Book: Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister

The book: Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire

The edition: Headline Review paperback, 397 pages

The story: a retelling of Cinderella, set in XVII-century, artist-full, tulip-crazed Holland

My experience with the book and my thoughts: I read this as the first fairy-tale retelling in my own plan this year to read about fairy tales and myths, but I was disappointed. This novel is vaguely based on the well-known tale of Cinderella, but it’s much more a study in what is beauty. I was expecting a tale and I got almost a philosophical treaty. Which is to say, the book is good, I enjoyed the way the characters are drawn and detailed, I was less keen on the way they changed abruptly, but it is a valid book. Not what I was looking forward to, though.

In the author’s own words: about beauty

The Gospels are peopled suddenly and forever by the images that artists deliver for you. We did our work, and God reaped he reward in increased prayer. The true consequence of beauty is devotion.

Counts as: my own interest in fairy-tale retellings

Short bookish thoughts

I don’t seem to have luck in my choice of books lately. The last three I read, I didn’t like at all. And because I don’t want to pester you with negative reviews, I’ll just write down a few thoughts here.


The book: L’élégance du hérisson (The Elegance of the Hedgehog), by Muriel Barbery

The edition: French (original) version, paperback edition by Folio, 414 pages

One word: philosophical

My thougts: This book is not inherently bad (actualy, I can even see how it would be good for those who like the genre), but it’s a philosophical novel. As I’ve said before, that’s not my cup of tea. After a couple of pages I got fed up with the philosophical digressions — not that you can call them digressions, actually; they are the novel itself; the story, if there is one, is just a background. I have to admit I skimmed (and skipped :shame on me:) pages. Is modern French fiction always like that? I only happen onto this kind of book when I choose French books lately. Where have the Balzacs and Dumases and Vernes gone? (Any suggestion in modern French authors is welcome.)

Still, it counts as: Global Reading Challenge book #1 – Europe

Read this if: if you like philosophical novels it is a good book (and — be warned — it’s more feminine and intimist than, say, Hesse’s The Glass Bead Game)


The book: Divorzio all’islamica a Viale Marconi (Islamic-style divorce in Viale Marconi), by Amara Lakhous

The edition: Italian (original?) version by E/O, 189 pages

One word: sociological

My thoughts: I decided to read this book for two reasons. One: it is set in a neighborhood of Rome that I somewhat know. Two: I was curious about this Algerian immigrant living in Italy, writing in Italian and describing the Italian society and the impact of immigration on it. This is his second book (the first, Clash of Civilizations Over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio, has already been translated in English; I have yet to read it) and although I was quite disappointed I have a feeling that his first may be better (ever heard of Second Novel Syndrome?). The free-thinking, veil-wearing Islamic woman was a nice touch, but for the rest the story is weak, even dull, and the ending is complete nonsense. I am sure any published author can do better than that.

Still, it counts as: Italy in Books Challenge book #1, and the Travel With Books Project – Rome

Read this if: if you are interested in the immigrant society, but still are in for a light read


The book: Girl with a Pearl Earring, by Tracy Chevalier

The edition: English version, paperback edition by Harper, 249 pages

One word: empty

My thoughts: Can’t see what the fuss was all about. I liked all the art words, but the story itself was quite unbelievable. Why would Griet have to move in with the Vermeers if her parents lived just 10 minutes away? Why would a maid think that she has to hide the errands her master sends her on? Why would a loved wife (and Chevalier makes it clear that Vermeer loves his wife) be jealous of a maid? Even considering that the maid shared with her husband his art work, surely the love of a husband is much more than that? And why would the other maid, or the house children, be jealous of a simple maid? It all made no sense to me.

Still, it counts as: What’s in a Name Challenge – Jewel (I had planned it as an art books for the One Two Theme challenge, but there’s really too little art in it for that)

Read this if: it may appeal to you if you are a strong reader of historical fiction