Most of us hear the Cinderella story in childhood: a mean stepmother favors her own daughters and controls her hapless husband, turning the sweet and innocent Cinderella into a scullery maid and refusing to let her attend the royal ball, only to be thwarted by a fairy godmother and Cinderella’s own beauty and charm. Cinderella marries Prince Charming and lives happily ever after, while the stepmother and stepsisters get their just deserts.
But Danielle Teller has a different take on this familiar story. In All the Ever Afters: The Untold Story of Cinderella’s Stepmother (William Morrow, 2018), her heroine, Agnes, starts life as a serf and through a combination of hard work, good luck, and a stubborn refusal to break under adversity works her way up to the position of lady of the manor. There she finds herself dealing with a somewhat difficult girl named Ella, whose life of privilege so far exceeds that of Agnes and her two beloved daughters that the usual difficulties attending the stepmother/stepchild relationship are magnified by mutual incomprehension.
With a delightfully playful approach, Danielle Teller recasts the magical elements of the fairy tale and weaves them into a much richer exploration of social contrasts and constraints of the medieval world, especially as those boundaries affected women. And as becomes clear from the opening page, Prince Charming may not have been such a catch after all….
C. P. Lesley is the author of seven novels, including Legends of the Five Directions(The Golden Lynx, The Winged Horse, The Swan Princess, and The Vermilion Bird), a historical fiction series set in 1530s Russia, during the childhood of Ivan the Terrible. Find out more about her at http://www.cplesley.com.
C. P. Lesley is the author of ten novels, including Legends of the Five Directions, a historical fiction series set during the childhood of Ivan the Terrible. Her latest book, Song of the Sisters, appeared in January 2021.