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Review: All the Ever Afters

All the Ever Afters book cover

Title: All the Ever Afters
Author: Danielle Teller
Genre: Literary Fiction/Fantasy, Retelling
Page Count: 384
Published by: William Morrow
Date Published: March 5, 2018
You can find it here: Bookshop.org


Tales of the cruel childhood of Princess Cinderella are roiling rampant throughout the kingdom, jeopardizing the place of her stepmother, Agnes, and two stepsisters, Charlotte and Matilda. But is there truth to these stories? As Agnes and her daughters navigate court, she begins to write down the true story in her journal passages.

Born to poor peasants, Agnes is forced to leave home at ten years old to the punishing life of a laundress in the nearby Aviceford Manor. There, she is exposed to cruelty and very little kindness. But Agnes is smart. Through opportunities and heartbreaking twists of fate she gradually drifts her way from laundress to housemaid for the powerful Abess Elfida to the owner of a brewery and ultimately back to Aviceford Manor as its lady and stepmother to Ella.

A familiar story, newly told, All the Ever Afters takes us along on the untold story of Cinderella’s stepmother, a look at the life of women with very few options, an examination on the misconception that beauty is equal to goodliness, and exposes the morally grey areas that reside within the classic “good vs evil” fairytale framework.

Overall Thoughts

All the Ever Afters was a great surprise – I wasn’t expecting such a meditative, loquacious experience, but Danielle Teller has an eloquent way with her words, rendering sentences to be descriptive snippets of poetry. At times the pacing maybe bordered at a little excessively sedative, but I found the overall reading to be quiet, moody, reflective work. This story is so much more than a retelling and those who enter into the novel hoping for a Cinderella retelling will likely be disappointed, as that is rather a small aspect of the overall content. Rather, All the Ever Afters is the journey of a woman who painstakingly climbs her way from poverty to ladyship one difficult step at a time. In an era where no choices existed for women, Teller really brings to life the heart wrenching, back-breaking journey of immense frustration and desperation, that was life for the common woman circa 1600.

Until the last one hundred pages I was extremely impressed with this little novel, but there things took a turn. A languid journey, record-scratch pivoted when the classic story of Cinderella was suddenly, and quite awkwardly, superimposed into this retelling. For a story that was so deliberately building an alternative narrative to the classic tale, it didn’t fit when the ball and the prince and the glass slipper and the love of mice and… were all stuffed into the mix. As with Cinderella’s slipper … it didn’t fit. (Too lame?)

Overall, I enjoyed my time spent here along with Teller’s fantastic observations on the hollowness of beauty and the dismantling of its virtue in storytelling … but the ending was a little awkward and uneven.

“… the truth that men persuade themselves is that beautiful women possess virtue and good character, whereas no amount if virtue can make an ugly woman beautiful.”

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