By Terri Schlichenmeyer
Your Fairy Godmother is slacking.
There’s no magic spell for you, no white-mice-into-horses, and Meghan Markle gets the Prince. You’ll never have a diamond-studded crown. You’ll never have your own castle. As in the new book “All the Ever Afters” by Danielle Teller, maybe there is no Fairy Godmother.
Though she was naught but a child whose mother had died, ten-year-old Agnes’ father decided that he didn’t need two daughters at home so he sent Agnes, alone, to Aviceford Manor, where a job awaited her. There, she toiled from sunup to sundown as a laundry girl, until she was tasked with nursing the habitually besotted lord of the manor, Sir Emont Vis-de-Loup, through an illness.
That, and a little cheeky scheming got young Agnes loaned to Ellis Abbey, to work as a nurse for the Abbess Elfilda’s mother, the countess of Wenslock.
Kinder than anyone had been to her in years, Lady Wenslock taught Agnes to read and allowed her a small bit of free time. It was a life of servitude, ‘tis true, but Agnes also made friends – one of them, a charmingly handsome messenger for the abbey and ward of Mother Elfilda. Fernan was a smooth-talker with doe eyes and lovely brown skin and soon, Agnes was with child, yoked to a man who never wanted a wife.
First came Charlotte , and Agnes was enraptured. Then Mathilda arrived, followed by Catherine, and Agnes’ life was complete – until the pox took her baby and her husband and threatened to ruin Mathilda’s life. But before that could happen, the tattered family was uprooted again by the Abbess Elfilda, who seized Agnes’ alehouse in an inheritance disagreement.
Her children in a convent and with nowhere else to go, Agnes was sent back to the place where she started: Aviceford Manor, where Sir Emont had married a “wild” woman and begat a child who needed a wetnurse.
Agnes missed her daughters. She missed her old life and her old friends. Fairies don’t exist, as she’d learned when she was a wee girl, but was it too much to ask for a bit of Fairy Tale ending?
Chances are, the four-year-old you scrunched up your nose at the Evil Stepmother and Two Ugly Stepsisters part of a certain story. Ugh, you were supposed to do that – but now you can unscrunch: “All the Ever Afters” is going to turn your world around.
Far from being cartoonish, nowhere near humorous, but certainly not as gruesome as the original German version, this re-told “Cinderella” is wonderfully elegant in its Medieval manners and aristocratic language. With that courtliness as background, author Danielle Teller woos readers into taking a better, more open-eyed look at a character that’s been maligned for centuries, one with strength and who’s worthy of stunned sympathy. And those “ugly” stepsisters? Beware: they’ll break your heart in two.
Perfect for mature Princesses, “All the Ever Afters” is one classy take on an old classic and is hard to put down, once started. So should you read it?