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All the Ever Afters: The Untold Story of Cinderella's Stepmother

All the Ever Afters: The Untold Story of Cinderella's Stepmother


All the Ever Afters: The Untold Story of Cinderella's Stepmother

evaluări:
4/5 (58 evaluări)
Lungime:
10 hours
Lansat:
May 22, 2018
ISBN:
9780062849076
Format:
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Descriere

In the vein of Wicked, The Woodcutter, and Boy, Snow, Bird, a luminous reimagining of a classic tale, told from the perspective of Agnes, Cinderella's "evil" stepmother.

We all know the story of Cinderella. Or do we?

As rumors about the cruel upbringing of beautiful newlywed Princess Cinderella roil the kingdom, her stepmother, Agnes, who knows all too well about hardship, privately records the true story. . . .

A peasant born into serfdom, Agnes is separated from her family and forced into servitude as a laundress's apprentice when she is only ten years old. Using her wits and ingenuity, she escapes her tyrannical matron and makes her way toward a hopeful future. When teenaged Agnes is seduced by an older man and becomes pregnant, she is transformed by love for her child. Once again left penniless, Agnes has no choice but to return to servitude at the manor she thought she had left behind. Her new position is nursemaid to Ella, an otherworldly infant. She struggles to love the child who in time becomes her stepdaughter and, eventually, the celebrated princess who embodies everyone's unattainable fantasies. The story of their relationship reveals that nothing is what it seems, that beauty is not always desirable, and that love can take on many guises.

Lyrically told, emotionally evocative, and brilliantly perceptive, All the Ever Afters explores the hidden complexities that lie beneath classic tales of good and evil, all the while showing us that how we confront adversity reveals a more profound, and ultimately more important, truth than the ideal of "happily ever after."

Lansat:
May 22, 2018
ISBN:
9780062849076
Format:
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Despre autor

Danielle Teller received her medical training at McGill University, Brown University, and Yale University. She has held faculty positions at the University of Pittsburgh and Harvard University. In 2013, Danielle pursued her childhood dream of being a writer. She is the author of one book of nonfiction, Sacred Cows: The Truth About Divorce and Marriage, and has written numerous columns for Quartz. She lives with her husband, Astro Teller, and their four children in Palo Alto, California. All the Ever Afters is her first novel.

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  • (5/5)
    I really enjoyed this book! I thought the story was interesting and could not close the book! This is a great light reading if anyone is interested. Any re-telling stories are always fun to read.
  • (5/5)
    I received this ARC from William Morrow on LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of this book in any way.

    "Being strong does not disqualify you from being beautiful."
    Wow this book is amazing!

    The Writing

    For a debut, this is absolutely astounding! This is one of the most well written books I have ever read! As an example, here's a bunch of quotes I particularly loved:

    "Compelling fiction often obscures the humble truth."
    I wonder sometimes if the thoughts that flock my nightmares are abandoned memories coming home to roost.
    I no longer believe that people are born without virtue. It gets beaten out. Misfortune threshes our souls as a flail threshes wheat, and the lightest parts of ourselves are scattered to the wind.
    I was a mouse trapped in a corner, looking for a crack to flee through but dispairing of finding one.
    "Imagine what ideas are locked up in the hearts and minds of women who simply lack the tools to express them."
    I was a candle that had never known a flame, and now that the flame was lit, I softened and glowed in a way I had not known was possible.
    Our fascination with feminine beauty is elemental. It is said that men wish to possess the princess and women wish to be the princess, but I believe that is only part of the truth. We are drawn to extraordinary beauty mindlessly and purposelessly; we flutter on dusty moth wings toward the effulgence with no understanding of why we do it. Perhaps when we see a woman with the aspect of an angel, our souls are tricked into following her, mistaking her for a guide to paradise.
    The opposite, of course, is also true.
    The stories we tell ourselves have great power.
    Because misfortune does not wait idly by until we are prepared for it.
    "Rich only matters if he marries you," I said grimly. "Handsome matters not at all."
    "You speak of love? Love is a sickness that causes men and women to do stupid things, the sorts of things that leave them sad and broken when the fever passes."
    Whew, that's a long list. Well, that's because THIS BOOK IS AMAZING and everyone needs to read it. All the characters were so real and multi-dimensional. The world (though a bit difficult to place the time period at first) was really great, and I loved how religion was mixed in without being preachy.

