Book Review : East

Book Review : EastEast (East, #1) by Edith Pattou
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on May 1st 2005
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Young Adult
Pages: 507
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Rose has always been different.
Since the day she was born, it was clear she had a special fate. Her superstitious mother keeps the unusual circumstances of Rose's birth a secret, hoping to prevent her adventurous daughter from leaving home... but she can't suppress Rose's true nature forever.
So when an enormous white bear shows up one cold autumn evening and asks teenage Rose to come away with it--in exchange for health and prosperity for her ailing family--she readily agrees.
Rose travels on the bear's broad back to a distant and empty castle, where she is nightly joined by a mysterious stranger. In discovering his identity, she loses her heart-- and finds her purpose--and realizes her journey has only just begun.

East is one of those books that never really leaves you. I first read this novel over a decade ago. Years later, I was still filled with joy whenever I saw it on shelves in bookstores. I pledged to reread this precious novel time and time again, as I remembered this Beauty and the Beast retelling with such fondness. I was a little anxious that in reading East as an adult, it would not live up to my wonderful memories.  Well, the time has finally come and I have reread East at last. I needn’t have feared, it is still an absolutely beautiful, timeless, and otherworldly book and not only one of my favorite fairytale retellings, but also one of my favorite novels ever.  


East follows young Rose, a daughter born to an extremely superstitious mother and a skeptical father. The mother, Eugenia, in her deep-seated superstition of believing that a birth direction dictates the nature and personality of a person, vows to have seven children—one for each direction. When one of her beloved children Elise, born facing the East, dies, she vows to have another to replace her. But not all goes to plan, and she gives birth early, during a storm. In her stubbornness and fear of a prediction that any child of hers born facing the North will die buried in an avalanche of snow, the mother vows that her newest child was born facing East and swears her husband to secrecy—he is not to tell anyone that their daughter, named Rose, was actually born facing the North. 


“I had a little shiver of foreboding at her words. Eugenia was so set on this unborn child being an east-born, so sure. It was like she was tempting fate.”


Despite Eugenia’s desperate longing that Rose have the nature of an East-born, Rose is through and though, a child of the North. Despite her love of weaving and sewing, Rose can never sit still as she is deeply curious, and fascinated by the world around her. As young Rose grows older, despite  surviving many near-death incidents, her family is cursed with ill-fortune, Almost as if the lie of her birth has angered the very nature of the universe. Her father’s mapmaking ventures fails, as does the family farm, and the family is on the brink of starvation. When her sister falls deathly ill and the family is forced with eviction for lack of payment, a talking white bear with sad eyes shows up and offers a deal:


“’If you will give me your youngest daughter . . .’ The eerie huge voice echoed in the room. He spoke slowly, pausing between each word, as if the act of speaking was difficult, almost painful for him. ‘Then the one who lies near death will be made well again. And you will be no longer poor but wealthy, and will live in comfort and ease.’”


Determined to save her sister, and finally learning the true nature of her birth, Rose agrees to go with the White Bear. Her life will never be the same. Rose is swept into a magical palace in the mountain, with only the white bear as a companion. Their developing friendship and care for one another, despite his limited ability to talk, is so utterly enchanting and heartwarming. I loved the author’s way of telling the story through different viewpoints as well. It allows readers to get to know all of the cast of characters and to piece together the truth of Rose’s and the white bear’s  predicaments as the story progresses. I especially love the author’s creativity in writing through the white bear’s perspective—his limited ability for both thought and speech, as well as his capacity to feel is so artfully demonstrated in his narration. 


I grew to love the White Bear every bit as as much as Rose did. I also really loved Rose and her pure kindness and steadfastness of heart. Her bravery, resourcefulness, intelligence, and perceptiveness sets a great example for younger readers and adults alike. What I love most about Rose is not that she is never afraid or never sad,  but that in spite of her seemingly insurmountable circumstances and her powerful emotions, she always finds the courage to move forward and to set things right. 


As an adult reading this novel, I was enraptured by this magical book once more and I reread East in one sitting. Picking up a treasured book from your childhood before bed was probably not the best decision, and I ended up reading past two in the morning, because I could not bear to put this mesmerizing book down. Even though I recognize that certain aspects of East were not as thoroughly explained as they could have been, such as how exactly the white bear saved Rose’s family. View Spoiler » Despite not giving more of an explanation for the specifics of the family’s turn around,  my enjoyment of East remains undiminished. In fact, it only added to the otherworldly mysteriousness of the novel for me.  


I truly cherish this beautiful novel and I cannot recommend it enough. I can see myself rereading East in the future. I am so thrilled that there is a sequel to East that once again follows Rose and the White Bear, titled West. I have already purchased the novel and plan to start reading it immediately. If you love magical stories, romance, strong heroines, or fairytale retellings pick up East immediately. 

Book Review : East - Blogging with Dragons

Posted November 30, 2020 in Book Reviews, Fantasy, Favorite Books, Young Adult


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