I will admit to being a big fan of Cinderella in all of its incarnations. All the Ever Afters by Danielle Teller is not Cinderella’s story but rather her stepmother’s. I thank TLC Book Tours for sending me a copy at no charge for my honest review.
About All the Ever Afters:
• Hardcover: 384 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (May 22, 2018)
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.”
You can purchase All the Ever Afters at Harper Collins
About the Author:
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.
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.