Title of book: Confessions of an ugly Stepsister
Name of author: Gregory Maguire
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Headline Review (3 April 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. Far more than a mere fairy tale, this is a novel of beauty and betrayal, reminding us that deception can be unearthed – and love unveiled – in the most unexpected of places.
‘Confessions of an ugly stepsister’ tells the story of Iris, a young girl taken to a different country and forced to start all over again following the death of her father. Along with Iris, there is Ruth, Iris’s older sister who is seen as a ‘beast’ because of her disabilities and Margarethe, Iris’s formidable mother who will stop at nothing to get what she wants, ‘Give me room to cast my eel spear, and let follow what may’ is her favourite saying. The family become involved with different characters, Master Schoenmacker or ‘The Master’ a troubled but good hearted artist who wants to teach Iris how to paint, Casper ‘The Master’s apprentice, who becomes friends with Iris, Ruth and eventually Clara. As the story progresses the family are employed by the van den Meer family, Cornelius, Henrika and Clara. Clara is the only child of the van den Meer family and is protected by her mother Henrika against the outside world.
You find as you read more of the book that even though the book is called ‘Confessions of an ugly stepsister’, neither Iris or Ruth are ugly, they only feel ugly and Clara although very beautiful has ugliness inside, as do Iris and Ruth, the insight that Gregory Maguire gives is really well thought out, you see what you want to see.
This is the first time I have read anything by Gregory Maguire and I really enjoyed ‘Confessions of an ugly stepsister’, the story was interesting, at parts exciting, you get easily engrossed in this story.
‘Confessions of an ugly stepsister’ takes the Cinderella fairy tale and puts a different spin on it.
I will be reading more books by Gregory Maguire.
Reviewed by: Gyre (Paula McGerr)