Thursday, October 8, 2015

Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire - Book Review

I've recently stumbled across Gregory Maguire, whose books I didn't know much about, and who has since become one of my favorite authors. Last month I read Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister and absolutely loved it. I thought I would review it for those of you who might want to know more about this very unique book. 

The Plot

For years we’ve heard the story of Cinderella, the beautiful girl banished to the ashes of the hearth, who rose to win a prince’s love and leave happily ever after. But what about her stepsisters? Who really were those sisters fated to forever be ‘ugly’ where Cinderella was beautiful and wretched where she was pure? This book, set in 17th century Holland, is told from the perspective of Iris, one of the famed ugly stepsisters. Cursed with unfortunate looks but sharp-minded, Iris narrates the story of Clara, the young beauty destined to be her famous stepsister, and the fate of all those who fell under her legendary shadow. 

My Review

The Story

This story is told as a piece of historical fiction, with only hints of the supernatural. There is no actual magic but the tone and setting are quick to remind you that this is indeed a fairy tale retelling. The pace is not overly fast, allowing for a very fairytale-esque impression as you read on. 

The Characters

The main characters are Iris and Clara. Iris is ugly and she knows it. She doesn't dwell on it much though, preferring to spend her time observing the world and painting imaginary drawings in her mind. She's also quite the daydreamer, imagining magic and fantastical creatures where there are none. She's very intelligent and quite observant about the world around her. Neither a beautiful princess nor some fearless chosen one, Iris is something even better. She's a character you can fully sympathize with. More even, than with any fairy tale princess you'll ever encounter. 

Ruth is her big and simple-minded sister, completing the 'ugly stepsister' duo. She's older than Iris but very childlike, being mentally stunted. Her character barely speaks but definitely adds a certain childlike innocence to the book. 

Then you have Clara, the book's unique Cinderella. Ever since she was a child, she's been guarded against the world by her over protective mother, to the point where she's grown to be scared of leaving her house. As such, since prior to meeting Iris and Ruth, Clara never left her house and barely spoke to other people, she's come to be very childlike and socially shy despite being in fact older than Iris. She's rather spoiled too, as all her life she was taught to expect having people fuss over her and protect her. She's definitely not a one-sided character though and despite not even coming anywhere close to stealing the show from our narrator, Iris, she remains a great addition to the cast of characters.

The Prose

The prose was very unique. Despite the historical setting, the descriptions and imagery are always there to remind you that you're reading a fairy tale retelling. Though being very down to earth, the prose does retain a melodious touch that evokes the whimsy and magic of fairy tales.

The Ending 

I think the book ended in the best way possible. I'm of course not going to spoil anything, but the ending was very conclusive and satisfying, leaving us with just enough information for us to have an idea about what happened to our characters following the last events of the book. Also, there's a nice little twist at the end that definitely caught me off-guard, but in a good way. 

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

I loved this book and will definitely be reading more of Gregory Maguire's books. In fact, I have plans to read Wicked, also by him and arguably his most popular book, later this month as part of my Halloween TBR. It really depends on when I'll be receiving the book though for although I've already ordered it, I haven't received it yet. Maguire's books do seem to get mix reviews, with some people really loving them and others strongly disliking them. I've not read enough of his books to comment on that but I know that I'll be reading a few more of his books in the upcoming months. Did you read anything by him? Let me know in the comments!

Giveaway reminder

I hope you guys enjoyed this review. Let me know your thoughts down in the comments! Also, I'd like to quickly remind you of the Halloween giveaway I'm currently hosting. It's open internationally and you get to win a cool set of pumpkin scented soap and lotion ^^ If you haven't entered the giveaway yet, you can do so by clicking here. Good luck!

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  1. Great review Soudha. Very nicely written. I'm intrigued by this story line and hope I make the effort to read it in the future.

    1. Thanks Melissa ^^ If you read it, I hope you'll enjoy it.

  2. Thanks for sharing this review :) Cinderella was my first fairy tale book I had when I was a much beautiful memories :) Definitely will grab this copy!

  3. OH I can't believe that I didn't know that this book existed before now. It sounds wonderful. First of all I am from the Netherlands so I can appreciate any book set there, let alone one set in the 17th Century there... (so cool!) and then the twist on the Cinderella tale because this is one of the ugly older sisters is so unique. I love the premise and you say the writing style is brilliant too. So I am just gonna have to try this at some point!