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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Bound - Donna Jo Napoli

Read for the Once Upon a Time III and 2009 YA Reading Challenges.

Bound is a Cinderella story. However, it’s set in Ming-dynasty China, home of the earliest recorded versions of this classic tale.

Xing Xing lives with Step Mother, who was her father’s second wife (even while Xing Xing’s mother, who has since passed on, was still alive), and her half sister Wei Ping. Xing Xing’s father was a bit unconventional, and while he lived, did not allow his daughters’ feet to be bound. As soon as he passed away, Step Mother had Wei Ping’s feet bound, hoping to make up for lost time, and make Wei Ping attractive enough to attract a rich husband.

Xing Xing takes care of her sister, and also continues to enjoy the rather unfeminine arts, including calligraphy and poetry, that she was taught while she was still alive. Her feet are not bound, as she doesn't have a mother to look after her, and will therefore have no prospects of marriage. Still, Step Mother is certainly not the Evil Step Mother of the classic tale, but she clearly favors her own daughter, and takes some actions that finally force Xing Xing to look very hard at her life, and the choices available to her.

If you’re looking for a magical tale, this is not the Cinderella story for you. If you want a coming of age tale, where a young woman learns about the world around her, and makes some hard choices to secure her future, then read this book. It’s a lovely framing of this tale, and I enjoyed it very much.

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