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Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister

3.5 of 5 stars 3.50  ·  rating details  ·  46,585 ratings  ·  2,920 reviews
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
Paperback, 372 pages
Published October 3rd 2000 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published October 6th 1999)
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Oct 14, 2007 Amanda rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Modern fairy tale lovers...sort of
I love books based on fairy tales, but it's taken me forever to really read any of Maguire's stuff. I still haven't read "Wicked." Years ago, I tried reading this book and just couldn't get into it. But with so many people telling me how great this guy is, I decided to give it another shot.

This book follows the story of Iris and Ruth, two little girls who, with their mother, flee from England after their father is murdered. Poor and begging, they have no choice but to first take a job as the ho
This was an easy read and an interesting take on the "Cinderella" story, but it wasn't amazing. It felt like it gave a very long build-up to a climax that was vague and unexciting and a denouement that was pretty disappointing. Only as an epilogue do we discover what happened to Iris, the main character of the book, and even then, it is brief and without many details.

Many of the ideas introduced into the storyline also felt as though they were left hanging at the end of the book. Clara, the Cind
Maguire's ability to come up with an interesting story is far better than his ability to tell the story. His writing is often a bit too labored, his symbolism too transparent, and his literary devices a bit clunky.

Like 'Wicked', 'Confessions' offers the reader a variation on a well-known story. Also like 'Wicked', 'Confessions' is not really all that much to write home about. A somewhat creative variation, but one in which many of the characters are incredibly hard to like, and the story just fa
May 05, 2007 Mahina rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: feminists and fairy tale lovers
Shelves: listenedto
I love fairy tale retellings...especially the ones that try to be the "True" version.
Set in 17th century Holland during the Tulip craze this version of Cinderella is by far my favorite. The central character is not Cinderella (who is a spoiled brat) but Iris, the youngest of the two step-sisters.
Margarethe returns to her homeland, Holland,with her two daughters - plain Iris and simple Ruth, afer her husband is murdered in England. She becomes the housekeeper for a painter. The traditional stor
Laura Cavendish
May 12, 2007 Laura Cavendish rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: EVERYONE
Shelves: favorites
I remember when I read this book for the first time. I bought it the day after it came out, because I was already obsessed with Gregory Maguire despite the fact that he had only written one other adult book at that point.

I started the novel in the morning, the day I had to take my parents to the airport in Kalamazoo. We left that evening because their flight was an early morning one. I read and read in the car, getting fairly far. When we got to the hotel and had to go to bed, I COULD NOT sleep
This book gives a whole new view on the Cinderella, one that is completely believable. It offers a real setting(not just a land far, far away or a long time ago) and speaks of real people. It makes you think. Is beauty a gift or a curse? It offers a brave, out-of-the-ordinary heroine, one of the ugly stepsisters herself. The narrator shows you a new perspective on the Cinderella story. Perhaps the wicked stepsisters were not so wicked. Perhaps they had lives too. Perhaps their lives were actuall ...more
Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister is way better than Wicked, not least because the characters have consistent personalities and the plot is coherent. I appreciated the sensory details and descriptions, and the various characters are original. There's a nice twist near the end which gave me a little brain jolt, and I always like that.
A Cinderella retelling in the perspective of an ugly stepsister, from the author of Wicked. Hmm. Okay, this book is just "not quite." Which I need to put in the proper scale -- the set-up is brilliant, as Maguire's generally are, and the follow-through is good, and the denouement is fine. But I didn't want fine. I wanted this book to walk up to me and knock me on my ass with a right hook to the gut. Instead it came up, dazzled me with some fancy footwork, and then asked me for a sedate waltz. Pa ...more
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.

If magic was present, it moved under the skin of the world, beneath the ability of human eyes to catch sight of it.

Immortality is a chancy thing; it cannot be promised or earned. Perhaps it cannot even be identified for what it is.

