Cinderella’s stepmother gets her due in ‘All the Ever Afters’


Palo Alto-base author Danielle Teller based her first novel on Agnes, a woman of the Middle Ages who becomes stepmother to the fairy tale character Cinderella. TOPHER SIMON/PHOTO

Good and terrible things coexist in everyday people and their lives. Which means that a realistic account of life—or a realistic retelling of a classic fairy tale—must drop the “happily ever after” ending and promise “truthfully ever after.”

And so the truth-seeking story goes in Palo Alto-based writer Danielle Teller’s first novel, “All the Ever Afters: The Untold Story of Cinderella’s Stepmother” (Morrow, $26.99, 384 pages).

Teller set aside an established medical career as a pulmonary doctor and researcher five years ago to write full time. Nevertheless, she plays surgeon still, extracting the (formerly) villainous stepmother as protagonist and skillfully excising the classic story’s myths, magic and misconceptions.

Teller, 49, is co-author with her husband, Google X CEO Astro Teller, of “Sacred Cows,” a nonfiction book about marriage and divorce. Stepping out solo into well-researched fiction shows Teller in complete command. “Ever Afters” offers a dynamic plot, intriguing characters, facts and language accurate to the medieval era and surprising depth as it sheds light on gender and class struggles experienced by people in the Middle Ages.

The life of Agnes, we learn, began as a servant girl whose street smarts, head for finances and yes, large heartedness eventually result in her becoming the hard-working wife of a lord and stepmother of Ella, aka Cinderella. Teller slays the easily-digestible ugly-evil personas of the stepsisters and grafts sympathetic but not sugar-coated, rational explanations: Charlotte is ostracized for a darker-than-lily-white complexion, Matilda scorned for scars left by smallpox. Their suffering is real, and society is doubly condemned for prejudice, especially when it comes to economic status and women’s outward appearance. Ella remains a vital, secondary character as daughter of …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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