    My only gripe was the fact that it's a Cinderella retelling, and only because I feel like that dragged down the potential of the story. It became predictable (because who doesn't know Cinderella's story?) and I found myself tiring of those parts of the story. The prologue, for instance, was not really necessary and only served to give reason for the journal entries scattered about. Which opening line would you rather have? This:

    Suppers at the royal court have become entirely too oppressive.
    Or this:

    I hardly remember my own mother.
    I think you'll all agree with me that the latter is far superior and engaging.

    I absolutely loved the theme of motherhood in this. It was so well done and, though I am not a mother, I'm an aunt and my love and adoration for my nephew pales in comparison to Agnes' love for her daughters. And the themes of beauty and love were equally well done.

    The Characters

    Agnes: She was such an interesting and relatable protagonist. She's so complex and flawed, and she grows so much while staying fundamentally the same.

    Fernan: I really found him to be a complex person, especially as Agnes realizes and learns more about him. I was so conflicted as to whether I loved him or hated him, but I never felt indifferent towards him.

    Charlotte and Matilda: As someone who has a ton of sisters, they totally got the sister-dynamic down. They also really reminded me (even in appearance, strangely enough--Danielle Teller, have you been watching me??) of my oldest sisters, so reading about them was a huge, super sweet, cavity enducing treat.

    Ella: She was really interesting too, and really humanized.

    Emont: Man, I feel somewhat similar him as I do Fernan, but honestly, I pity him more anything. He's a pretty pitiful person.

    Lady Alba: She gave me some serious Jane Eyre vibes. This whole book gave me Jane Eyre vibes, man.

    Conclusion

    I love this book so much. It might have even topped 1984 for my favorite book this month and possibly all time. It is amazingly well written, and I went through the whole gamut of emotions reading this. I shed some tears, I laughed and chuckled and giggled like a fool. I love this book and everyone really needs to read it.

