Published by William Morrow ISBN 9780062798206
Hardcover, $26.99, 384 pages
I'm not a particular fan of fairy tales, but I do enjoy a good retelling or re-imagining of a classic story, so Danielle Teller's All The Ever Afters caught my attention.
Told from the point of view of Agnes, Cinderella's stepmother, we get a different take on Cinderella. Agnes' mother died in childbirth, when she was just a small child. Her father was very poor and couldn't care for three children, so Agnes was sent off to work at the Aviceford Manor house at the age of ten.
She ended up as an assistant in the laundry, where the young child did most of the actual work, while the laundress verbally and physically abused her. It was a brutal life for a child, sleeping on the pantry floor, working sunup to sundown.
One day, she was called to assist Emont, the Lord of the Manor. He was lying passed-out drunk, and Agnes helped clean him up.
Soon Agnes grew up, met a sweet-talking man and fell in love. She became pregnant, and they married, only for Agnes to discover that he was not the man she thought he was.
Agnes was a clever, hardworking woman, and she found her way to becoming a brewer, making ale and selling it at a small tavern. She was quite successful, raising her two daughters Charlotte and Matilda, until circumstances arose that took her livelihood away. (Let's just say that times were not kind to women.)
When Agnes ends up working back at the Manor, the lady of the manor had just given birth to a baby girl, Elfilda, called Ella. Agnes cared for Ella, nursing her, carrying her around while she worked. Lord Emont recognized Agnes as the young child who helped him years ago, and they form a friendship.
Soon Agnes' good business sense helps Lord Emont in running the manor, and eventually the two become close and marry. Ella is not happy about the situation, and neither are Charlotte or Matilda. Ella is a quiet child, standoffish. She doesn't like to ride horses, like her mother did. She loves beautiful gowns and is frequently off in her own world.
Interspersed in the story are journal entries from the Royal Court, where Ella is now married to Prince Henry. Ella has three young children, and Agnes, Charlotte and Matilda are not quite insiders, yet not outsiders either.
We learn from Agnes a different side to Ella and Henry's love story- meeting at the ball, dropping her shoe, the search of the kingdom for Ella using the shoe- it's all here, albeit with a unique viewpoint and spin.
All The Ever Afters is a wonderful story, especially for people who love Broadway's Wicked and TV's Once Upon A Time. It's got a feminist twist to the story, with Agnes using her brains and compassion to make her way in a world that is not kind to women who are not conventionally beautiful or rich. She fiercely loves her daughters, and would do anything to protect them. I recommend it.
Thanks to TLC Tours for putting me on Danielle Teller's tour. The rest of her stops are here: