Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister: A Novel
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Is this new land a place where magics really happen?
From Gregory Maguire, the acclaimed author of Wicked, comes his much-anticipated second novel, a brilliant and provocative retelling of the timeless Cinderella tale.
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....
We all have 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 exquisite looks?
Extreme beauty is an affliction
Set against the rich backdrop of seventeenth-century Holland, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister tells the story of Iris, an unlikely heroine who finds herself swept from the lowly streets of Haarlem to a strange world of wealth, artifice, and ambition. Iris's path quickly becomes intertwined with that of Clara, the mysterious and unnaturally beautiful girl destined to become her sister.
Clara was the prettiest child, but was her life the prettiest tale?
While Clara retreats to the cinders of the family hearth, burning all memories of her past, Iris seeks out the shadowy secrets of her new household--and the treacherous truth of her former life.
God and Satan snarling at each other like dogs.... Imps and fairy godmotbers trying to undo each other's work. How we try to pin the world between opposite extremes!
Far more than a mere fairy-tale, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister is a novel of beauty and betrayal, illusion and understanding, reminding us that deception can be unearthed--and love unveiled--in the most unexpected of places.
admire his own paintings of monsters and miserables! She’ll ask him tomorrow for the key to the other room. She will. She’s always known about imps, and she wants to see one—not in real life (please God, no), but in a painting. That would be safe, and even wonderful. But the tomorrow comes, and just as she is going to do it—she is, she is!—there’s a knock on the door. “Caspar?” says the Master. “Come in!” Nobody enters. “Iris, open the door, Caspar’s arms must be heavy with presents for me,” says
hats. Iris and Ruth bring stools to the doorway and sit there, wondering about Clara, until at last there’s a knock on the door and the first of the burghers arrives. Almost at once a second guest knocks, and his wife behind him, so Caspar is kept busy, and Iris has to help. Henrika pauses at the virginal as if surprised by visitors. She plays the same melody each time until she is stopped by the new arrivals. The Master appears. His new coat with its bit of braid can’t disguise his fretfulness.
jowls and the double chins of everyone with guilders enough to pay you for their likeness.” “Don’t remind me,” says he. “My possible patrons are out there in the reception room right now.” 118 52862_Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister.qxd T H E I M P -R 2/12/2003 I D D L E D 8:39 AM H Page 119 O U S E “There’s no shortage of subjects, Luykas, nor of coin to pay you for painting them.” “There’s no shortage of painters in this part of Holland either.” She lays a pair of poached salmon
outside of town. You want to join them and the other lepers, jump in the cart.” “God save their souls, and yours,” calls Margarethe, and she mutters a few lines of the first psalm that comes to mind, mutters them without conviction or accuracy. “This is what stalks you,” says Margarethe as the girls hurry after her. “This is the devil’s work. There’s nothing to anticipate but the broad scythe of the reaper that will cut you down. Only jump when it passes, and perhaps you may save yourself until
lower, and the temperature dropping still further. “No talking, let’s push on, and cocoa and butter at home to warm us up!” says Iris as gaily as she can. Caspar, damn him, has proven to be right. It’s too far back. Iris even worries that they’ve turned in the wrong direction. But eventually the huddled spires of Haarlem appear, and what’s left of the crowds still cavorting on the ice—mostly children and the poor. Everyone else has had enough. They make the last few steps to the house in a stupor