I postponed reading this book for two years because I kept hearing, "It's not as good as Wicked.
I'm so sorry I waited. Those who judged it on the basis of Wicked must have loved Wicked for different reasons than I. Perhaps they only like fantasy or gothic genres.
This book is a delicious historical novel set in Holland during the Reformation. It's the sort of brooding story to read on a rainy day, wrapped in a comforter in your favorite chair with a pot of tea nearby.
Rather than compare it to Wicked, I'd say that those who loved Girl with a Pearl Earring would enjoy this book.
This was my first Gregory Maguire book and its prob a good thing since all the other reviews mostly compare it to Wicked. Well I enjoyed this book very much. It was really not a "can't put it down" book for me at least. There were many parts where after 20 pgs I would be bored and go do something else. But when I wasn't reading it I was thinking about it and couldn't wait to finish it. I would recommend this book to anyone. I thought the story was going to be more magical and fairy tale like but it really wasn't at all. It was about a mother and her 2 daughters who fled England from the mobbing town and end up in Holland looking for their Grandfather. Once they arrive in Holland they are faced with challenges and the mother will do anything to secure her families safety. I really disliked the mother but who doesn't in the "cinderella" story. Overall good read:)
God,this book took me forever to read.I mean forever as in about a week in a half because it was so boring. I had to force myself to read it. However,there were some very good themes in the book. For example,the beautiful Clara (Cinderella), who's ill temper caused her to be a brat but still she was a good person.Through Clara, we see that the beautiful do not always lead such charmed lives.Beauty in some cases is an affliction rather than a gift.The so-called ugly stepsisters,Iris and Ruth are ugly only in physical features but are beautiful inside. The wicked stepmother was in fact wicked. She was willing to do anything to improve her station in life,and I do mean anything. In the end, we see that beauty is only skin deep.what’s on the inside really does matters more and that desperation and bad luck will make anyone a monster.
For me, Gregory Maguire is a hit or miss. Wicked took me a while to get into, but i did like it eventually. Son of a Witch? No thanks. Mirror Mirror - just okay. I really did enjoy this one, right from the start, though. While the tale of Cinderella goes way back before the one which most of us are familiar with, the most popular version sure does leave a lot explained! He did a fantastic job giving motivation and alternate explanations of the tale, without actually contradicting the version we are familiar with. It definitely was an enjoyable read, and I felt for the ugly stepsisters.
I love the idea of rewriting classic fairytales from the betrodden's point of view. Maguire, when at his best, has an amazing ability of turning what seems like a cut-and-dry-happily-ever-after tale into a labrynthe of intrigue, passion, and depth. He proved this to me in Wicked. I must say, I was sorely disappointed in Mirror Mirror. But after reading Confessions (and Son of Witch), I'm a believer again. I recommend this book but gave it only three stars simply because Wicked is still ten times better in my opinion.
Jnel W. reviewed Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister on
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If you think you really know the story of Cinderella--think again. Gregory Maguire is brilliant in his effort to intertwine a cornerstone fairy tale with the timeless debate of what constitutes "beauty." To what extent will one go to sustain it and what can one do to survive without it?
Gregory Maguire tells us that the story of Cinderella is not a true account - that through the passage of time, the tale has been altered beyond recognition. His main character, the 'ugly stepsister' decides to set the record straight and tell the story as she remembers it, and without the embellishments of magic and fancy.
Mr Maguire tells a wonderful tale, with believeable and enjoyable characters. 'Confessions' is often funny, occasionally sad and throughout, an engaging page turner.
I highly recommend this book to all who enjoy a good story.
Set in 17th century Holland, an unlikely heroin (Iris)finds herself swept into a Cinderella story of wealth and ambition. She becomes involved in the world of Clara, the mysterious and unnaturally beautiful girl who is destined to become her stepsister. This makes Iris the Ugly Stepsister. A novel of beauty and betrayal, illusion and uderstanding, reminding one that deception can be unearthed - and love unvelied - in the most unexpected placed. Iris' mother and sister are major players in this unexpected ending.
This book was great!! The intrigue and mystery in it was wonderful as well as the portrayal of each character. I felt like I was in the story as it happened, as you read you forget all the tellings of Cinderella you have heard before. The real magic of the story is how it takes hold of you and doesn't let go until the very end.
