As a kid who grew up living with magical stories of fairy tales like Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, Wizard of Oz, Snow White and Cinderella, it interest me to read re-told of these stories. Last year, I read Wicked by Gregory Maguire and I loved it and I discovered that he also wrote re-told of the stories of Cinderella and Snow White. I didn’t waste any time to look for copies! I ordered my copies of Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, Mirror Mirror and Lion Among Men from Book Basket for P800 (less $20!) and I’m happy. It took time for me to start reading the books because I want to start reading Son of a Witch which is with my cousin right now but she’s not finished with it yet so I read Confessions first.
Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister is a re-told of Cinderella’s Story in the eyes of her stepsister, Iris,during the height of tulips fad. It maybe a fairy tale re-told but every, single fantastical, magical element was absent from the story. The opening part of the story where the Fisher’s family escaped England and went to Holland to how they managed to live with the Schoonmaker/van Den Meer family is plodding and slow, the middle part is merely okay and because I always look forward for Iris-Caspar moment which never fail me fall in love too and, the climax or the main event which is Cinderella/Clara went to the ball to meet up with the prince is also slow, flat and unexciting. The climax should be exciting, right? It didn’t excite me when Cinderella/Clara went to the bedchamber with the Prince during the ball – that’s all. What happened in the bedchamber I don’t know. The way Maguire wrote the story is too long, labored and overdone which makes the reader bored with unnecessary words and scenes while reading. Many of the ideas and scenes are introduced into the storyline also felt as though they were left hanging at the end of the book. Questions like what happened to Iris and Caspar’s relationship (this is so disappointing! I always look forward of their romantic relationship but, meh, it’s incomplete!)? What happened to Clara and the Prince? What happened to van Den Meer household? Who killed Henrika? Who burned Clara’s Portrait?
The good thing is, Maguire included an epilogue to answer all of these questions but isn’t like something that tacked on to make up for the loose ends of the story? Also to make up the concept of having the ‘confessions’? It’s very brief and makes me want to know more about what happened after. And also, this epilogue seems like to turn away the concept of Cinderella’s “happily-ever-after” to “problems-are-solved-in-five-minutes” thing. What I don’t understand is, who is the Ugly Stepsister the title is referring to? Iris or Ruth? Because the whole story is re-told in Iris’ perspective while the epilogue/confession is told by Ruth. Isn’t it confusing?
The characters are hard to like. Margarethe, the stepmother is too villainous and evil to be believed. Her capacity for greed and corruption is limitless. Clara is such a spoiled brat and inconsistent – there’s a sudden shifting of her personality, from spoiled brat to a humble one. Ruth is often ignored, being the stupid one but in the end, she patched up the ending. Though they are hard to like, the only characters I adore are Caspar – because he looks handsome and romantic to imagine (Matthew Goode played the part in the movie! Squee!) and Iris – though she is the daughter of her evil mother, she is strong, a good friend of Clara, a good sister of Ruth, and a likeable heroine.
I tried watching the movie (I’m not finished with it yet) while reading, I can say that the book is darker compared to the movie.
Book #58 for 2010
Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire