All the Ever Afters: The Untold Story of Cinderella’s Stepmother

all-the-ever-afters-danielle-teller

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.”

Author: Danielle Teller

Amazon | Goodreads | Barnes & Noble

Rating: 3/5

“Our fascination with feminine beauty is elemental. It is said that men wish to possess the princess and women wish to be the princess, but I believe that is only part of the truth. We are drawn to extraordinary beauty mindlessly and purposelessly; we flutter on dusty moth wings toward the effulgence with no understanding of why we do it. Perhaps when we see a woman with the aspect of an angel, our souls are tricked into following her, mistaking her for a guide to paradise.

The opposite, of course, is also true.”

This book was good, although it didn’t blow me away. I love retellings and stories told by strong female characters, and this was both. I think perhaps if I were a mother, it would have resonated more with me. Nevertheless, it was an entertaining read and I encourage you to give it a shot.

All The Ever Afters is the story of Cinderella’s stepmother, Agnes, including her account of the fairy tale as we know it. It begins when she is sent, at age 10, to serve as the laundry girl at the manor house (in feudal times) because her family is too poor to keep her around. There she endures years of abuse as a servant before scheming her way to a slightly better position at the abbey. From there, we follow her life as she has her two daughters, earns her own living, is put back into servitude, woos the lord of the manor, and becomes its lady and Cinderella’s stepmother.

Cinderella is a strange child, and Agnes is wounded by her past but still resourceful and desperate to provide for her daughters at all costs. We get a very interesting look at the truth about Cinderella’s childhood, including her mice friends, her laundry “duty,” her bedroom in the attic, her inability to attend the ball, and her godmother’s assistance. I have to hand Teller a lot of credit for her imagination in tying together all the elements of a story we know so well and making it not only believable but also relatable.

“When my daughters left my body at birth, their roots remained behind, entwined in the flesh of my heart, wrapping tighter and deeper as they grew tall and strong in the light of the world. The blood in my veins sang their names with each heartbeat, and I did not know how to survive being torn from them.”

I really liked Agnes and her daughters, I hated the characters you’re supposed to hate, and I was really intrigued by Cinderella. I found that a few parts of the story moved a little slowly and some of the characters were a little flat, but overall I enjoyed it and think you might, too.

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