Saturday, December 4, 2010

A Review of 'Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister' by Gregory Maguire

“Is this new land a place where magics really happen?

From Gregory Maguire, the acclaimed author of Wicked, comes his much-anticipated second novel, a brilliant and provocative retelling of the timeless Cinderella tale.

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....

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?

Extreme beauty is an affliction

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.

Clara was the prettiest child, but was her life the prettiest tale?

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.

God and Satan snarling at each other like dogs.... Imps and fairy godmotbers trying to undo each other's work. How we try to pin the world between opposite extremes!

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.

I’m afraid that the summary is going to be longer than the actual review… oh well, we’ll deal with it!

I love books that put a new twist on an old story. By reading Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, I feel like I have gotten more out of the story of Cinderella that I could have by hearing the original story.

Gregory Maguire is an amazing author. I have read Wicked and Mirror, Mirror, but I liked this on better than both of these (some more than others). Granted, I was thirteen or fourteen when I read Wicked, so there are things that I couldn’t have begun to wrap my head around at that age.

I liked that Clara (some might know her better as Cinderella) wasn’t the dominant part of the story. She was prominent, certainly, but her stepsisters had to be the ones to boost her up and get her to come out of her shell. It was a different way to look at the story, so it felt like a different story but also the same one at the same time.

The fact that the story is set in Holland was also appealing to me. For one, I felt like I was getting an excellent history lesson as well as a story. It was very interesting and I quite enjoyed it. For another, the descriptions of Holland, even though they were bleak at times, made me want to be there. Because of this book, I plan to visit Holland sometime in the future… until then, I’ll need to learn a few words of Dutch.

Overall, this was a fantastic re-tell, the author was excellent as always, and there were surprising twists that I can’t remember being in the original story in both the plot and point of view.

I give Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister:

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