Lynn, Tracy. Snow: A Retelling of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” Simon Pulse, 2006 (reprint). ISBN 978-1416940159 272 pp. $7.99
Once upon a time, there was a reviewer who loved fairy tales. She discovered a luminous retelling of Snow White complete with a stepmothers jealous vanity, kindly yet isolated miners, and a deathlike sleep, and, after giving the book five stars, lived happily ever after.
When a duke’s wife dies during the birthing of their long awaited child, the motherless darling grows up in the kitchens until her father remarriage (coinciding with her puberty). The duke’s new wife takes the tomboyish Jessica under her wing to become a lady. Desperate to both remain youthful and have a babe of her own, the vain yet intelligent stepmother practices many foul experiments, trading her patronage for the help of Alan, a hired violist. When the mad woman decides the heart of her stepdaughter will bring her heart’s desire, Alan helps Jessica escape to the city, where she meets bizarre creatures of the night who hire her as their maid and caretaker. As one would expect, the evil stepmother discovers her rival is still alive, and seeks her out, eventually spelling her into a long deep sleep that only the famed clockmaker can bring her out of.
The tale is embellished with a bewitched character who lends personification to the mirror, and a turn-of-the-century English setting almost makes the story believable as a historical event that evolved to legend and finally to fairy tale status. The short chapters offer a variety of viewpoints without confusing the reader, and although we know the basic plot elements and the outcome, how Lynn gets there is a bit mysterious from the prologue, which takes place partway through the story. The role of the prince is filled unexpectedly, the explanation of the mirror brilliant, and the industrial revolution and the role of women in society season the plot.
With all her alterations, Lynn remains true to the underlying message that youth is fleeting but true inner beauty is forever (and more desirable), and adds one of her own, culled from Arthurian legend: the key to a woman’s heart is giving her freedom of choice. Superbly done.