    Danielle Teller, I applaud you on your fabulous debut. You done good.
  • (4/5)
    I’ve never been able to say no to a good fairy tale retelling. They are my absolute weakness, and I’ve been especially tempted as of late by the recent crop of novels touting the point-of-view of the “villain”. It ultimately led me to pick up All the Ever Afters, which boldly bears the tagline describing itself as the untold story of Cinderella’s stepmother, the notoriously cruel and wicked antagonist from the classic fairy tale we all know and love.However, the author Danielle Teller’s approach to this novel is one that I’ve seldom seen in most fairy tale retellings I’ve read, in that she has completely eschewed all aspects of fantasy and magic, choosing instead to ground her story in history. Opening on the French countryside sometime during the mid-fourteenth or early fifteenth century, the tale introduces readers to Agnes, a young girl born into poverty. Her family could not afford to raise her, so she was sent at the tender age of ten to a nearby lord’s manor to become a laundress’s assistant. Worked to the bone and unfairly treated, Agnes had no choice but to use all her wits and wiles to finagle a better position for herself, eventually managing to escape the manor for a less punishing job at the local abbey.All goes well for several years until Agnes is seduced by the Abbess’s ward and messenger, and their relationship results in a pregnancy. Ejected from the abbey, our protagonist is set up in a village where she becomes the proprietor of a brewery and alehouse, mostly raising her daughters on her own. But soon, tragedy strikes, and Agnes is forced into a situation where she must work her way up from nothing once more. A twist of fate lands her back in the manor where she worked as a child, but the lord is now married with an infant daughter. And thus, Agnes finds herself hired on to be a nursemaid to little Ella, the awkward but radiantly beautiful girl who will one day marry the handsome prince she meets at a fateful ball.Now Agnes and her two daughters live at the palace, where she tells her tale in the hopes of showing how accounts of her wickedness have either been greatly exaggerated or are outright lies. In fact, she was a victim of forced labor herself, and All the Ever Afters is her own rags to riches story. It is a heart-wrenching novel about growing up with nothing to your name, of having to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps to make your own success. While there have been times where she had to use her cunning or resort to deception to get what she wants, Agnes is no villain. And if on occasion she was tough on Ella or punished her too harshly as a child, we learn that it is only because Agnes has been independent and hardworking her whole life, and as a result, she cannot bear idleness or watching her stepdaughter grow up helpless and spoiled.In a way, All the Ever Afters is also the untold story of Cinderella’s stepsisters, called Charlotte and Matilda in this version of the retelling. Like their mother, they aren’t the awful people from the many popular versions of Cinderella either, and they’ve gone through their own share of hard times. Now that I’ve read Teller’s portrayal, I also doubt that I’ll ever think about the “ugly stepsisters” epithet the same way again, not after reading about a mother’s hurt and pain from Agnes’s perspective.As I said before, this is also a purely non-magical story; there will be no fairy godmothers, pumpkin carriages, or singing animals here (though, I was amused to see, the author had managed to work in a tongue-in-cheek jibe at the popular depiction of Cinderella and her affinity for mice, except in this book, Ella’s friendship with her rat Henrietta is nowhere near as adorable…or hygienic). A lot of fairy tale retellings tend to give the mundane things of the world a fantastical twist, but it seems All the Ever Afters set out to do almost the exact opposite, downplaying the magical elements and addressing all that we know about the Cinderella story with realistic explanations.I also found it interesting how the novel mirrored many of the original fairy tale’s lessons—that is, to always work hard and never let setbacks or difficult people get you down. However, while the classic version also taught that beauty is esteemed, but that having a good heart is the most important, things are not so idealized in Agnes’s more realistic world. Her stepdaughter Ella—who is naïve, spoiled, and rather soft and vapid—manages to snag a prince and is loved by all in the kingdom for no other reason because she is beautiful. Meanwhile, Charlotte and Matilda, who have endured so much more, will never have anywhere close to the same opportunities simply because they are homely. Agnes’s lesson for her daughters? Life is not fair, but you still do what you must to keep moving forward.All in all, I enjoyed All the Ever Afters very much. With Cinderella only playing a bit part, this tale truly belongs to her stepmother, who has been given new life by Danielle Teller. In this heartfelt novel, there are no magical spells or fairy godmothers, for Agnes is a woman who relies on nothing but herself to change her life and make a better future for her children. If you prefer fantasy in your fairy tale retellings, you may wish to reconsider this one, but if you don’t mind a narrative that’s more rooted in realism, then I really can’t recommend this highly enough.
  • (3/5)
