What happens when our happily ever after isn’t so happy after all? Refreshingly complex characters with an inventive plot, The Spin-Sisters is an entertaining read that brings in intertextual fairy tales and subverts our expectations.
This Cinderella remake begins the night after the ball with the slipper and the pumpkin. Told from the perspectives of Cinderella’s stepsisters, their mother, and more, we witness exactly how ‘wicked’ they are. Is it possible that they have other motivations? More complexity than the original makes them out to be?
(Can I just confess that for the longest time I was calling this the Spin Sisters book? Only when I went to review it on Goodreads did I realize I had been wrong. It doesn’t make any sense, in the context of the story, so it really just was one of those weird slips. Anyway, onto the actual review).
What I loved about this novella is how Papadopoulos plays with our expectations. Not only is there a clever plot, but it seems to actively engage with fairy tale tropes – helpless damsels, evil stepmothers, and chivalrous knights. Furthermore, it also plays with what we expect from the story of Cinderella, answering questions such as: fur or glass, chopping off toes, and fairy godmothers.
In terms of characters, we are treated to depth from not only our stepsisters, but Cinderella herself. Finally, we get to know the ‘real story’ behind her and we settle somewhere between Disney and Hans Christian Anderson. Her actual stepsisters are really relatable, one wants to marry for love, and the other is determined to save her family farm because women cannot inherit land. They are by no means perfect, but are far from villainous, and merely remind us of all the cruel things we do to our own family.
I was especially pleased with the women’s roles in the novella. Despite its length, we were able to see the women’s growth, not only as individuals, but as a family. While the most emphasis is placed on all the sisters, we are treated to the perspective of the mother, Cinderella’s husband, a secretary, and a few others.
The book asks us how we find our own happy endings. It takes time, resilience, and, sometimes, a little magic. The Step-Spinsters has all the elements of a great fairytale: true love, duty, and fairy godmothers. And I’d like to think that the ending teaches us that happy endings are only ever possible in fiction. But the real fun begins beyond the pages.
Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for an honest review from Kindle Scout.
Madina Papadopoulos is a New Orleans–born, New York–based freelance writer and author. She studied French and Italian at Tulane University and went on to pursue her MFA in Screenwriting at UCLA. After graduating, she taught French and Italian to children in early childhood and elementary school programs. Her nonfiction freelance writing focuses on food, drink, and entertainment. Her portfolio includes lifestyle articles in Delta Sky Mag, The Village Voice, Paste Magazine, Cosmopolitan, and Eater, among others.
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