My favorite Maguire book (the third I've read) More like historical fiction than fantasy and it ties in very nicely with the Cinderella story we all know. I think some people are put off by some of the dialogue, and while it does make the reading tedious, the plot is strong enough that I definitely wanted to keep reading.
As a side note, the mean stepmother plays a big role in this book. It would be interesting to read the same tale, but instead seen through her eyes and titled "How it really happened, the wicked stepmother's perspective."
And I thought Wicked was a crazy book. Never-the-less I enjoyed reading this book and seeing how it compared to Cinderella. This book is fantasy but not a fairytale. It's about love in the strangest of places. Expect the unexpected.
I loved it! I'm a big history nerd, so this new take on historical fiction served me well. Even though I loved the musical, I heard bad reviews of the book Wicked. I decided to try this novel instead. Not only was there a SURPRISE ENDING (that I wish was more developed), but it is definitely a family-friendly read. I would have no qualms with a younger crowd reading this book.
If you are expecting the smart and sharp look into a classic that Wicked was...don't read this. I found here that Maguire was struggling to capture the success of Wicked, and while this book is a good read, it can not compare.
Well, was a little worried at first. Disappointed maybe?
As the first three chapters came to a close, I kept finding myself having to re-read them, as they dragged and seemed very hard to follow, or keep interest in.
But from that point forward, I was hooked. Not my usual read, that is for sure, but I couldn't put it down and read entire thing in two evenings. =)
So much did I like the way it read as a whole, I have since ordered all but one of this author's books.
Having been completely disappointed by Maguire's WICKED, I wasn't sure if I was ready for this book. It's reviews weren't that great. I have to say that I did enjoy it. The plot was not as convoluted as in WICKED and the characters easier to relate to. It was really quite a spin on the fairy tale. It wasn't a glued to the pages book but it was an enjoyable read.
I just couldn't get into this book. It was boring. Yes it tells a different story of Cinderella but i didn't find it very exciting to read. In fact, i considered not finishing it when i got to the middle and the story didn't seem to pick up; nonetheless i trudged through and the only satisfaction i got out of it was that i had made it to the end.
and for the record, i loved wicked and son of a witch but i didn't compare this to them. its merely boring in itself.
Liked this better than Wicked, but...umm. If you read this rather scientifically, for lack of better word, then this was a great book that takes the question, "would you rather be beautiful but morally corrupt, or ugly but honest?" and wraps it around the all-familiar tale of Cinderella. Great. HOWEVER, Maguire loses me when he diverges into the whole imps, ghosties, ghoulies, blah blah blah crap. IT's like he feels obligated to add in the fantastic creatures because he's (re)writing fantasy. Doesn't work.
So far this is my favorite of Maguire's books, followed closely by "Wicked". Set in Holland with the Tulip Mania this book is from the point of view of a plain girl with a half-wit sister who ends up with a beautiful stepsister. I found the information about painting, how art is a commercial product and art's significant impact in the merchant systems to be very interesting and well woven into the story. The last chapter had an excellent twist/spin . . . that trumped this book over Wicked.
Story with realistic details of a mother and two daughters that begin a new life in Holland during the time period of Rembrandt and Vermeer. This is the story that over the years following the end of the book evolves into the version of Cinderella we know today. The characters have depth and scenes are described so that I could easily get a picture in my mind. Overall, I enjoyed the book and plan to read Wicked.
I had a hard time getting into this book and almost put it down once or twice. This is the first book I've read of Gregory Maguire's. I ordered Wicked also and this one happened to arrive faster, so I read it first. After seeing the musical "Wicked" and hearing all about the book, I felt like I was let down when I read this book. I don't know what I was expecting, but this wasn't it. I felt like it was hard to follow. You do start feeling sorry for the stepsisters, but I really started getting mad at "Cinderella".
We all know Cinderella's side of the story, but what about her stepsisters? Living with a beautiful, wealthy girl isn't easy, and some details may have been "accidentally omitted" in the original telling of the story. This book provides "another perspective" to the classic tale. It is a much easier read than "Wicked" (also by Maguire), in my opinion.
Gregory Maguire's chilling, wonderful retelling of Cinderella is a study in contrasts. Love and hate, beauty and ugliness, cruelty and charity--each idea is stripped of its ethical trappings, smashed up against its opposite number, and laid bare for our examination. Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister begins in 17th-century Holland, where the two Fisher sisters and their mother have fled to escape a hostile England. Maguire's characters are at once more human and more fanciful than their fairy-tale originals. Plain but smart Iris and her sister, Ruth, a hulking simpleton, are dazed and terrified as their mother, Margarethe, urges them into the strange Dutch streets. Within days, purposeful Margarethe has secured the family a place in the home of an aspiring painter, where for a short time, they find happiness.
