Monday 23 October 2017

Cinderella loses more than a shoe

Personally, I Blame My Fairy Godmother
Claudia Carroll HarperCollins, €12.99
An hilarious take on a much-loved fairytale has Angela M Cornyn learning some salutary life lessons

'And they all lived happily ever after," is the fairytale ending that deep down even the most cynical of us wish were true.

There's no business like show business, so the song goes, and actress-turned-best-selling novelist Claudia Carroll shrewdly chooses that gushy, glitzy world as the setting for her fairytale novel, Personally, I Blame My Fairy Godmother.

Jessie Woods is the perfect Cinderella. Like Cinderella, she lost her mum when she was just three years old, leaving her and her dad to survive on his meagre barman wages in a humble little Fifties corporation house in Whitehall, on Dublin's north side. Life is tough and lonely for Dad in particular.

Jessie's dream, fed by Dad's regular reading of the Cinderella tale, was more than anything to live happily ever after ensconced in a big castle with Dad free from financial worries and the incessant drudgery of work.

Alas, as if life wasn't difficult enough, when she turned 10, a life-altering event happened. In true Cinderella fashion, enter the wicked stepmother, Joan, accompanied by the two ugly sisters, Maggie and Sharon. Jessie's predictable world was turned upside down. How was she to escape from this intolerable mire?

Neither brains nor money could release her from the domestic chains that ensnared her. " ... how could a girl from the wrong side of the tracks ever hope to live a life of wealth and security?" With some mature reflection on her plight, she decides that the only escape route from her Alcatraz-like household is fame. The glamorous job of television presenter beckoned as being well within her ken to execute and having the promise of all the trappings of wealth to boot.

Fast forward 19 years and "Cinderella Rockefeller" has arrived. Jessie Woods is the popular television presenter of "a light, fluffy tea-time, family-friendly" dare programme called Jessie Would for Channel 6.

By now, she has acquired all the accoutrements of success: a stellar career; a "fabulous palazzo" with her charming boyfriend Sam Hughes who is an economist-entrepreneur par excellence and engages in a high-octane social life with the glitterati who fill the columns of social diarists. A star is born in a classic rags-to-riches story. The world is at her feet and, to prove it, Channel 6 decide to do day-in-the-life documentary on Jessie. However, this project proves to be the catalyst in the abrupt ending of the Cinderella lifestyle as Jessie is unceremoniously catapulted right back to her humble beginnings with a fall from grace that reaches epic proportions courtesy of the media who stalk their prey with resoluteness.

After shedding buckets of tears and sending endless texts to her erstwhile boyfriend, Jessie is forced to face facts: she is in financial meltdown, unemployed and homeless. The demise of her career has brought into sharp focus these unpalatable facts that can no longer be airbrushed into oblivion. What can she do?

There is nothing left for Cinders but to walk the walk of shame back to her roots in Whitehall. What follows is a dramatic story of transformation in which Jessie gets the opportunity to rise from the ashes once more and she even succeeds in waving her own magic wand on the lives of her family.

Claudia Carroll has worked her magic on the popular Cinderella fairytale and she has remodelled it into a fashionable 21st-Century tale that also succeeds in providing a few salutary life lessons. The old adage of "be careful what you wish for, you just might get it" comes to mind. At times, the heroine is incredibly naive and blind to the superficiality of her relationships and environment. Thankfully, at the end of the novel she appears to be more savvy when faced with an important decision.

This is a Bridget Jones-type novel only better because we also get in touch with an eccentric Addams-like family. Furthermore, the plot contains an element of shocking betrayal served up with copious amounts of schadenfreude but is rounded off with sweet revenge as the unsuspecting culprit gets her comeuppance. The narrative swishes along at a cracking pace. An hilarious, effervescent, heart-warming read. Claudia Carroll has another winner on her hands.

Sunday Independent

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