Confessions of An Ugly Stepsister

Confessions of An Ugly Stepsister

Book - 1999
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From Gregory Maguire, the acclaimed author of Wicked, comes his much-anticipated second novel, a brilliant and provocative retelling of the timeless Cinderella tale. We all have heard the story of Cinderella, the beautiful child cast out to slave among the ashes. But what of her stepsisters, the homely pair exiled into ignominy by the fame of their lovely sibling? What fate befell those untouched by beauty ... and what curses accompanied Cinderella's exquisite looks? Set against the rich backdrop of seventeenth-century Holland, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister tells the story of Iris, an unlikely heroine who finds herself swept from the lowly streets of Haarlem to a strange world of wealth, artifice, and ambition. Iris's path quickly becomes intertwined with that of Clara, the mysterious and unnaturally beautiful girl destined to become her sister. While Clara retreats to the cinders of the family hearth, burning all memories of her past, Iris seeks out the shadowy secrets of her new household--and the treacherous truth of her former life. Far more than a mere fairy-tale, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister is a novel of beauty and betrayal, illusion and understanding, reminding us that deception can be unearthed--and love unveiled--in the most unexpected of places.
Publisher: New York, N.Y. : Regan Books, c1999
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780060987527
0060987529
9780060392826
0060392827
Branch Call Number: FICTION MAGUIRE
Characteristics: xvi, 368 p. : ill. ; 25 cm

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brangwinn
May 16, 2016

Oh, the cleverness of Gregory Maguire to set the reselling of Cinderella in 17th century Netherlands during the tulip fever. In incorporating an artist of the period, as he realizes he must paint only complimentary portraits of the greedy merchants to pay his bills. The stepmother who rises from poverty to become the wife of a wealthy merchant and desire to show off her wealth even as the merchants is bankrupted is great background material for this story of greed and poverty, Love and hate, beauty and ugliness.

a
artemishi
Mar 31, 2014

Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister is, thus far, my favorite Gregory Maguire novel. It melds a compelling story of adolescence and coming of age with Dutch history (including the boom and bust of the tulip market). Through the eyes of Iris, a fanciful and artist child who grows into an independent woman, we see both a version of the Cinderella fairytale and a realistic sampling of how parents affect children, and their outlooks.

Iris is a generous narrator, and although she is sometimes jealous and petty, she's a very likeable character. Her dull-witted sister, Ruth, creates an element of compassion for the very spoiled, too-protected stepsister, Clara (aka Cinderella). Although I know the Cinderella story well, like most other folks, I was still surprised at the twists and turns this tale took.

Maguire does an excellent job creating characters who are entirely three-dimensional. Even when I was despising Iris and Ruth's mother, I understand her actions, her reasoning, her fears, and her prejudices. Even when I was cheering Iris on, I was shaking my fist at her naivety, and the way she started becoming much like her mother.

I found myself unable to put it down. I recommend it for fans of fairytale retellings, Renaissance history, Gregory Maguire books, and coming-of-age novels.

w
waltzingechidna
Oct 12, 2013

I agree with the previous comments that this was a bit of a slog at the beginning--but well worth it. And unlike Wicked, you don't have to be familiar with the setting to get a lot out of it, because Maguire basically creates the setting out of whole cloth. A very enjoyable adult version of a fractured fairy tale--worth sticking with it!

s
Squirt_tastic
Oct 12, 2013

Took me a bit to get into, but I loved the twist at the end. That raised it above average for me. (And I love Maguire's concept of turning our fairy tales on their head's by showing another perspective, but I felt he did much better with Wicked.)

a
arburkholder19
Aug 06, 2012

This book was really hard to get in to...the first third of the book painted this back story of how Iris and Ruth arrived in Holland. But, you have to read it to really appreciate the outcome of the story at the end. Once Clara emerged as a character and started getting involved in the story, that's when it started to pick up for me. In the end, it was a pretty good book.

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waltzingechidna
Oct 12, 2013

waltzingechidna thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over

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