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Confessions Of An Ugly Stepsister was published in 2008. The writer, Gregory Maguire is famous for writing the "real" stories of fairytales. His other books include Wicked, Son of a Witch and Mirror Mirror. This book is supposed to be the real story of Cinderella.
My copy of this book is a hardback. The cover is black and orange and very fairytale-like. The edges of the pages are orange. I love the look of the book as it looks very magical and is eye-catching.
As with Gregory Maguire's other books, this story does follow the general plot of the fairytale it is based on. It is a thought provoking book and it gives the fairytale many more layers. The evil characters in the fairytales are not always necessarily evil. They can be misunderstood, or perhaps the good character is really the evil one. For this reason, it is possible to read Maguire's books with a completely open mind and not know what is going to come.
The story is told from Iris's point of view. Iris and her sister (Ruth) move to Haarlem with their mother Margarethe. Iris and Ruth are very plain girls according to their mother (ugly stepsisters?). They soon meet the beautiful Clara (Cinderella) and the story develops.
The way this book is written makes it very easy to read. At 416 pages, some people may think the book is long. I read it in only a few days as I found it hard to put down. I loved finding out what happened in comparison to what happened in the fairytale and longed to find out how it ended.
This review is for a book called "Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister" by Gregory Maguire.
The book is quite thick - approx 370 pages long but I can honestly say it didn't feel "long" or as if the story was 'dragging' in any way when I read it.
When the story first begins, it is set around three main characters - a mother, Margarethe, and her two daughters, Ruth and Iris. These three main characters are set around the well-known classic fairytale, Cinderella, although you wouldn't know this until about half way through the book when the story takes a somewhat different route. (That said, on my copy at least, there is plenty of reference to Cinderella on the outer cover of the book so you know this before you start reading it.)
Iris and Ruth are sisters who are both ugly (you guessed it... we learn later in the story that these are in fact Cinderella's ugly step-sisters!) and Margarethe is a character who seems to be rather horrible and sometimes cruel to her daughters with an air of impatience about her.
The way that Maguire has written this book is very clever. He cleverly plots this story through an age and a time that is encased in fantasy which is a difficult thing to do properly, I think, but he manages it without straying too much from the main themes of the story and plotlines.
I found it interesting that Maguire had the idea to write his book on the basis of this well-known fairytale, but from a very different perspective, and from a completely different point of view. To my mind, this is a clever idea and it is easy to see why this book (and the author in general) received such high praise.
There are several themes throughout the book, such as love, beauty and poverty. The differences between Clara (Cinderella) and her sisters' is very striking; she is beautiful naturally, and has a beautiful home and wealthy parents, whereas Iris and Ruth are maids in Clara's household, attending to the chores given to them by their mother, Margarethe. There is more or less a constant reference to Ruth and Iris's ugliness throughout the book - for one thing, Ruth is described in such a way by Maguire that we can only imagine her to be an ogre-like being, rather hunched and big, with no ability to speak.
I found the book to be very "quirky", which I personally love when I'm reading something. As I hadn't read any books by Maguire before, I can't comment on whether this is just down to his style of writing and his other books are similar, or whether it is purely the style within this book.
The story unfolds in a surprising way when Clara (our cinders) loses her mother and her father chooses to marry Margarethe. (I certainly didn't see that one coming!). This then, of course, means that Clara is step-daughter to Margarethe, and step-sister to Iris and Ruth.
Whilst the story is a good read in its own right, I found it particularly enjoyable the way that Maguire kept certain elements of the Cinderella fairytale in this book. For example, there is, indeed, a ball, a handsome prince, a lost slipper etc. And of course, not forgetting those all-important evil step-mother and ugly step-sisters!
As a reader, I was finding that I was drawn more and more to Margarethe's antics than that of the other characters - I think because she had a very sinister side to her at times, and we find out just how evil she was towards the end of the book. (Don't want to ruin it for anybody so won't say too much here.) Margarethe was my favourite character by far, although she was also the most evil, so I'm not sure what that says about me!
I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and will certainly read more of Gregory Maguire's stories in time. Highly recommended if you like stories that are tinged with fantasy, fiction, and fairytales!
Confessions of an Ugly stepsister is available from Amazon.co.uk from £6.39 (paperback) and £10.49 (hardback), although you might be lucky on ebay and get it for 25pence plus postage and packaging (like I did!) :-D
****Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister - Gregory Maguire****
I loved the book wicked so much i even went to watch the show and when i found out the author had written other books they went straight on my reading list!!
Gregory Maguire has written other books such as a lion among men and mirror mirror.Most of them are fantasy but they can be found in the normal fiction section of a bookshop.
All of the authors books are fairy tales rewritten -in this case the tale of Cinderella. Most People know the story of Cinderella and how she was treated badly by her stepmother and stepsisters, this book claims to tell the full story starting with two poor sisters and their widowed mother are taking in of the streets of Amsterdam by a Flemish painter.What happens next? read the book to find out.Most of the book it told by one of the sisters.
This book is beautifully written, much better than the real version!!Read the book and have the following questions answered like what happened to the ugly stepsisters,was Cinderella really forced to clean and did she marry the prince for love or for some other reason?.
The book seems to come under the children's category on some websites but i wouldn't recommend it to people under 12,i think it would be to difficult for them to read.The book was very enjoyable -one of these books i could not put down.