Book review: ‘All the Ever Afters: The Untold Story of Cinderella’s Stepmother’
“All the Ever Afters: The Untold Story of Cinderella’s Stepmother”
William Morrow, 2018
Have you ever considered the beloved fairy tale of Cinderella from the perspective of the evil stepmother? What if she wasn’t wicked at all, but a loving woman who cared deeply for all of her children? Danielle Teller’s debut novel, “All the Ever Afters: The Untold Story of Cinderella’s Stepmother,” answers this question with a fascinating reimagining of the original tale.
Before Agnes was an “evil” stepmother, she was a laundry girl and a housemaid. Agnes is strong, independent and a hard worker, but that doesn’t stop her from being seduced by a young man who has no intention of marrying her once it’s evident that she’s pregnant.
Agnes is asked to leave her housemaid job and finds sanctuary in a nearby village. Even though her “traveling husband” is barely around, she eventually makes a home for him and their two daughters. Her determination to survive pushes her forward in life.
When tragedy strikes on all fronts, Agnes is forced to send the girls to school while she takes a job as a nursemaid to the infant daughter of the manor’s Lord and Lady. The child’s name is Elfida. Everyone calls her Ella.
Agnes develops a sweet bond with Ella and treats the young girl as her own. She raises Ella to be kind, gentle and full of compassion. Sadly, after Ella’s mother suddenly dies, her father checks out from life and Agnes is left running the household, as well as raising the Lord’s daughter. It only makes sense for the two to eventually marry. Agnes doesn’t want to be a spinster. The Lord doesn’t want to raise a young girl on his own. With Ella already attached to Agnes, the union seems logical.
After they marry, Agnes brings her daughters back to live at the manor. Ella is threatened by the unique bond between Agnes and her other daughters. She broods in the attic, befriends rodents and whines when Agnes suggests that Ella isn’t grateful for all her father has given their family. As punishment, Agnes makes her do laundry for an entire day. Soon after, rumors begin to swirl that Agnes forces Ella to live in the attic and do the cleaning for the entire manor. What’s worse is that Agnes has refused to let Ella go to the king’s ball.
“All the Ever Afters” provides a unique view of Ella’s circumstances and how the young girl was far from perfect. Readers will feel empathy for Agnes, consider various misunderstandings and think twice before labeling her as wicked.