then? And what does that make the oversized Aza? As always, life -- and beauty -- isn't ever all that simple.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I found it disturbing that Aza needed to go through her magical disguise (as a pretty girl) in order to achieve some emotional balance and acceptance of her body. What is this saying, exactly, about beauty, or body issues? Confused.

Enjoyed it, but it somehow lacked the zing found in work prior to Ella Enchanted. I'm not sure that this longer format really works for her, or for the reader.