“Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister” by Gregory Maguire
Which is totally okay.
‘Cause it turned out to be a way better read than I had anticipated.
“Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister” is actually a rather lovely, practically historical fiction, re-telling of the Cinderella story — if Cinderella was an agoraphobic girl convinced she was a changeling, and the Stepmother and Stepsisters were simply trying to scrape a life out for themselves when the Stepmother’s cunning squeezed them into the household in the first place. Here, our heroine is the younger and smarter of the two Stepsisters – plain, unremarkable Iris. Iris, her sister Ruth, and their mother Margarethe are forced to flee England for Holland, where they first wind up working in the household of a painter, and then eventually work their way into higher society. The Stepsisters are never painted evil, and even Stepmother Margarethe’s actions are (usually) justifiable as driven by ambition and a desire to not be poor and hungry again. In a smart twist of writing, while Iris is incredibly likable, so is Clara (the girl who would become Cinderella.) Clara begins a strange and spoiled little weirdo, but grows on the reader. Typically, Cinderella is a tale of a sweet girl whose family situation forces her to take to the ashes and cinders, but not here. (Stopping before I spoil.)
Maguire is probably best known for the novel that launched one of the biggest Broadway musicals of all time – “Wicked.” Yet, I’ve read that book, and “Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister” is by far a stronger book.
I really liked it. Post-“Wicked,” I didn’t really think I’d pick up another Maguire work. Not that “Wicked” wasn’t a good read, but Maguire was seeming to me a little bit of a one trick pony. After reading “Confessions” (which I got at a used bookstore for a few bucks) I might actually go in search of another of his works – “Mirror, Mirror,” the Snow White re-tellling.