Plot[ edit ] Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister tells the story of Iris, the plain younger daughter of Margarethe Fisher, as she takes care of her mentally challenged older sister Ruth and her beautiful stepsister Clara. Margrethe makes Iris and Ruth go to the ball in the hopes of making the prince fall in love with Iris. Iris secretly helps Clara get to the ball and the prince immediately falls in love with her. That night, the fairy tale of Cinderella and her pumpkin carriage is spun, and the next morning her prince comes to collect her. She is described as "painfully plain-faced" by her own mother,  and several times refers to herself as a hound.
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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. He combines lively characters with literary writing. Although there is no magic in the story, it manages to feel magical for the reader. Maguire is not a newcomer to telling stories that deconstruct old narratives, and in my opinion this attempt was more successful then Wicked for several reasons.
One of my major criticisms of Wicked was the inconsistencies and underdeveloped plot arcs. This was so problematic that they changed the ending of the stage production to improve the narratives cohesiveness.
He has a much more basic plot to work with here. The benefits of a tighter narrative result in a much more satisfying novel. He is able to focus attention on his strength as a writer- complex, multifaceted exploration of character.
I never particularly liked the story of Cinderella as a child and as an adult some of the more troubling aspects of the tale became apparent. Iris is a compelling and sympathetic main character. Her mother is spiritually suffocated by her obsession with appearances and survival and it was heart rendering at times to see how this fear crippled her daughters.
This is not the sort of book you can passively absorb. I thought a lot about what various characters did and said and what I felt about that. The setting and writing was a lush and richly formed tapestry. If you enjoy literary writing, you will likely appreciate it, even if the metaphors are occasionally too heavy handed.
However, one of the problems with the novel is that the characters are too difficult to love. To truly love a book I think you need to fall in love a little with at least one of the characters.
There are exceptions of course, but even Silence of the Lambs has a weirdly aspirational element to our fascination with Hannibal Lecter. The characters here felt too strange, too flawed to really admire.
In addition, the climax felt abrupt and at times elements were introduced that were a little too esoteric. The belief the girls had that Clara was a changeling was never really developed, and at times it was hard to see why certain things were included.
Despite this I would recommend it to people who enjoy more adult or literary retellings, especially if they enjoyed Wicked. For me, it was a satisfying read.
Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister