Book Review: Confessions of An Ugly Stepsister

Book Review: Confessions of An Ugly Stepsister

A Story by Naomi Bloom

Book Review of "Confessions of An Ugly Stepsister" by Gregory Maguire.


Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister is personally one of my favourite novels and it is written by one of my favourite authors.  Gregory Maguire, the creator of Wicked, specializes in twisted fairytale novels and Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister is no exception.  

This novel takes the fairytale Cinderella and turns it on it’s head with Iris, an ugly stepsister, as the new heroine and Cinderella, now Clara, shown in a completely different light.  Iris and her ugly, mute sister Ruth travel from England to Holland to become the ugly stepsisters to Clara, Margarethe being the ugly stepmother.  Before moving in with Clara, the family is taken in by a reclusive, eccentric artist.  Later, Iris becomes his model and apprentice and falls in love with Caspar, the other apprentice to the artist.

I will never look at the story of Cinderella the same way again.  I am glad Gregory Maguire challenged this classic fairy tale.  The original telling of this story teaches children that beauty is as important as hard work.  Although in the original, Cinderella did work hard doing chores, her beauty is ultimately what caught the prince’s eye and why she ended up having a better life (living with the prince) in the end.  How unfair is it to say that the most beautiful person is by default the heroine and that her beauty is what will save her from her unfortunate situation?  What if you aren’t beautiful?  How will you get out of a bad situation like Cinderella’s then, as a woman?  You won’t.  And Maguire shows us the sad and poverty-stricken lives that the “evil” stepmother and stepsisters must live because of this prejudice.

I liked the way Maguire examined the theme of the portrait and the capturing of life on canvas with the portrait of Iris and how Iris loathed the painting.

The epilogue was fascinating as Ruth, the mute, finally had a voice and we were able to get a sense of her personality.  I should not tell you who dies, as that would be spoiling the plot, but there were several deaths, which was rather depressing.

My favourite characters were Iris and Caspar.  Iris is so imaginative and interesting and Caspar is so kind and intelligent.

In conclusion, I really enjoyed reading this novel and I was completely absorbed in it’s story.  I actually didn’t want the book to end, and I was sad that it did.  I felt myself wishing there would be a sequel.

Furthermore, if you like shrewd retellings of fairytales, like Wicked or Shrek, you will probably enjoy this beautiful story.  There is some swearing, violence and sexuality so I would only recommend this to older teenagers and adults.

Rating: 4.95/5

© 2012 Naomi Bloom

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Added on December 30, 2012
Last Updated on December 30, 2012
Tags: book review, writing, criticism, confessions of an ugly stepsiste, praise, gregory maguire, essay, literature, fantasy, fairytales, cinderella, stepsisters, folklore, iris, caspar, art, painting


Naomi Bloom
Naomi Bloom

Ontario, Canada

An amateur writer of poems, short stories and other types of writing. I recently graduated from university and I am trying to figure out what to do with my life. Victorian England, name meanings, be.. more..

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