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Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister: A Novel (original 1999; edition 2010)

by Gregory Maguire

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6,602119573 (3.52)130
Member:yrizaria
Title:Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister: A Novel
Authors:Gregory Maguire
Info:Harper Paperbacks (2010), Edition: Reissue, Paperback, 384 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:fantasy

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Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire (1999)

  1. 42
    Mirror, Mirror by Gregory Maguire (Kerian)
    Kerian: The retold fairy tale series edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling is also very good. Each book is a collection of short stories.
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English (117)  German (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (119)
Showing 1-5 of 117 (next | show all)
When my mom first lent me this book to read I wasn't sure I would like it. I thought it would be just another Cinderella story. Boy was I wrong; it was not what I expected at all. I absolutely loved what Gregory Maguire did with this book. It read like any great historical fiction with a dash of mythology. I would highly recommend this book. One of my new favorites. ( )
  lacey.tucker | Mar 10, 2016 |
The story follows Iris, the plain younger daughter of Margarethe Fisher, as she takes care of her mentally-challenged older sister Ruth and her stepsister Clara. Having fled from England to Haarlem, Iris is slightly at odds with the world and often contemplates the value of beauty and ugliness. While caring for her sisters and keeping the peace between Clara and Margarethe, Iris develops a painter's eye and spends time apprenticing with a local painter known as The Master, and his apprentice, Caspar.

On the verge of losing everything after a sudden drop in their stock market, Margarethe devises a plan for Iris and Ruth to attend the ball being held in honor of the Dowager Queen of France and her godson, the Prince of Marsillac. She leaves out Clara because she knows full well that if the girl wed the prince, she would abandon her family and they'd end up in the poorhouse. While at the ball, Ruth does the unthinkable for jealousy and love of Clara and Master. That night the fairy tale of Cinderella and her pumpkin carriage is spun, and the next morning her prince comes to collect her.


[edit] Characters
Iris Fisher is the one whom the tale follows as she views the events that would become the fairy tale. She is the daughter of Margarethe Fisher and Jack Fisher, and younger sister to Ruth Fisher. When her mother marries Cornelius van den Meer, Iris becomes Clara van den Meer's stepsister. She is described as "painfully plain-faced" by her own mother,[1] and several times refers to herself as a hound. Over the course of the story Iris develops an interest in art and painting, and develops feelings for Caspar, but firmly denies it.
Margarethe ten Broek Fisher van den Meer is the mother of Iris and Ruth Fisher, and later becomes the stepmother of Clara after marrying her father. Her motives for marrying Clara’s father are purely to keep herself and her daughters fed. Whether she loves Clara’s father is unstated and unlikely, especially given her motto of "Give me room to cast my eel spear, and let follow what may", but she is reasonably kind to him. It is hinted that the Master is interested in Margarethe, but his feelings are not returned.
Ruth Fisher is the older mute daughter of Margarethe Fisher. In the end of the novel, it is revealed that she is the one telling the story.
Clara Van Den Meer is the only child of van den Meer and his first wife, Henrika. She is a beautiful girl and kept hidden away in her home first by her mother and then by herself. As a child she was kidnapped and kept hostage in a windmill by van Stolk, her father's business associate, who received half of her family's fortune as ransom. Clara believes that it was water-spirits who kidnapped her, and turned her into a changeling, which she believes that she is. After her mother's death, Clara begins to spend her time by the hearth and coins her own names of "Ashgirl", "Cinderling", and "Cinderella".
Henrika Vinckboons van den Meer is Clara’s mother. She kept Clara locked inside their home, to protect her from the dangers of the world. She is poisoned by Margarethe and does not survive to birth her second child.
Cornelius van den Meer is Clara’s father. He is a businessman and involved in the tulip industry. The Fishers later refer to him as "Papa Cornelius". He goes into a seemingly catatonic state of depression, barely paying attention to anything but their oncoming poverty and how much his family has changed.
Luykas Schoonmaker is a local painter "not quite known as the Master of the Dordrecht Altarpiece" and the first to shelter the Fishers.
Caspar is Master’s apprentice. He is in love with Iris and she with him, but Margarethe disapproves and attempts to steer Iris away from him by hinting that Caspar is homosexual.
  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister is way better than [b:Wicked|37442|Wicked The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (Wicked Years, #1)|Gregory Maguire|http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51WuYKK3vEL._SL75_.jpg|1479280], not least because the characters have consistent personalities and the plot is coherent. I appreciated the sensory details and descriptions, and the various characters are original. There's a nice twist near the end which gave me a little brain jolt, and I always like that.
( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
No one and nothing is what it seems at first in this novel twist on "Cinderella." Yet the Master is constantly directing us to "look," to SEE.

Marguarethe is desperate but ultimately avaricious. Iris is plain, but the star of the group - talented and smart. Clara, while beautiful, is a recluse who marries to protect her father. And Ruth - silent, mute, oxen Ruth - turns out to be a scheming avenger. ( )
  BookConcierge | Feb 10, 2016 |
I really enjoyed the play on the original Cinderella. Maguire has a talent for twisting stories around and making you feel for the antagonist. ( )
  Mootastic1 | Jan 15, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Gregory Maguireprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Sanderson, BillIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0060987529, Paperback)

Gregory Maguire's chilling, wonderful retelling of Cinderella is a study in contrasts. Love and hate, beauty and ugliness, cruelty and charity--each idea is stripped of its ethical trappings, smashed up against its opposite number, and laid bare for our examination. Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister begins in 17th-century Holland, where the two Fisher sisters and their mother have fled to escape a hostile England. Maguire's characters are at once more human and more fanciful than their fairy-tale originals. Plain but smart Iris and her sister, Ruth, a hulking simpleton, are dazed and terrified as their mother, Margarethe, urges them into the strange Dutch streets. Within days, purposeful Margarethe has secured the family a place in the home of an aspiring painter, where for a short time, they find happiness.

But this is Cinderella, after all, and tragedy is inevitable. When a wealthy tulip speculator commissions the painter to capture his blindingly lovely daughter, Clara, on canvas, Margarethe jumps at the chance to better their lot. "Give me room to cast my eel spear, and let follow what may," she crows, and the Fisher family abandons the artist for the upper-crust Van den Meers.

When Van den Meer's wife dies during childbirth, the stage is set for Margarethe to take over the household and for Clara to adopt the role of "Cinderling" in order to survive. What follows is a changeling adventure, and of course a ball, a handsome prince, a lost slipper, and what might even be a fairy godmother. In a single magic night, the exquisite and the ugly swirl around in a heated mix:

Everything about this moment hovers, trembles, all their sweet, unreasonable hopes on view before anything has had the chance to go wrong. A stepsister spins on black and white tiles, in glass slippers and a gold gown, and two stepsisters watch with unrelieved admiration. The light pours in, strengthening in its golden hue as the sun sinks and the evening approaches. Clara is as otherworldly as the Donkeywoman, the Girl-Boy. Extreme beauty is an affliction...
But beyond these familiar elements, Maguire's second novel becomes something else altogether--a morality play, a psychological study, a feminist manifesto, or perhaps a plain explanation of what it is to be human. Villains turn out to be heroes, and heroes disappoint. The story's narrator wryly observes, "In the lives of children, pumpkins can turn into coaches, mice and rats into human beings. When we grow up, we learn that it's far more common for human beings to turn into rats." --Therese Littleton

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:23 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

On seeing her portrait, a servant girl modelling for an artist in 17th century Holland realizes she is ugly. But the portrait opens her eyes to the world of art, she becomes a painter and is transformed by her work so that when a prince charming appears she is no longer ugly.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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