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

by Gregory Maguire

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6,192None650 (3.51)115
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)

Recently added byKVictoria, GrumpyDave, ExpatTX, handmadeaj, neeby, TheKnittedSheep, private library, auldtwa1
  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 (99)  German (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (101)
Showing 1-5 of 99 (next | show all)
Very good. I enjoyed it a lot. ( )
  Ginerbia | Feb 14, 2014 |
I have been meaning to read this book for some time, simply because I loved Gregory Maguire's Wicked so much. This book I read considerably slower than I expected, though I still found the plot compelling. In this retelling of Cinderella, the reader follows the viewpoint of Iris, one of the "stepsisters" of the original tale. Iris is smart and artistic, but plain-looking -- a fact her mother never fails to point out endlessly. Iris's older sister, Ruth, is dumb and mute, which makes life at times both interesting and difficult for Iris and their mother, Margarethe.
The trio flee England for Margarethe's homeland of Holland -- the reasons for which remaining a mystery for most of the book -- and are forced to beg for shelter and work before falling under the mercy of a local painter. This is where Clara, the blonde changeling girl standing in the place of "Cinderella," is introduced. Her beauty is so ethereal that she lives a reclusive, sheltered existence under the extreme protection of her mother. Strangely, Clara and Iris seem to make up two sides of the same coin -- where one lacks the other excels in. Where Clara hides from strangers, Iris is adept at social interaction. Iris's vivid imagination makes up for Clara's lack of intelligence.
Margarethe's machinations first get her and her daughters into the same household under Clara's parents, as their servants. Then when Clara's mother dies through mysterious circumstances, Margarethe maneuvers them to become Clara's step-family, effectively pushing Clara's father almost completely out of the picture. Ironically, a picture is what serves as the glue for almost the entire plot, motivating all of the main characters to a particular behavior.
Clara is almost the complete opposite of what one would expect from the image of "Cinderella." She is spoiled, rich, obstinate, paranoid, reclusive, delusional, confrontational, and quite childish even in adulthood. Margarethe is a villain that is relate-able, as her choices throughout the book stem from an obsessive need to both survive and thrive. Though at times I intensely dislike the things that she spouts, I cannot hate her due to the suffering she endures from a certain ironic malady that befalls her.
The ending that is so familiar to the original tale seems to happen almost by accident -- and how easily Iris could have taken Clara's place makes me a bit sad for Iris. The ending to the book is also a nice surprise, causing me to rethink many of the scenes and the thoughts that could have been occurring to one of the central characters. Indeed, the ending makes the book almost worth a re-read. ( )
  JacobsBeloved | Nov 25, 2013 |
After getting part way through this book, I realized that I had read it before. I remembered not liking it the first time. The second time didn't improve my opinion. I did like the way Maguire made the story of Cinderella semi-plausible, but he is much too negative for me. Whether stupid or not, I want to think of the world as mostly positive. This mindset was impossible with this book. I know that bad things happen in the world and that bad things can move a story along, but Maguire's writing style infuses the entire story with dark, damp dreariness.

Margaretha escapes from England supposedly after her husband there is killed. When she arrives in Holland, she finds that her father, whom she was counting on to survive, is dead. As a result, she has no means of support. She begs for a job and finally gets one with a self centered, but essentially good hearted, painter. Margaretha turns out to be much deeper and more complex than one might think. Actually all the characters turn out that way, except for Clara. I thought she would be very deep, but she turns out, IMO not to be.

I wish someone else would re-imagine fairy tales in more positive manner so I could get another perspective.

I enjoyed listening to Wicked, but Son of a Witch not so much. I think it is time to purge Maguire books from my to-read lists and move on to other authors. ( )
  jlapac | Aug 14, 2013 |
Picked this up solely based on the title, thinking it would be satirical turning the fairy tale on its head kind of story; I was expecting something more like the Broadway show Into the Woods. Turned out to be serious imagining of a source of the myth. And even though I was wanting funny, and was quite put off by the Mother character, for some reason I kept reading, albeit in short bursts across several weeks, usually just a few pages before bed.
( )
  annodoom | Jun 12, 2013 |
What if Cinderella was not the girl you thought you knew? What if 'evil' stepsisters were misunderstood? These are just a couple of the questions Gregory Maguire has you contemplating in this new fairy-tale-retelling installment.

Whether you're a Disney fan or not, these books are written with exceptional storytelling. I'm a big fan of alternate storylines.

The study of what is ugly and what is beautiful plays out slowly. I became attached to each character, and they felt like real people one might know. I will certainly be looking for more of Maguire's works! Happy reading. :)
( )
  hopefully86 | May 1, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 99 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Gregory Maguireprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Sanderson, BillIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Andy Newman
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Hobbling home under a mackerel sky, I came upon a group of children.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:31:00 -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)

» see all 4 descriptions

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