    Great take on the Cinderella story, but I was hoping for a little more fun or fantasy.
  • (3/5)
    Review based on ARC (Advanced Review Copy received for free in exchange for an honest review).Yes, of course, the cover is gorgeous. ;) But the story feel a little flat for me. Briefly, it is a story of Cinderella's "wicked" step-mother from her own perspective. This sort of the-villain-is-only-misunderstood theme is rather popular right now, but I appreciated that Teller's take was less explanation for bad actions and more of a, hey, maybe you heard it wrong...The good:It was a quick read. It did not drag, and I definitely wanted to know how it all played out. I liked some of the characters, and I thought that Teller did a good job of rounding out some of the more minor characters.The not-so-good:Nonetheless, I felt that a lot of the characters were rather 2-dimensional. There didn't seem to be much growth, and I was frankly a little surprised at the outcomes/lack of outcomes for certain threads. Also, I was expecting something of a fairy tale type of style, and this reads more like historical fiction. It's dark, but not in the fantasy way; rather, in the "bad things happen to good people" way. Also, there wasn't really any magical or mystical element to it. Thus -- it reads more like historical fiction (but in a sort of memoir format). But it was an interesting take and, as I said, read quickly. I liked the little explanations provided for the various aspects of the "fairy tale" that we know and love and thought that, for what it was, Teller did a nice job. Her writing is fine and her language is not laborious or stilted. It was a novel that flowed. But it was definitely more "drama" than fantasy.Overall, THREE of five stars. If you are intrigued by a sort of "real-life" telling of Cinderella's step-mother's life and how she came to be the "wicked step-mother," then this is the book for you. You will enjoy it! If you are looking for a retelling in more of a fantasy vein, I think you may prefer looking elsewhere.
  • (3/5)
    I am always excited to delve into a new retelling. It's interesting to see what spin an author will put on it. All the Ever Afters is a retelling of Cinderella, specifically about Cinderella's step-mom. While it definitely had some high points, most of the time I unfortunately felt bored.
  • (5/5)
    I'm not a particular fan of fairy tales, but I do enjoy a good retelling or re-imagining of a classic story, so Danielle Teller's All The Ever Afters caught my attention.Told from the point of view of Agnes, Cinderella's stepmother, we get a different take on Cinderella. Agnes' mother died in childbirth, when she was just a small child. Her father was very poor and couldn't care for three children, so Agnes was sent off to work at the Aviceford Manor house at the age of ten.She ended up as an assistant in the laundry, where the young child did most of the actual work, while the laundress verbally and physically abused her. It was a brutal life for a child, sleeping on the pantry floor, working sunup to sundown.One day, she was called to assist Emont, the Lord of the Manor. He was lying passed-out drunk, and Agnes helped clean him up.Soon Agnes grew up, met a sweet-talking man and fell in love. She became pregnant, and they married, only for Agnes to discover that he was not the man she thought he was.Agnes was a clever, hardworking woman, and she found her way to becoming a brewer, making ale and selling it at a small tavern. She was quite successful, raising her two daughters Charlotte and Matilda, until circumstances arose that took her livelihood away. (Let's just say that times were not kind to women.)When Agnes ends up working back at the Manor, the lady of the manor had just given birth to a baby girl, Elfilda, called Ella. Agnes cared for Ella, nursing her, carrying her around while she worked. Lord Emont recognized Agnes as the young child who helped him years ago, and they form a friendship.Soon Agnes' good business sense helps Lord Emont in running the manor, and eventually the two become close and marry. Ella is not happy about the situation, and neither are Charlotte or Matilda. Ella is a quiet child, standoffish. She doesn't like to ride horses, like her mother did. She loves beautiful gowns and is frequently off in her own world.Interspersed in the story are journal entries from the Royal Court, where Ella is now married to Prince Henry. Ella has three young children, and Agnes, Charlotte and Matilda are not quite insiders, yet not outsiders either.We learn from Agnes a different side to Ella and Henry's love story- meeting at the ball, dropping her shoe, the search of the kingdom for Ella using the shoe- it's all here, albeit with a unique viewpoint and spin.All The Ever Afters is a wonderful story, especially for people who love Broadway's Wicked and TV's Once Upon A Time. It's got a feminist twist to the story, with Agnes using her brains and compassion to make her way in a world that is not kind to women who are not conventionally beautiful or rich. She fiercely loves her daughters, and would do anything to protect them. I recommend it.
  • (5/5)
    Oh my gosh, you guys! All the Ever Afters is fantastic! I will never look at Cinderella's "evil" stepmother or her "ugly" stepsisters in the same way again. I found this to be a perfectly believable re-telling of what really happened to all the people in the Cinderella fairytale especially knowing how people can twist any story into an unrecognizable mess. Also nice, no one is made out to be a true villain, except in a really human way, so it won't ruin Cinderella for all of the fans. This book is out now, so please go read it so we can discuss!
