Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister

{4.5/5} “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.”

Iris is a young girl just arrived in Haarlem in Holland. She fled England with her mother and sister because her father was killed and they were in danger. They were going to stay with her great-grandfather but they find out that he’s passed away. With nothing to their names, her mother goes door to door offering her services as a labourer. A painter named Schoonmaker takes them in, asking her mother to look after the household and asking Iris and her sister to pick flowers for him to paint. Iris soon comes into contact with Clara, a mysterious girl who might just be a changeling.

Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire was published in 1999.

This book pretends to be the real story behind the story of Cinderella, and it does a very good job. It’s set in Holland in the 17th century. It’s about beauty, love, and what you might do to put a roof over your children’s heads and food in their mouths.

One of the characters is a painter who Iris has some interactions with, and she even takes a few lessons from him. Iris looks at the world as an artist, even though she hasn’t done much artwork herself.

Iris’ mother tries to do the best she can for her family. She’s always calculating what arrangement will put them in the best position — and what could be better than her daughter married to a prince?

Another part of the story is about tulips, and how people won and lost large amounts of money in the tulip business — this really happened at that time.

It’s possible that nothing fantastic happens in the story, although the fantastic is rarely far from the thoughts of the main character. For example, Iris thinks Clara is a changeling, and she thinks there’s an imp in the house.

Gregory Maguire is the author of Wicked, a book I’m also interested in reading.

This entry was posted on Monday, October 8th, 2012 at 10:03 pm and is filed under Reviews of books. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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