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Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister

3.53  ·  Rating details ·  57,178 ratings  ·  3,691 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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Adeline I liked this book much more than wicked. I found wicked a little confusing at times, and while this book has some vague times it has a very solid plot…moreI liked this book much more than wicked. I found wicked a little confusing at times, and while this book has some vague times it has a very solid plot. I would definitely recommend you read it! I read it for school and had no idea who the author was at first, until I read the author bio on the back. I judged it based on my own impressions. (less)
Marisa Waldschmidt So far, not entirely adapted from the Cinderella story that most of us know and love. It's back story is intriguing and keeps you really thinking abou…moreSo far, not entirely adapted from the Cinderella story that most of us know and love. It's back story is intriguing and keeps you really thinking about what you already know from the original story. (less)

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 ·  57,178 ratings  ·  3,691 reviews

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Sep 24, 2007 rated it liked it
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
Lauren (Shakespeare & Whisky)
“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.”

I enjoy Maguire's work. He combines lively characters with literary writing.

Unlike Maguire's other, wildly successful novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, this retelling leaves behind magic, instead relying on a genuine historical period and uncanny characters to imbue the novel with an unworldly tone.

Mar 05, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
Nov 04, 2008 rated it did not like it
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
Jan 17, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
May 05, 2007 rated it really liked it
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 11, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 04, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
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.
Mar 28, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorite-reads
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
May 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 08, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: audiobook
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
Oct 07, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
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
Griffin Betz
Sep 26, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-fiction
*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
Aug 23, 2016 rated it really liked it

Chased from their English abode, their father killed and themselves sought to be next, Iris, Ruth and their mother Margarethe, flee to a Dutch town, hoping to be taken in by their grandfather. Upon arriving, seeking his home, they are ridiculed, shunned and abased. Both the girls are considered ugly. Ruth is a lumbering dimwit. Iris is a scrawny brain. No one wants to help or hire them. They are hungry, desperate and fraught.

Happening upon a painter in his studio, they query his work through an
Mar 25, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio-books
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. ...more
Apr 27, 2020 rated it liked it
This was an all right story. Part prequel, part Cinderella retelling told from the POV of the stepsister. Iris is a strange and cunning child. After fleeing from the UK to Holland in the dead of night, Iris must help her mother try and make a living. They end up in the home of a master painter, before Iris finds a job as a servant to a wealthy family with a beautiful young daughter named Clara.

I don't have a lot to say about this book because for the most part it was very okay. I liked the comp
Donna Craig
Mar 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read Wicked a few years ago—more like I devoured it! This book was written in the same style. I was drawn into the world the author created, and I was held there, spellbound, until the book was finished. Then, I sat there and stared at it for a while. It was hard to get my head out of the world of this book. I am looking forward to reading more by this author. I definitely lost sleep over this book!
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.)

✨Bean's Books✨
Dec 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
I'm sorry, I just cannot get into this story. I don't know what it is exactly but I just can't get into it and it's boring as hell. The author writes very well and very clearly. I've read a couple other books by him. But for whatever reason I just simply cannot get into this story. Just not interesting at all for me. I gave it a chance. That's all that matters. ...more
BAM Endlessly Booked
Audio reread #103
Sarah (Workaday Reads)
This was such an inventive retelling of Cinderella. It felt almost true to the original story, but with a change in perspective.
Carrol Park
Dec 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Rebecca Weller
Jul 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
It was an interesting retelling. Cinderella or Clara was quite the character, and Iris was likeable. You wanted her to find happiness. I enjoyed the painting element and was glad that Iris got to do what she loved.
Samantha Cheh
Oct 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 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
Oct 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2012
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
Jan 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
I read this for one of my F2F book clubs and after having read "Mirror, Mirror" a number of years ago, I was not looking forward to it. So I was pleasantly surprised to find that I really enjoyed this retelling of the Cinderella story. Iris and Ruth Fisher are the daughters of Margarethe. Ruth is a large, hulking girl who doesn't talk and Iris, although plain, is cunning and resourceful. The 3 of them have left England, after their husband and father died, to save their lives. They travel to Hol ...more
Feb 25, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy, bir-2011
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
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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

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It's been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and in the world of love stories—from the tragic to the...
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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.” 280 likes
“If magic was present, it moved under the skin of the world, beneath the ability of human eyes to catch sight of it.” 76 likes
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