But this is Cinderella, after all, and tragedy is inevitable. When a wealthy tulip speculator commissions the painter to capture his blindingly lovely daughter, Clara, on canvas, Margarethe jumps at the chance to better their lot. "Give me room to cast my eel spear, and let follow what may," she crows, and the Fisher family abandons the artist for the upper-crust Van den Meers.
When Van den Meer's wife dies during childbirth, the stage is set for Margarethe to take over the household and for Clara to adopt the role of "Cinderling" in order to survive. What follows is a changeling adventure, and of course a ball, a handsome prince, a lost slipper, and what might even be a fairy godmother. In a single magic night, the exquisite and the ugly swirl around in a heated mix:
Everything about this moment hovers, trembles, all their sweet, unreasonable hopes on view before anything has had the chance to go wrong. A stepsister spins on black and white tiles, in glass slippers and a gold gown, and two stepsisters watch with unrelieved admiration. The light pours in, strengthening in its golden hue as the sun sinks and the evening approaches. Clara is as otherworldly as the Donkeywoman, the Girl-Boy. Extreme beauty is an affliction...
But beyond these familiar elements, Maguire's second novel becomes something else altogether--a morality play, a psychological study, a feminist manifesto, or perhaps a plain explanation of what it is to be human. Villains turn out to be heroes, and heroes disappoint. The story's narrator wryly observes, "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." --Therese Littleton --Amazon.com.
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. --Publishers Weekly
If you've enjoyed the book Wicked then you'll most likely enjoy this as well. We've all heard the story of Cinderella, the beautiful child cast out to slave among the ashes. But what of her stepsisters, the homely pair exiled to ordinary by the fame of their lovely step sibling? A novel of beauty and betrayal, illusion and understanding, reminding us that deception can be unearthesd and love unveiled in the most unexpected of places.
I loved this book. I have read so many bad reviews and just don't understand how so many people can't see past their noses. I honestly think one should be open to the other side of this story. It's a book that I don't really want to post and give up right away myself. I may read it again. What is the true beauty in life anyway?
Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister is a retelling of the Cinderella story which takes place in 17th Century Holland. While it retains a lot of similarity to the original story, at least more so than some of the other Cinderella stories we've read so far, most of the "magical" and otherworldly events have been given more real-world characteristics.
Of course, there's a whole back-story to this tale too, with the Master and his paintings, and an attraction between Iris and the Master's apprentice, that adds a lot to the traditional story. And I really thought it went a long way towards enhancing the story too, making everyone and everything seem more "real" and less like a fairy tale. On reading this story, one could easily imagine that everything could very well have happened as was told here. I'd highly recommend this book to anyone who hasn't yet read it, whether they're Cinderella fans or not.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book! I love the different perspectives he takes with the 'sideline' characters in classic tales! It does seem to move along slow but the characters develop and you get caught up in how they then became the character most see them in!
I also prefer this book over Wicked. I dont dislike Wicked. I love it too in fact. I just really loved this one. The story was so vivid in my mind as I read it. It was terrifically worded. This book made me feel like I should read everything Maguire wrote. It is enchanting.
Cinderella as told from the perspective of the step-family. The character development wasn't what I had hoped it would be. But the art and Dutch/Calvinist history was an interesting twist. Once the characters started to mature and the story started rolling, I really enjoyed the progression. I felt like maguire got sick of the back story (flashbacks) and thus did a poor job resolving them. But I really liked the change to the story and the different kind of happily ever after.
Carlie (carliej) - , reviewed Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister on
I'd been meaning to read any of Maguire's books for a few years and finally started with this one. I'd heard nothing but praise for his writing, but I was disappointed with this. It is actually a decent book, just not worth all the hype. The story is unique, interesting, and well-crafted, but bleak and more sad than amusing. I think I would have enjoyed it better had I different expectations of it altogether (I guess I expected it to be a bit funny, no help from the cover). However, Maguire effectively portrays the stepsisters as lovely in their own way and inspires more affection for them than this version of Cinderella. *Spoiler* And I'm glad that at least Iris found love!
