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

by Gregory Maguire

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6,307109630 (3.51)118
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 (107)  German (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (109)
Showing 1-5 of 107 (next | show all)
Gregory Maguire has taken the Cinderella story and set it in the 17th century Netherlands. An English widow, Margarethe and her two daughters settle in Haarlem, where she takes a position as housemaid to Cornelius van den Meer, his wife Henrikas, and his beautiful but spoiled daughter Clara. The story is told from the standpoint of Iris, the younger daughter, a plain but intelligent girl. When Henrikas dies in childbirth, Margarethe wastes no time in convincing Cornelius to marry her. No fairy godmothers, but with a few minor differences, the story progresses as expected. I love the way Maguire transforms fairy tales into historic stories. He did a bang-up job on this one! ( )
1 vote tloeffler | Sep 1, 2014 |
Maguire likes to shake things up. We all know the story of Cinderella: ugly and horrid stepsisters, raging and sinister stepmother, glass slipper, dashing prince, yada, yada, yada. Maguire unhinges these characters, as if from a magic box, and sets them down as completely different entities. I think in order to enjoy Maguire's adaptation of any fairytale you have to throw out everything you think you know about the villain and start over. He is adamant that every "bad guy" has a reason for his or her unpleasantness. Take the wicked stepmother in Cinderella. In Maguire's Confessions her husband has been murdered. Fleeing England with her two small daughters she lands penniless in Holland. She has to rely on the kindness of strangers to feed three mouths and she is savvy enough to know her daughter (Iris and Ruth) are too ugly to be married off to wealthy suitors. They are going to need significant dowries if they are going to attract any man at all. She might not be the nicest of mothers, but it is obvious she is trying to look out for her children and herself. Survival of the fittest. In Maguires' tale, Iris and Cinderella (known as Clara here) are tolerated friends. They even grow to care about one another. Of course there is a prince but the twist here is that he is intrigued by ugly stepsister Iris because she is witty and can carry on a conversation, unlike the throngs of pretty girls his mother has set him up to meet.
Probably the most interesting spin on Maguire's take on Cinderella is the commerce side of the times. The tulip trade and art world of Holland play prominent roles in the story. Real events surrounding the crash of the tulip trade and actual artists of the region are cleverly portrayed. ( )
  SeriousGrace | Aug 12, 2014 |
Of all the novels by Gregory Maguire I’ve read — six at this point — I think this one was my favorite. I still didn’t love it, but at least it told a good story without slipping into too much darkness.

The writing style, the bizarre tidbits of eccentricity, the tinge of dark magical/mysterious presence — all those elements I’ve come to expect from Maguire are present in Confessions. What I appreciated about this book more than his others is that he stayed on track and kept a few of the characters sufficiently likable. All of that meant his creativity around crafting the “real” version of a well-known fairytale could shine.

Full review is posted on Erin Reads. ( )
  erelsi183 | Jul 24, 2014 |
Once again, I wish Goodreads had a "1/2" option, this book is 3.5 stars, but not quite 4. :)

This isn't the book that I expected it to be, and it is very different from the Disney version.

Cinderella isn't the nice girl she is always portrayed to be. The stepmom IS just as terrible, though, the sisters aren't really.

A fun read. I like MacGuire. ( )
  csweder | Jul 8, 2014 |
Once again, I wish Goodreads had a "1/2" option, this book is 3.5 stars, but not quite 4. :)

This isn't the book that I expected it to be, and it is very different from the Disney version.

Cinderella isn't the nice girl she is always portrayed to be. The stepmom IS just as terrible, though, the sisters aren't really.

A fun read. I like MacGuire. ( )
  csweder | Jul 8, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 107 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Gregory Maguireprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Sanderson, BillIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Hobbling home under a mackerel sky, I came upon a group of children.
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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)

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