Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister (Gregory Maguire) 4.5*

I read half of this in a bookstore years ago, then finally circled back last week.  For comparison, I could only stomach one chapter of Wicked.

The story opens in the Netherlands as the stepmother and stepsisters arrive penniless and desperate.  None are beautiful, and the older sister is fat and retarded.  They happen upon a Dutch painter who wishes to paint an ugly girl…

Like the chiseled print block of a fine woodcut, this story is deeply textured and keenly observed.  It’s hooked to the track of the Cinderella story yet has its own moral dimensions.  Maguire sketches his people lean and sharp, while tulip mania makes and breaks fortunes.

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