My daughter had been suggesting I read this book for years. I think I avoided it because somewhere deep down I've always sympathized with the ugly stepsisters. I couldn't help but wonder what their lives would have been like with a different mother. The cover of this book gave me the impression that the stepsisters' story would be ugly indeed. And in some ways it is. The beginning of this book is harsh and dark, something out of a grim Dickens novel. In fact, nothing in this story rings of Fairy Tales. No Fairy Godmothers, magic pumpkins, and certainly no birds singing happy songs to anyone.(As in the movie.) The mother is a miserable woman who has no problem making her daughter's lives hell. The other characters are drawn in such a way that even though their lives were over-the-top awful, they seem real, and I genuinely cared about them. I especially liked the two painters, their predicaments and their problems.
One of the aspects I enjoyed was the fact that you know you have an unreliable narrator. Iris is certainly seeing, and telling, events through her own slanted, self-centered viewpoint. Trying to search out the truths in the story made it even more fascinating. I recommend this book, but it's not for children or those who can't read harsh, sometimes grim, material. For all that, it was still a good read, and I'll be thinking about the characters for some time.