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Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister: A Novel…

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

by Gregory Maguire

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6,559116578 (3.51)130
Title:Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister: A Novel
Authors:Gregory Maguire
Info:Harper Paperbacks (2010), Edition: Reissue, Paperback, 384 pages
Collections:Your library

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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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Showing 1-5 of 114 (next | show all)
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 |
I'm guessing when I read this. It was quite a while ago. ( )
  joeydag | Jul 23, 2015 |
This book takes the story of Cinderella and sets it in Holland, told by one of the stepsisters. There are no mice or pumpkins, and "Cinderella" is a beautiful, intractable girl named Clara. It begins when Iris (homely but intelligent) and her sister Ruth (mentally handicapped) accompany their widowed mother to Holland as bereft strangers. They find a painter who agrees to take them in as servants. When a wealthy tulip investor commissions the artist to paint his daughter Clara, Iris' mother jumps at the chance to ingratiate herself into that household of higher social status. Iris finds herself burdened with both watching after her dull sister Ruth and being forced companion to the disagreeable Clara, her new stepsister. What she is really interested in is learning about painting, which she does from the painter's apprentice, the charming and impish Caspar.

This story was delightful. It introduced me to the tulip craze of Holland in the 1630's, which I knew little about. In some ways it's almost more historical fiction than fantasy. The characters are so realistic, with their various virtues and flaws. Even though most of the people are predominantly good or evil, kind or cruel, intelligent or dumb, nothing is that black and white. Iris' mother has got to be the most complex person of all. Everyone is trying to achieve something: Clara to be seen as something other than a beautiful face, Iris seeks self-confidence, her mother wants money's security, nobody seems to think about what Ruth wants... This is a wonderful story full of personality contrasts, human folly, intrigue and admirable compassion. The end has satisfying curious twists. And I thoroughly enjoyed reading about painting.

from the Dogear Diary ( )
  jeane | Jul 11, 2015 |
I bought this book last summer, and only now have I finally picked it back up and finished it. It was pretty hard to get into at first, but once I was well into the book, it picked up pace. However, it's only at the end in the epilogue that I feel we get a return for what we, as readers, invest into the story. I enjoyed his take on the classic Cinderella story, particularly in the derivation of the name, as well as the meaning behind the name at the end of the story.

Reading it through, I probably would have given it only two stars, and it's only the epilogue that tries to tie everything up, which satisfies me enough to give it an extra star. The revelation at the end almost reads like a crime drama...like 'wha?'

A decently good book. Nothing more, nothing less. ( )
  jms001 | Jun 14, 2015 |
I really did love this book. The language took a bit of getting used to but other than that it was a great read. I enjoyed the surprise in the epilogue the most. ( )
  bookjunkie57 | Apr 17, 2015 |
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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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