Jane Montjoy is tired of being a lady. She’s tired of pretending to live up to the standards of her mother’s noble family—especially now that the family’s wealth is gone and their stately mansion has fallen to ruin. It’s hard enough that she must tend to the animals and find a way to feed her mother and her little sister each day. Jane’s burden only gets worse after her mother returns from a trip to town with a new stepfather and stepsister in tow. Despite the family’s struggle to prepare for the long winter ahead, Jane’s stepfather remains determined to give his beautiful but spoiled child her every desire. When her stepfather suddenly dies, leaving nothing but debts and a bereaved daughter behind, it seems to Jane that her family is destined for eternal unhappiness. But a mysterious boy from the woods and an invitation to a royal ball are certain to change her fate….
Sissy: Take the classic tale of Cinderella, turn it on its head, make the step sisters into heroines, philosophically explain the well-known symbols such as the pumpkin/carriage, glass slipper, etc, give the whole thing an intelligent and thoughtful makeover, and you have The Stepsister’s Tale. As I read this intriguing re-telling I kept thinking how well it was transformed into a thought-provoking yet still entertaining essay on society and perceptions of reality. When I read the author Tracy Barret’s bio and found out that she was a long time professor at Vanderbilt it made sense. Smart lady=smart, creative writing.
Bubby: I have to admit that when I started reading The Stepsister’s Tale I had a bit of an epiphany. We are so used to the Disney-fied version of Cinderella, we rarely give any thought to how the step sisters felt about the whole thing. But looking at things from their view, everything changes. As is usual in fairy tales, all the parents in this story are blithering idiots who should have been sterilized at birth. I felt a strong urge to smack them all repeatedly. What kind of man buys his daughter crystal-encrusted slippers and a sunset-colored carriage when his new wife and step-daughters are living in a moldering ruin and slowly starving to death? No wonder Cinderella had so many issues!
Sissy: This is also a searing look at the utter obliviousness and absolute pomposity of the higher classes. The prince is a narcissistic dunderhead who cares nothing for his people, the mother is completely in denial of reality and her pride renders her unable to see the suffering and situation of her daughters. I kept wanting to tell her to get a grip and start working like a real woman! Stepfather was a ridiculous fathead and real father was a hopeless alcoholic who squandered the family fortunes and then abandoned everyone. It’s amazing that Jane and Maude, through trials, hardship, and sheer willpower, manage to transform themselves into hardworking, empowered women. A tale of pampered princesses not so much-this is a story of real life and real love.
Bubby: Sissy, you’ve taken the words right out of my mouth! I guess it’s true that great minds think alike… Tracy Barrett has written a great novel told from a unique viewpoint. 3 3/4 bubbles from me.
Sissy: If you had a Cadbury Fruit and Nut Bar I might take that right out of your mouth too! But you don’t. So I’ll just be hungry while I agree with you about Tracy Barrett, who has another fairy tale retelling, “Fairest,” in the works. The Stepsister’s Tale gets 4 bubbles from me.
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© Bubble Bath Books 2014
We received a copy of this title from Netgalley in return for a fair and honest review.