Saturday, March 13, 2010

Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire *****

In school across California from elementary to college, students study the multi-cultural, international diversity of the Cinderella story. So why would anyone write another? Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire is just that. His Cinderella set in 17th century Holland with Rembrandt, plague, and tulip mania.

While the setting is fascinating, the characters of the three sisters, the wicked step-mothers, and the prince offer a rich and rewarding interpretation of these classic roles. Cinderella is redrawn more innocent and generous and than self-obsessed victim of tradition. The two step-sisters are also re-imagined: one to be a mute freak, and the other, the protagonist, to be alert and talented, and the real victim of the evil step-mother (who is both evil and sympathetic).

This is a coming-of-age story, as the three sisters move from childhood to maturity, and the parents move to old age and death - an engaging novel that leaves the happily-ever-after fairy tale and 17th century Europe behind to tell a story of how different people respond to challenge and circumstance.

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