|Review by: Erzebet Barthold||
By Wendy Paris
Over the course of the centuries, fairy tales have inspired many things-- theater productions, movies, paintings, poetry, clothing and jewelry, numerous redactions and academic researches-- all of which have served to keep the stories themselves alive and well to this day. The latest addition to this vast arena is a dating guide, geared towards those women who desire to find a prince and live, as the title states, happily ever after.
Often humorous, sometimes trite, this quaint little reference book advises women on what to do, and what not to do, to land a man without sacrificing all of those qualities which make us, as individuals, unique. Presented as an alternative to strategic dating, the advice offers a strategy in itself. The advice is not of the battlefield variety, where women are pitted against men and the best man often gets away, but of the feel-good type which points out those traits found in fairy tale heroines that allow them to succeed where wretched step-sisters and evil queens fail.
Likening the world of dating to that found within fairy tales, perilous and unpredictable, Wendy Paris attempts a very broad and exceedingly modern retelling of each of several well known stories, followed by a brief interpretation geared towards applying the tale to the dating game. The idea is that by maintaining our moral character throughout our search, we can not help but find and fall madly in love with our prince. The prince, however, is not our prize, but rather, we are his.
The idea that female characters in fairy tales are not weak and passive is not a new one. Authors such as Angela Carter, Jane Yolen, and Anne Sexton, to mention only a few, have created many interpretations of the tales in which the heroines are strong and capable and often are not only not looking for a prince, but do not want one (see the following review for a few more). Strong feminine characters abound in more modern translations and retellings, and there are hundreds of alternatives to "Happily Ever After" if the reader finds the aspects of self-acceptance and exploration appealing but is not necessarily charmed by the idea of kissing a frog to see if there is a prince beneath its skin.
"Happily Ever After" is more of a trinket than an actual read, a cute guide full of inspirational quotes, silly illustrations and a formula for success which tends to come off sounding somewhat smarmy, as the author attempts to sell us ourselves, bright and glittering, encouraging us to cheerfully accept all of our flaws and faults. She exhorts us to follow the lead of her fairy tale heroines by letting our most noble sides shine out into the darkness that is the dating world, and by doing so, we are sure to attract the attention of an equally noble prince.
If this is not your goal in life, this book is not for you.