  • (3/5)
    Re-imagining fairy/folk tales--particularly from the antagonist's POV--is a popular trope, so I looked forward to this read. It has several things going for it: sympathetic characters in a realistic setting (no magic or fairies), and a well-known plot. We follow Agnes, the titular character, from the time she came to a run-down manner house to work as a 10-year-old laundry girl, to ladies maid, to alewife and mother, wet-nurse to the baby Ella, and finally ascending to Lady of the Manor and step-mother. Along the way, she uses her wits and hard work to survive oppression and loss, trying to make a good life for her daughters and step-daughter.The author did a lovely job of showing how difficult life could be for a lower-class girl/woman alone in the world subject to the whims of her superiors and upper-class masters. She also makes the point that even Ella as a noble-born girl has few choices in life. Agnes is spunky and smart. She always seems to come out of each situation a little better than when she went in, picking up education and skills along the way so the transition from laundry girl to Lady of the Manor works. She makes a success of everything she undertakes, but those successes are overturned time and again by fate and the neglect of her superiors. Her resilience keeps her going.Given such a compelling character, I was a little disappointed in the actual story and story-telling. The novel is told in first person from Agnes' POV as an older woman recalling her life. The conceit is that she is aware of the "lies and tales" told about her in the general population as a result of her step-daughter's romantic marriage to a prince of the realm and she takes care to correct the record. There is enough self-reflection and ownership of mistakes, that the reader can believe Agnes is a reliable narrator. However, the narrator is older and we get little passion from her. Even when she suffers terrible loss, we're told she sobs from grief, but don't feel it. The entire tone of the book is "quiet" and emotionally muted. What elevated this book from an OK read, were the historical details and insight in women's lives in the past. In addition, the personality quirks of Ella and her mother Alba showed how children/people with neurological disorders like bi-polar disease or high-functioning autism might be treated in the past--if they were rich and born to noble families. In the end, I liked the book, but didn't love it compared to others of this type I've read.Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through an early reader program in exchange for an honest review.
  • (4/5)
    I'm quite enjoying this creative take on the Cinderella story and I would recommend it to anyone who's looking for an alternate spin; perhaps someone who might be a fan of Wicked or the Lunar Chronicles with its retellings.
  • (5/5)
    Agnes is the third daughter born to a serf in an English village. When she is still a child she is sent to work at Aviceford Manor in town as a laundry apprentice. The laundress she works for simply gives Agnes all the work there is to do. While things seem hopeless Agnes cuts out a place for herself and chooses to work wisely instead of hard. Through her intelligence and cunning, Agnes finds her way up in the world to serve the abbesses mother, Lady Wenslock at Ellis Abbey. While at the abbey, Agnes is wooed by the messenger, Fernan and becomes pregnant. Together, they are sent away and Fernan is ordered to care for her. Agnes once again creates a better life for herself by learning how to brew. Due to unforeseen circumstances, Agnes is once again forced back to Aviceford Manor as a servent, this time she is an adult with children of her own and she is able to be a nurse to the master's daughter, Elfida or Ella as everyone calls her. Still endeared to Sir Emont, Agnes soon finds herself as Ella's stepmother. Ella proves a wistful child, lost in her own mind and intentions and is given anything she wants by her father. Agnes tries her best to temper Ella with hard work and life lessons like her own daughters, but Ella's beauty and station in life eventually get her everything she wished for. Set within history and the confies of women's roles, duties and expectations at the time, the story of Cinderella's step-mother unfolds. I have always enjoyed fairy tale retellings especially when they are rooted in reality. Agnes' story reveals how traditional beauty is favored, how your station and gender affect opportunity and choice and most of all how stories evolve. With lavish writing and elegant prose, I was pulled me in to Agnes' world. I was constantly impressed with Agnes' ability to pull herself up and carve out a place for herself in a world where she could have easily been forgotten. In this harsh time in history, we are pulled out of the fairy tale element by the realities of Agnes' life. Most of all, by her want of freedom and never seeming to quite achieve it. Cinderella's 'ugly' step- sisters were also given context. Charlotte and Matilda were enchanting in their own right and I would love to see where their life went as well. By seeing Agnes' background, it provides a stark contrast to Cinderella in every way as well as a basis for the injustices that Cinderella had endured. Through seeing the other side of the story, we go deeper than good vs. evil and the tale of happily ever after; perhaps, Cinderella isn't the only one to receive her ever after. A meaningful story that combines history, fairy tale and strong female leads, All the Ever Afters is one of my favorite reads so far this year. This book was received for free in return for an honest review.
