All the Ever Afters: The Untold Story of Cinderella’s Stepmother by Danielle Teller is not just a different take on a fairy tale, it’s a book about life lessons. The following is from the book jacket: “Compelling Fiction Often Obscures the Humble Truth…” To that end, it retells the story of Cinderella’s “evil” step-mother Agnes, from her own viewpoint. It gives you insight into the one dimensional character from the classic fairy tale.
Agnes was a girl, born into a poor family, who entered into life as a servant, an assistant laundress to be exact, at the tender age of ten. Treated miserably, in the nature of Cinderella, with years of servitude ahead of her, Agnes somehow finds a small place for herself at Aviceford Manor showing kindness to the owner, Sir Emont-Vis-de Loup. She eventually finds escape from the hard labour of the manor for the relative ease of life as a housemaid for Abbess Elfilda, Emont’s sister-in-law. She falls in love, experiences great success and great loss, somehow ending up as little Elfilda’s (AKA Ella, AKA Cinderella) nursemaid and then lady of the manor. Once she becomes Ella’s stepmother, you will see that things aren’t necessarily the way they seem to appear in fairy tales.
This retelling of an old classic is supposed to be similar to Wicked, but Teller weaves the story in an easier to understand, more humane way. The plot focuses on Agnes’s point of view only, and in the tale, we learn that perception and reality are very different things. We learn through the various twists and turns that befall Agnes that the heroine of a story isn’t always the beautiful princess, but the resilient woman who survives whatever life throws at her.
All the Ever Afters is the perfect escape to days of yore where knights aren’t always the hero and stepmothers aren’t always evil. It’s the divine Reads’ pick for June. What’s on your reading list this summer?