It’s the place of the story, beginning here, in the meadow of late summer flowers, thriving
I love this prequel to the age old story, Cinderella. IMO this was WAY better than the popular book, Wicked, by this author. I should also add that there's an interesting interview with the author on the final disc. It's always fascinating, to me, to get inside an author's brain.
Nov 04, 2008 Bfalla rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: only Maguire fans
I am an idiot. I did it to myself again.
After reading “Wicked” and hating it, I decided to give Gregory Maguire another go. Apparently, Maguire is my literary equivalent to the corner brick on my fireplace that I keep stubbing my toe upon, even though I know it’s there and I know it’s going to hurt.
But I picked up "Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister", thinking I had to give Maguire another try. He shows glimpses of pure genius, so I was hoping he’d be able to channel it properly. After all, how
Griffin Betz
*Two and a Half Stars*

Having already read Gregory Maguire's Wicked I was something less than thrilled when I got roped into reading Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister for a decidedly informal book discussion group. It wasn't that I found Wicked a bad read, I actually rather enjoyed it, but the blurb on the back of "Confessions" lead me to think that Mr. Maguire had essentially repeated the same formula with a different fairy tale. (Actually, 'Wicked' was written after 'Confessions' but I read
While I think Gregory Maguire is brilliant to tackle these twisty fairy tales, and show us the "other" side, for me, I think that his writing is to wordy and feels too crowded, or overkill to actually tell the story he is looking to tell.

This is the story of Ruth and Iris, sisters-- THE step-sisters of Cinderella, aka, Clara Van Der Meer. Both sisters are ugly, but thoughtful, and care deeply about Clara. The happy fairy tale that everyone knows and shares, is turned upside down, and the real st
I always thought Cinderella might secretly be a bitch. Or at least the story could be told in shades of grey instead of the good/evil dichotomy most stories are told in, especially fairy tales. This one was rife for Maguirizing—a story about girls where beauty is good and pure and being anything except a conventional beauty is evil and disgusting. Maguire really likes to tackle these girl heroes and show a dark side. When he’s not taking girl villains and showing a bit of light. I read Wicked an ...more
Throughout the course of this book it looked set to gain two stars from me, but the ending ensured the confiscation of one of these. In fact, it almost deserves a minus rating because of it.

The story was extremely slow in starting, and never really picked up enough pace to make it interesting. What i knew of the storyline beforehand was basically that it was going to be a re-telling of the cinderella story from the perspective of one of the stepsisters. What i didn't realise was that the fairy g
This is a retelling of Cinderella. The story itself, telling from the perspective of the ugly stepsister intrigued me. Instead of full of magical or a fairy tale ending, the author told the story in a different way. This story seems real. It sets in Holland during the 17th century.

I don’t know what I was expecting when I’m reading this. When I looked at the cover, I thought, okay, maybe in this story Cinderella is the bad guy, maybe she got her prince and being a bitch or something. Maybe I was
Samantha Cheh
COAUS totally blew me away. You'll start off a bit confused but expecting the same tale of Cinderella: the girl, orphaned by her parents, abused by her stepmother then escapes to the ball with the help of her fairygodmother. She dances with the prince and falls in love and then disappears. The prince shows up and they live happily ever after and the step-family get their just desserts.

So, if you've ever read WICKED, you'll know that Maguire has a way with redeeming the villains. I've always sai
This is the 7th novel written by Gregory Maguire that I have read. I have enjoyed them all. In this rendering of the "Cinderella" story, he has turned it into 'historical fiction', in the sense that there is no fairy godmother, pumpkins turned into coaches, etc. In this version we hear the "ugly step-mother's" (Margarethe) reasons for the actions she took, mainly to provide for her daughters, who were too plain to get husbands without a dowry.

It's easy to forget in this century, when a woman ca
Joy H.
RE: _Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister_
Below are the comments I made about this book at my GR group:

I read Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire back in 2003, but have forgotten to add it to my shelves here. I will do that today.

I must have liked the book because I just found 15 pages of handwritten quotes which I had scribbled from it as I read! Even I can't believe it! LOL (These days I don't copy as many quotes because it's too time-consuming. I haven't got the energy either.)

Part fairy tale, part historical fiction, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister is Maguire's creative interpretation of "Cinderella". The story takes us to seventeenth-century Holland where a plain and physically-unremarkable Iris, the protagonist, along with her conniving mother and mentally-challenged sister find themselves at the whim of the townsfolk's generosity and eventually at the mercy of their mother's bartering skills.

Similar to the original fairy tale, the villains are at times more int
For once, a Maguire book that didn't leave me totally cold. Which is interesting, because the first half of this book bored me to tears. It was one of those books that I could only read in short bursts, because I would literally start falling asleep after a few chapters. Around the middle, though, it finally picked up, and I discovered that for once, Maguire has managed to write characters who actually seem real. They're all a good mix of good and bad, and there's much less sense of good guys vs ...more
Amanda Pearl
I don't know what it is about Gregory Maguire, but I keep reading his books thinking I'll like them and I end up being disappointed at best, but more often than not annoyed and put off. I love the ideas of his novels, but every single one is a let down. Confessions is not so terrible as Mirror Mirror or Lost, but I'm still leaving feeling like he could have done so much more. There is all of build up in this novel and the ending feels rushed, like he got bored half way through and just decided t ...more
Anti-climactic is the only way I can describe this book. As a retelling of Cinderella, the story feels familiar but is totally reworked.

