East by Edith Pattou
2003. 400 pages (hardcover)
East fleshes out the fairy tale “East of the Sun, West of the Moon.” The novel is set in 16th century Norway. Rose’s family is about to be evicted from their farm when a white bear appears at their door to make a bargain. If Rose comes with him, the family will be restored to good health and fortune. The bear is of course a man under enchantment, a troll queen’s enchantment that Rose could be the key to breaking.
The story is told from multiple viewpoints: Rose, the bear, Rose’s closest brother, Neddy, Rose’s father and the troll queen. I liked that the author chose to include the voices of the family members left behind when Rose is taken with the white bear. Neddy and Rose’s father feel the passage of time, which underscores how Rose’s captivity with the polar bear in a castle seems outside of time. A little more than halfway through the book, the book turns into Rose’s epic quest to save her white bear from the troll queen.
There’s not much more to say, really: I liked the characters and the storytelling was engaging. East is a competent and solid novel, but it’s not a book that I will think about much after this.