  • (5/5)
    Wow...I guess there really are two sides to a story. This retelling of Cinderella told from the step-mother's side was really interesting and speaks to how hard life has been for women.No fairy tale here. Agnes (who eventually became Cinderella's step-mother)was born to a family of peasants, working serfs to the manor. At the age of 10 Agnes is sent off to the manor to a life of servitude as the apprentice to a tyrannical laundress. Horrible life to be a lowly servant but Agnes is smart.She suffers for years in this position until she makes a break for what she hopes is a better position working for the Abbess Elfilda, yes that would be the future godmother of Princess Elfilda(known to us as Cinderella). Life at the Ellis Abbey is a better life for Agnes but not perfect. Agnes is a peasant,a commoner always being put in her place. But she learns to read and picks up the habits and manners of her "betters". Again Agnes learns another hard lesson in life when she becomes pregnant. Forced to leave the Abbey and having to once again reinvent herself. So read the book and you'll never look at the story of Cinderella and her "wicked step-mother and wicked step-sisters" in the same way again. I actually like Agnes' story better. This was a really great retelling.
  • (5/5)
    It wasn't until a little over 100 pages in to the book that it really started to grab my attention. Even though it has a slow start it's a very interesting story. Some of the descriptions of things where a little long winded but other than that very nicely written. The author was sure to cover all the main points of the Cinderella story from Agnes' point of view, along with whole story of Agnes. While Agnes does make mistakes it shows that she was in no way evil. She did her best with what she was given and did the best for her daughters, even Cinderella. I recommend to anyone who loves retelling and fairytales! I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.
  • (4/5)
    OMG. Calling all fans of fairy tales; you have to pick up a copy of All the Ever Afters. You don't want to have any regrets being the only one not talking about this book. I really loved author, Danielle Teller's imaginative take on Cinderella's step mother, Agnes. This book is refreshing as it does not focus on the main character, Cinderella but an understated character...her stepmother. I really felt for Agnes. If you go into this story with any thoughts that Agnes is the "evil" stepmother, you will soon find yourself wanting to protect Agnes. Agnes was so warm and inviting of a character. I just couldn't stop reading. I got "lost" in this book (in a good way). I was saddened with I came to the end as I didn't want the story to end. All the Ever Afters will surely be one of the biggest hits of 2018!
  • (3/5)
    I received this as part of the LT early reviewer program. while this is spun as the story of cinderlla's step-mother, I really feel it was much more a period piece that only vaguely touched on the classic tale. I found the story of Agnes and her rise from a starving peasant to a lady in charge of a large manor nicely written, even if it drags a little in the telling. the first half of the story focuses solely on Agnes's early life and struggles and the later on her relationship with Ella and her father, touching on many of the key cinderlla moments. I found it interesting that the author gave Cinderella characteristics suggestive of autism and her knowledge of medicine made many details much more believable. I would not suggest this for anyone looking for a fairytale but would recommend it to those who enjoy realistic period pieces.
  • (5/5)
    The seemingly historical fiction novel I never knew that I needed or wanted in my life. This book tells the pitiful story of Agnes, the PROTAGONIST. This story actually makes you believe that you are reading a real person’s diary. I think I might always hold a small grudge against Cinderella from now...
  • (5/5)
    the narrator was awesome. the story intriguing and mesmerizing. I will be recommendingtgis book to everyone I know!
  • (5/5)
    Very engaging. Hits home two sides to every story.
  • (5/5)
    I thoroughly enjoy a good Fairy Tale back story. Some are built on fantasy and others like this one are more based in reality – well the reality of historical fiction. This is not Cinderella’s story although she obviously looms large in the background for their would be no “evil stepmother” or “ugly stepsisters” without the beautiful princess would there?All the Ever Afters belongs to Agnes, Cinderella’s stepmother. In fact, it is written in memoir form. Agnes starts from her life at court now that her stepdaughter is married to the Prince of the land but she is hearing the most disturbing rumors about her daughters and more hurtfully about herself. She doesn’t understand where the stories are originating because the Princess is really a simple girl with no guile. She decides to counter them by writing her story so that her truth will be known.Agnes did not have an easy life. She was basically sent away from her home at 10 after her mother dies in childbirth as her father could not afford to feed her. She was sent to