But the story just limped along. Even the major happenings seem to be glossed over. The narration is done by the stepsister - a child herself. And that gives the story an innocence that I find annoying. I very much disliked the preoccupation of the girl with changlings and imps. What does that have to do with anything?

And Cinderella herself was pretty much non-e
There's absolutely nothing wrong with the idea of taking a fairy tale and adding a modern spin to it. Most authors who've done this have emphasised the fantastic and erotic elements, or the mythic character of the tale, or they've taken a political/feminist approach. Angela Carter, Tanith Lee, Neil Gaiman and China Miéville have used such approaches with great success. Gregory Maguire, however, has adopted a very different approach. He's taken the story of Cinderella and removed all the fantasti ...more
Feb 03, 2009 Bunny rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Lovers of adult fairy tales
Shelves: read-in-09
I really, really enjoyed this book. If you allow yourself to forget that it's a take on Cinderella, it is still a fabulous book. Once you get to the parts where you sort of snap to remembering, "Oh, right...wicked stepmother...", you're already entrapped in the world of Iris.

This is a truly wonderful take on the story. Margarethe, the wicked stepmother, is an evil evil cow. I was more than a little horrified when she told the clothier that she could offer him something in the future as payment,
Jun 15, 2009 Jade rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2009
Although a million times better than Wicked, I'm afraid that I am still left unimpressed by Gregory Maguire. I think without the cache of revamping fairy tales from another perspective he doesn't really have much talent that I personally admire. The characters are as base as the fairytales themselves, and take the romance away from the tale with their lackluster. If no character can be bothered to appear in a tale I wonder why I should be bothered to read it.
My only real joy in this book was Iri
Despite the old adage, I always judge a book by its cover. So, with this bold, Hallowe'en-y, orange and black cover (not the one pictured here, obviously) with its slightly cartoonish font, I was expecting a dark, Gothic take on the old fairy tale, full of intrigue and sparkling humour.

Hmmm. The intrigue was disappointing and ill-founded, and the humour sparse and ill-tempered. Overall, the feeling was as drab and depressing as The Master's oft-chosen palette.

It bore less relation to Cinderella
Jun 26, 2007 Res rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: fiction
The retelling of Cinderella during the Dutch tulip boom.

Nearly all the action in this book is precipitated by Margarethe; the other characters react to her, but they rarely make choices on their own. And Margarethe was almost too villainous to be believed.

My bad opinion didn't really harden, though, until the epilogue, with which I had two problems:

1. It wasn't so much a twist as a cheat, rather like finishing a mystery and learning that the gunman was a year-old baby.

2. It's a bad sign when y
I keep reading Maguire's books, because I *want* to like them...I like the "meat" of the stories and the idea of telling these tales from a different perspective, but Maguire's writing style is just too tedious and dry for me. I feel like I am being dragged, slowly and painfully through the story. I loved the idea and the bare bones story-line here (and in Wicked, too) but I am left wondering if anyone else has attempted these stories with a different writing style, one that is more lush and che ...more
Gregory Maguire was one of the first authors who introduced me to the re-imagining of fairy tales. At the time, it was very novel and exciting. Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister and Mirror Mirror were two of my favorites. I actually remember disliking Wicked until it was re-told as the amazing Broadway Musical. I have to admit that when I read fairy tales, I want my characters to have happy endings. (Even better when they can sing like Idina Menzel!). Many people will describe his re-imagining a ...more
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Gregory Maguire is an American author, whose novels are revisionist retellings of children's stories (such as L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz into Wicked). He received his Ph.D. in English and American Literature from Tufts University, and his B.A. from the State University of New York at Albany. He was a professor and co-director at the Simmons College Center for the Study of Children' ...more
More about Gregory Maguire...
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (The Wicked Years, #1) Son of a Witch (The Wicked Years #2) Mirror Mirror A Lion Among Men (The Wicked Years, #3) Out of Oz (The Wicked Years, #4)

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“In the lives of children, pumpkins turn into coaches, mice and rats turn into men. When we grow up, we realize it is far more common for men to turn into rats.” 258 likes
“If magic was present, it moved under the skin of the world, beneath the ability of human eyes to catch sight of it.” 67 likes
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