name = Just Ella
Margaret Peterson Haddix
country = USA
language = English
genre = Romance,
Simon & Schuster
pub_date = 1999
media_type = Print
isbn = ISBN 0689821867
"Just Ella" is a book written by
Margaret Peterson Haddixand published in 1999. This story is a retelling of Cinderellawith a feminist twist and is a different version of happily-ever-after.
Ella Brown, fifteen, is engaged to the prince and waiting for the wedding. Ella finds life in the castle to be dull and begrudges the lack of power given to women, even princesses. She's given lessons in etiquette from the unbearable Madame Bisset, convinced that
Prince Charmingis worth the trouble.
One of her tutors, Lord Reston, is replaced by his son Jed, who takes over the history lessons. Jed and Ella find they share the same views on the castle and Jed reveals his dream of setting up a
refugee campfor victims in the Sualan War, instead of becoming a bishop like his father. Ella finds his lessons to be the only bright spot in her tedious days. After several lessons Jed asks her how she had come to be a princess, so she recounts the story: After Ella’s father died, she became a servant girl for her step-mother Lucille and stepsisters Corimunde and Griselda. Ella went to the ball as a means of escaping the years of servitude. She wore her mother's wedding dress, and won glass slippers in a wager. Although the Prince was enamored, Ella ran from the ball at midnight, dropping a slipper.
So Ella finishes her story to Jed. The history lessons are canceled due to dress-fitting for Ella's wedding, where Ella finally sees through the ridiculous pageantry of royal life and the shallowness of Prince Charming. When she tries to end the engagement, Ella is thrown into the dungeon.
Ella decides to dig her way out through the sewage hole with the help of Mary, a servant friend. When she escapes, Ella heads for Jed's refugee camp, now a reality. She finally meets Jed, who immediately gives her a job as a doctor at the camp. He then proposes to her, which she turns down, not because she does not love him, but because she does not want to rush into anything. Ella tells Jed that in six months he should ask again, and that she will answer. She soon settles into life at the camp, and enjoys taking care of people immensely. She and Jed grow even closer, and her memories of the castle become blurred and faded.
Her happiness fades slightly when Jed receives a letter telling him that his father has died, and that he must become the head bishop. He appoints Ella the leader of the camp and journeys to the castle. Ella soon receives a letter Jed sends her. He writes that after a month, the prince's people went straight to Lucille’s house and took one of Ella's stepsisters to be the prince’s wife. Jed also says that he may escape like she did to be with her. The book ends with Ella wondering about her future with Jed, and what true beauty in the world is. The book implies she will eventually marry Jed.
Ella Brown (also called Princess Cynthiana Eleanora or Cinders-Ella) is the protagonist in this story. Besides being very beautiful, Ella is free-spirited, witty, and very smart. She is 15 when the book begins. She suffers from torment and abuse in her step-family and eventually finds her way to royalty through an engagement to Prince Charming (who is not all that 'charming' after all). After realizing that it is not the life for her, so she escapes and runs away to the refugee camp that Jed has, and he asks Ella for her hand in marriage.
Jed Reston is the son of Lord Reston, and next in line to become the official castle priest. Ella first meets him when he takes over his father's lessons, and he becomes one of her two friends in the castle. Jed is very philosophical and often ponders life. Jed wants to run a refugee camp for the war victims and is eventually given money to do so. Jed and Ella fall in love with each other by the end of the book. Like the Prince, he finds Ella very beautiful, but he can also see her humor, courage, intelligence, and perseverance.
Mary is a young servant in the castle who is ten or eleven years old. It was Mary who ran for help when Lord Reston fell ill during Ella’s history lesson. She and Ella become good friends, and she often gives Ella updates on castle news, such as Lord Reston's health condition. She helps Ella escape from the castle by brining her a shovel and food. Also Mary is a very loyal friend who always tells Ella the truth.
A stupid, dull, vain and ignorant man, Prince Charming is good-looking, but has nothing else going for him. He cannot think for himself. Charming does not understand the suffering of others; he cares nothing if peasants starve, only himself. Ella is chosen as his wife (because of her beauty) at a ball thrown for him. When Ella falls out of love with him, he acts violently toward her. He can sword fight to some degree, which he uses to kill Quog (Ella's Jail guard). At the end of the book he is married to Ella’s stepsister.
*A note on Quog--he was sentenced to death a few weeks prior to being Ella's guard, because he raped several unnamed women. Mainly, he is used to try and scare Ella back into coming to the palace, which only makes her work harder toward her escape.
Lucille is Ella’s step mother. She tricks Ella's father into thinking she loves his hobby; books. She tricks him and then after they get married she says "Get that dusty thing away from me" which breaks Ella's father's heart. After Ella’s father dies eventually, she immediately became hostile toward Ella and made Ella her personal slave. Lucille is selfish, cruel and demeaning. Lucille used to manipulate Ella's father by “a kiss and a breathy whisper.” Lucille doesn’t have any appreciation for books, and laughs at how Ella’s father died (crossing the war border for rare books). After Ella becomes a princess, Lucille tries unsuccessfully to "suck up" to her. She has two daughters -- Corimunde (who later marries the Prince) and Griselda. Both girls are exact versions of Lucille, only much heavier and not clever or sly at all.
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