Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister

Gregory Maguire

Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister is the story of Cinderella, told from the point of view of the Ugly Stepsister, in usual Maguire fashion. Set in 17th century Holland (about the time of the collapse of the tulip market), the story is not so much revisionist as a simple retelling of the classic story, removing somewhat the fantasic elements of fairy tales and making it seem, if not actually true, then plausible.

Unfortunately, Maguire's storytelling is merely adaquate. The ideas presented in the book are good, from murder and betrayal to sisterly love and devotion, but the entire book is rather bland, as if it were a story told a thousand times.

Although I enjoyed Wicked, Maguire's first novel, it, too, suffered from the fault that reduced the novel from adaquate to poor: near the end of the story, everything suddently twists around, as if he had forgotten that he was writing a retelling, a new telling, of a fairy tale, and suddenly has to make it conform to our memories of the story it is based on. Each of the novels of his that I have read, Wicked, Mirror, Mirror, and Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, has felt adaquate until this sudden, jarring, forced inclusion.

My advice, Mr. Maguire, is don't force it. It's a retelling. People have done it for thousands of years. Don't get hung up on the most popular details; make it your own.

My advice to the rest of you: don't read it. Go find a nice collection of Fairy Tales if you want a different version of Cinderella. You'll enjoy it more.
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