Thursday, November 15, 2012

Book Review: Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire

I think it's important to begin this review with the fact that apparently I wasn't *as* disappointed in Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister as other Wicked lovers were.

source

I think it's also important for readers to remember that Confessions was written/published *before* Wicked. I'm blaming that for why his writing didn't draw me in the way it did in Wicked, why the story in Confessions seemed less developed (under-developed, really), and why the setting of Confessions - 17th century Holland - was just not vivid enough, did not come to life the way Oz seems to do in Wicked.

The little twist that is revealed at the very end is interesting, but also disjointing considering that it simply doesn't fit with, well, basically the entire rest of the book (from a narration point of view). Basically, if you are expecting anything like Wicked, you will be disappointed. If you read this with a more open mind, you will probably see it for what it is - an average (or perhaps *slightly* above average) novel. 2.5/5 stars



"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."

"Immortality is a chancy thing; it cannot be promised or earned. Perhaps it cannot even be identified for what it is."

"'The true consequence of beauty...is devotion.'"

"...he is framing her in the room too, keeping her in a box, away from him. She might not be beautiful, but he is keeping her small."

"'This is part of my job, don't you see? I have to annoy him enough to keep him involved in the world. Otherwise he would latch the shutters and hide inside his paintings and never emerge. It's a steady trial for him, this habit of black spirits and black bile, and retreating from the world because of it.'
'Does he request this of you?' says Margarethe.
'What he requests and what he needs are often separate things,' says Caspar."

"'You are a mother, you know what love requires on behalf of your family.'
Margarethe says, pompously, 'Obedience and silence.'
Caspar says, 'Charity, and a cudgel about the shoulders from time to time.'"

"'Don't ask me for the truth, for cats lie in the sun, and dogs lie in the shade, and I lie wherever I can get away with it.'"

"'Youth is a liability to be outgrown as quickly as possible.'"

"'Iris is plain to look at. Painfully plain. Don't exaggerate her physical virtues, Caspar; it does no good in the end. She must accept it like the rest of us.'"

"It's the endlessly thinking about yourself that causes such heart shame."

"'There's nothing in her at all but possibility; but that is rare enough.'"

"'And what is the shape of your prison?' says Iris.
Margarethe rubs her nose and says, 'There was always a window. You can endure any sort of prison if you can apprehend a window in the dark. Your father was that window for me. When he died, the window was shut.'"

"Sisters - be they stepsisters, half sisters, or full sisters - sisters must do for each other."

"'Self-mockery is an uglier thing than any human face, Iris. No one can pretend you are a pretty wench, but you are smart and you are kind. Don't betray those impulses in yourself. Don't belabor the lack of physical beauty, which in any case eventually flees those who have it, and makes them sad.'"

"'Approval is overrated...Approval and disapproval alike satisfy those who deliver it more than those who receive it. I don't care for approval, and I don't mind doing without.'"

"'You're critical of everyone,' observes Iris.
'Oh, not everyone,' says Clara in an offhand manner. 'Only everybody who's alive as well as most people who are dead. I feel quite neutral about anybody not yet born.'"

"'I take no responsibility for his cowardice. I take responsibility only for the future, not the past. The past can't hurt you the way the future can.'"

"'She sounds heartless,' says Iris. 'Heartless and monstrous.'
'I like her zeal,' says Margarethe blandly. 'Why shouldn't she arrange the world to suit herself? Wouldn't we all, if we could?'"

"'Only he with the hobbled foot fully knows the beauty of running. Only he with the severed ear can apprehend what the sweetest music must sound like. Our ailments complete us.'"

"'Beauty has no use at all...It has no consequence. It lends nothing to the world.'"

"'She is mad...Small steps to the madhouse still get us there at last.'"

"'...when it comes to a struggle between mother and daughter, my little one, remember...mothers have the advantage of knowing not only how and why they behave, but how and why daughters behave as they do. For mothers were all daughters once, but daughters take their time to learn to be mothers...'"

"'For all your splendor of realizing things in paint and canvas, you are a cold man. You only want to see and to capture, and you pay no attention to making anything better for anyone.'"

"'...stories don't tell you how things will turn, really...Paintings and stories are different. Paintings are steady, unchangeable; stories convulse and twist in their revelations.'"

"What is strange is that we may remember what we have done, but not always why we did it."

"Iris's talent perhaps was not in painting as she always thought...I can't think of a single painting of hers I admire. I only admire that she did them at all." Pin It

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