the manor to find work in the laundry. There she was abused and mistreated but her quick wit and inherent intelligence helps her adapt to the job. She eventually gains the notice of the Lord and he looks kindly upon her. She takes advantage of this to escape to an opportunity at the Abbey which leads to a disgrace that is ultimately her making.After a hard life, well lived that produced two daughters Agnes finds herself back at the manor seeking a job. Life as a servant is not easy and life as a woman is nothing more than being tossed from one man to another because women have no control of their own selves. As she shows her worth at the manor she comes full circle and finds herself as its lady – but it’s not a situation that came to her in an easy way and there was much resistance.I will admit that I wasn’t expecting such a plain telling when I accepted All the Ever Afters for review. I was anticipating something more fantasy based. But as I started the book I realized that this was the perfect way to tell this story. I found myself completely lost in Agnes’s life and I felt so badly for this young girl ripped from everything she knew and sent to find her way in the world.There is also much to be read between the lines in the tale about how we treat those that are different from us. Divisions due to class, skin color, physical attractiveness and more are all presented rather bluntly as people in these simpler times assumed that rich people were better, pretty people were smarter and darker skinned people were from the devil. Oh, wait – is that then or now? There is much to think about concerning how we treat each other and what we assume from appearance alone.This was a book that captivated me from the first page – oh heck, it had me at that beautiful cover – and it still hasn’t let go. Is it a perfect book – no, but it’s a damn good one.
  • (4/5)
    This updated adult version of the Cinderella story is told by Agnes, the stepmother. It is really her story, beginning when she is a child and ending when she is fifty. Her stepdaughter Ella, the most beautiful woman in the realm, is a princess by this time and the mother of three. One of Agnes' sorrows is that her own daughters are unmarriageable due to the pox scars that mar their faces and although they love Ella's children, will ever know the joys of motherhood. Agnes keeps no secrets and admits to errors she made as a mother and stepmother, including being hard on Ella. Their lives were so different with Agnes knowing hunger, hard work and depravation while Ella was spoiled and cherished from the day she was born. Despite their differences they remain a family and Ella, now in a position to provide comfort and security to her stepmother and sisters, happily does.
  • (5/5)
    This weeks read was provided to me for free in exchange for an honest review.Fairy-tale retelling alert! We all know how much I dig this genre, and this one was no disappointment. All the Ever Afters is a re-imagined tale of the classic Cinderella whose main focus is Agnes, or as you may know her from the more well known version, the evil stepmother. Agnes is a young child when she is forced from her home into servitude as a laundresses apprentice after her mother dies and her father realizes he has too many mouths to feed. Young Agnes' life is hard, but through hard work, determination, and wit, she slowly works her way up the social ladder. Over the next two decades she learns to read and write, bears children, learns to brew ale and runs her own alehouse, and eventually becomes nursemaid to a young child, affectionately named Ella. When circumstance leads her to marry Ella's father (a nobleman), Agnes struggles to love this breathtaking (if daydreamy) beauty. Agnes beginnings as a servant make it nearly impossible to coddle the young child as everyone else seems to do, but nevertheless she raises her to the best of her ability. Ella and Agnes' relationship is strained at times, but weathers the storm of parental loss and teenage growing pains to transform into something whole and meaningful.I can't tell you guys how much I adored this book, not only was the story line perfect, but the writing was lyrical and captivating and art in and of itself. Part of the reason I really enjoy these types of retelling's is that the reader is privy to a deeper dive into characters lives that are otherwise left very one dimensional in the traditional versions. These secondary characters are made whole, given life experiences and the reader gains insight into the reasoning behind decisions they made and the grim realities they have faced. Agnes was a superbly well written character. Her ingenuity and adaptability really highlighted how much of a survivor she was; in a time period where women were not afford options and possibilities, she really had to work within her circumstances to better her life. Using her wit and perseverance, Agnes was able to take the hard hands dealt to her and not only survive, but thrive. No matter how many times she was knocked down, she got back up, and got back up stronger. Seeing her relationship with Ella through this new lens really gave perspective into a different sort of reality. Not everything is so black and white, good and evil. Sometimes we are just different people, with different upbringings, and different world views struggling with relationships because we really just can't see where the fault lies (likely with us as much as with them). It shows just how much the baggage and our past can really impact our relationships if we let it, and that ultimately in the end, it can be overcame, if only we try.I thought Ella was a really unique interpretation of Cinderella. She came off as not just an entitled aristocrat but someone who also perhaps was on the autism spectrum. Her fixation on dresses and linens, self soothing with organizing and repetition, difficulty relating to and forming relationships with others, and her constant desire to be in solitude/her own world. It was a really interesting take on the classic heroine and refreshing to read a different sort of character. Overall, highly recommend this one. It was an enchanting read that kept me enthralled from page one!
