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Home » Books » Fiction & Literature » Fantasy » General

Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister

By Gregory Maguire

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Format: Paperback, 416 pages
Other Information: No
Published In: United Kingdom, 01 October 2008
We have all heard the story of Cinderella, the beautiful child cast out to slave amongst 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 looks? Set against the backdrop of seventeenth-century Holland, CONFESSIONS OF AN UGLY STEPSISTER tells the story of Iris, an unlikely heroine who is swept from the lowly streets of Haarlem to a strange world of wealth, artifice, and ambition. Iris's path becomes intertwined with that of Clara, the mysterious and unnaturally beautiful girl destined to become her sister. While Clara retreats to the cinders of the family hearth, Iris seeks out the shadowy secrets of her new household - and the treacherous truth of her former life.

Promotional Information

A novel of beauty and betrayal, which reminds us that deception can be unearthed - and love unveiled - in the most unexpected of places

About the Author

Gregory Maguire is a bestselling author who has earned rave reviews and a dedicated following for Wicked". He received his doctorate in English Literature from Tufts University, and has taught at Simmons College and other Boston area colleges. He has also served as an artist-in-residence at the Blue Mountain Center, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and the Hambridge Center. Gregory has lived in Dublin and London, but now makes his home near Boston, Massachusetts, with his partner, their two sons and daughter.

Reviews

YA-What were Cinderella's wicked stepmother and the ugly stepsisters really like? Maguire has come up with a fascinating hypothesis in this logical, not necessarily magical, retelling of the classic tale. Recently arrived from England, the Dutch-born widow Margarethe and her two children, ungainly and seemingly slow-witted Ruth and plain but intelligent Iris, move into the social mix that is Haarlem in the 17th century. Soon after her arrival, she marries a newly widowed tulip merchant with one child. The author firmly places his characters into the down-to-earth and stolid reality of a Holland fearful of the plague and intent on developing the tulip business that will make it famous, yet capable of nurturing Rembrandt and Hals. The well-drawn characters include a striving Dutch painter and his appealing apprentice; a beautiful, otherworldly child; her scatterbrained mother and burgher father; and even "The Queen of the Hairy-Chinned Gypsies." The plot is plausible and, given the fact that readers will think they know how it all works out, full of surprises. This is not an easy read, but the pretext is appealing and the resulting story worth the effort. Thoughtful YAs will enjoy a new take on a familiar tale, and be thoroughly involved in this historical romp.-Susan H. Woodcock, Chantilly Regional Library, VA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

The inspired concept of Maguire's praised debut, Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, was not a fluke. Here he presents an equally beguiling reconstruction of the Cinderella story, set in the 17th century, in which the protagonist is not the beautiful princess-to-be but her plain stepsister. Iris Fisher is an intelligent young woman struggling with poverty and plain looks. She, her mother, Margarethe, and her retarded sister, Ruth, flee their English country village in the wake of her father's violent death, hoping to find welcome in Margarethe's native Holland. But the practical Dutch are fighting the plague and have no sympathy for the needy family. Finally, a portrait painter agrees to hire them as servants, specifying that Iris will be his model. Iris is heartbroken the first time she sees her likeness on canvas, but she begins to understand the function of art. She gains a wider vision of the world when a wealthy merchant named van den Meer becomes the artist's patron, and employs the Fishers to deal with his demanding wife and beautiful but difficult daughter, Clara. Margarethe eventually marries van den Meer, making Clara Iris's stepsister. As her family's hardships ease, Iris begins to long for things inappropriate for a homely girl of her station, like love and beautiful objects. She finds solace and identity as she begins to study painting. Maguire's sophisticated storytelling refreshingly reimagines age-old themes and folklore-familiar characters. Shrewd, pushy, desperate Margarethe is one of his best creations, while his prose is an inventive blend of historically accurate but zesty dialogue and lyrical passages about saving power of art. The narrative is both "magical," as in fairy tales, and anchored in the reality of the 17th century, an astute balance of the ideal and sordid sides of human nature in a vision that fantasy lovers will find hard to resist. (Oct.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

After years of writing quality fantasy for children, Maguire published his first adult novel, Wicked, to literary acclaim. His new novel is even more accomplished, setting the Cinderella story in 17th-century Holland and making it a narrative of domestic upheavals and artistic challenges. The tale begins with the arrival of a recent widow from England, returned to her native Haarlem with her apparently retarded older daughter and a younger one who is unattractive but sharp and quickly develops an interest in painting. The three become housekeepers to the family of a tulip merchant; when his wife dies, leaving his own young daughter motherless, merchant and widow marry, and their daughters become stepsisters. Maguire places the reader wholly within his story's milieu, evoking the smells, the sights, and the superstitions of the time while deftly capturing his characters' personalities. The plot cannot be intended to surprise, but the sophisticated retelling gives the reader new insights into the truths about human motivations within relationships. For literary collections, including those for older teens.ÄFrancisca Goldsmith, Berkeley P.L., CA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

EAN: 9780755341696
ISBN: 0755341694
Publisher: Headline Review
Dimensions: 19.7 x 12.9 x 2.6 centimetres (0.31 kg)
Age Range: 15+ years
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1 review(s)
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I found the execution of this book to be very poor. It was a creative and interesting retelling of Cinderella but I wasn't as drawn to the characters as I would have like to have been. It's written in present tense which is unique for a novel and some people might see that as a bonus but I found to be a little annoying since it was an effort to make it more immediate but I still felt very removed. The main character of Iris is likable but while some of it may be sympathetic to the reader, the end to me was extremely disappointing and I did not feel like I connected or respected many of the characters at all.

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