This was a pretty good book. Like a few others here, it was my first Maguire book, and I'm glad. (If I had read Wicked first I NEVER would have read this book, but that's for another review). I really liked the characters in this book. I loved the narrator and how tough she was in dealing with her hard life. I also like that although Cinderella was bratty, she wasn't portrayed as the enemy (which often happens when fairy tales are turned around, the bad guys are good and the good guys are bad).
It was a solid plot also. The story really was turned into a fairy tale for grownups. The twist Maguire put on Cinderella here was very cool.
It takes a bit to get used to the thick language, but it's definitely not a hard read. It's not amazing, but it's good. Confessions is definitely worth a try!
Caroline L. - reviewed Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister on
This was the first of Gregory Maguire's books that I read. The story of Cinderella from the "ugly" stepsister's point of view gives a new perspective on the fairy tale. The ups and downs of the tulip-driven economy in Holland give the story depth.
Another unusual tale from 'Wicked' Gregory Maguire, 'Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister' was a book I enjoyed very much. The premise is, of course, the classic Cinderella story, but Maguire's version of the tale takes more from the themes of beauty, ugliness, society, and even sexuality than merely reworking an already tired story. Set in the Dutch 17th century, the book paints a subtle, poignant picture of a woman coming to a new land looking to make a solid life for her two plain daughters. In the process her daughters get caught up in a life of art, money, and arguments over the true nature of beauty and hideousness. Supernatural beliefs in imps and the like are thrown in as well, creating a richly golden mood of dramatic fantasy. If you like any of Maguire's other writings, you'll like this, too; if you have yet to taste Maguire's distinct offerings, this is a great start.
This is by far my favorite of Maguire's books so far. The others are bit too fanciful for me. Though good, they are sooooo unbelievable that I can't really get into them. This one almost reads like a historical novel. It could have happened and that makes the characters so much more believable and the story more enthralling because you want to know what happens to them becasuse they seem real.
This was my least favorite of the Maguire books. None of the characters were particularly sympathetic, and I finished it more from curiosity than because it sparked anything for me. Not on par with Wicked, for sure.
This is my first reading of a Gregory Maguire story. He effortlessly incorporates the familiar story lines of "CINDERELLA" that many of us grew up with. He provides a fleshing out of the barebones story by adding details and characters to the story. The characters are presented in such a way as to almost be real and able to leap from the page.
Honestly, I found this to be a MUCH better read then Wicked. Its a beautiful story of love and sister hood that turns the Cinderella tale up on it's head. The first person narrative (which I usually don't care for) is effective in both telling the story, and allowing the reader to identify personally with the story teller.
This book is for everyone who has ever gotten the short end of the stick, a book to read again and again.
i thought this was really good, tho not as good as wicked. i enjoyed the different take on the cinderella story, and the little twists at the end. this was an enjoyable read, it sucked me in early and held my attention to the last line.
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.
We have all 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 looks?
Set against the 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 becomeme her sister. While Clara retreats to the cinders of the family hearth. Iris seeks our the shadowy secrets of her new household-and the treacherous truth of her former life.
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.
This book was not as good as "Wicked." I found I had a difficult time keeping my attention on what I was reading. If it wasn't for the fact that I had to read it for a bookclub, I would have put it down a long time ago. I think some of the "dirty" language in the book was unnecessary and was stated for shock effect. Although Mr. Maguire does a good job at describing his characters in such a descriptive way as to allow me to really "see" them in my mind, I wish the story was more interesting.
The movie was actually better than the book for once (made for tv 2 years ago). I thought this was the worst retelling of Cinderella I had ever read. This is one case where the book shouldn't be told from a child's perspective. You're left not understanding most of what is happening, the way a child doesn't. I almost stopped reading it several times, as it was rather dull and the author didn't explain enough. I'm not a stupid person (1390 on my SAT, perfect on my GRE), so I can't imagine how the average reader would do with this book. I finally finished the book several weeks later, and the ending was not worth it. I tried a couple other books by the author, since I usually LOVE fairy tale retellings (Robin McKinley is sooo good!), but everything he writes feels like a dead fish to me. Just blah and kinda repulsive.
I really enjoyed this story; there are surprises at the end I didn't expect at all. It's well written and reads very quickly. It's not as dry as "Wicked," and flows much better, although "Wicked" was a more complex story.