  • (5/5)
    I thoroughly enjoy a good Fairy Tale back story. Some are built on fantasy and others like this one are more based in reality – well the reality of historical fiction. This is not Cinderella’s story although she obviously looms large in the background for their would be no “evil stepmother” or “ugly stepsisters” without the beautiful princess would there?All the Ever Afters belongs to Agnes, Cinderella’s stepmother. In fact, it is written in memoir form. Agnes starts from her life at court now that her stepdaughter is married to the Prince of the land but she is hearing the most disturbing rumors about her daughters and more hurtfully about herself. She doesn’t understand where the stories are originating because the Princess is really a simple girl with no guile. She decides to counter them by writing her story so that her truth will be known.Agnes did not have an easy life. She was basically sent away from her home at 10 after her mother dies in childbirth as her father could not afford to feed her. She was sent to the manor to find work in the laundry. There she was abused and mistreated but her quick wit and inherent intelligence helps her adapt to the job. She eventually gains the notice of the Lord and he looks kindly upon her. She takes advantage of this to escape to an opportunity at the Abbey which leads to a disgrace that is ultimately her making.After a hard life, well lived that produced two daughters Agnes finds herself back at the manor seeking a job. Life as a servant is not easy and life as a woman is nothing more than being tossed from one man to another because women have no control of their own selves. As she shows her worth at the manor she comes full circle and finds herself as its lady – but it’s not a situation that came to her in an easy way and there was much resistance.I will admit that I wasn’t expecting such a plain telling when I accepted All the Ever Afters for review. I was anticipating something more fantasy based. But as I started the book I realized that this was the perfect way to tell this story. I found myself completely lost in Agnes’s life and I felt so badly for this young girl ripped from everything she knew and sent to find her way in the world.There is also much to be read between the lines in the tale about how we treat those that are different from us. Divisions due to class, skin color, physical attractiveness and more are all presented rather bluntly as people in these simpler times assumed that rich people were better, pretty people were smarter and darker skinned people were from the devil. Oh, wait – is that then or now? There is much to think about concerning how we treat each other and what we assume from appearance alone.This was a book that captivated me from the first page – oh heck, it had me at that beautiful cover – and it still hasn’t let go. Is it a perfect book – no, but it’s a damn good one.
  • (5/5)
    I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.I have recently enjoyed the influx of fairy-tale retellings and the tales that are told from a different point of view. I loved the movie that came out a few years ago, Maleficient, and of course one of my all time favorites in this vein was the musical, Wicked. From these stories we learn that evil is not born but made, and truthfully is decided by the story-teller. Tales are exaggerated and told to paint the story teller in a sympathetic tone so that the reader will empathize with their plight. Agnes as a character was much easier to empathize with than I expected, especially considering how well the Cinderella story was ingrained in my mind prior to reading this book. Agnes as a character though was so strong-willed and determined to find a better life both for herself and for her daughters that it was easy to root for her success. And while many things in her life could be defined as "unfair," her logical approach never let that fact weigh her down and instead she persevered in spite of the unfairness of her circumstances. At first I found the narration to be a tad overly wordy but after a little bit of adjustment it was easy to read, and the words painted such a vivid portrait that infused the text with emotions and feeling. I enjoyed this book immensely and I love that by reading it the reader is made to re-think the truths of good and evil. This was truly an enjoyable novel and I would definitely recommend it, especially for fans of the Cinderella story. 
  • (5/5)
    I won an advanced readers edition from LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers group.What a great retelling of a classic fairy tale! I couldn’t think of a way to make the evil stepmother sympathetic, but the author manages to do so. This a full world, anchored in history and populated with flawed but relatable characters. I recommend!!