• 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.”
HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
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.
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.