In the last month I've read Mirror, Mirror and Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister. Mirror, Mirror didn't interest me as much. I loved the historical setting but didn't love the weird dwarves part. Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister I liked a lot more, I think largely because everything is simply placed into a historical context and there isn't any weird magic stuff in the storyline. In both, what I liked best about the novels was the history, no surprise as I love historical fiction.
"To consider what other people might say is hardly a good reason to take action or to defer it."One of the themes of the story is that Iris has a talent for seeing and it is suggested that she apprentice to a painter, in spite of the fact that it was not a normal thing for a woman to do. Eventually Iris does this. She seems a more content character than the other women, who are all defined by their roles as wives or future wives. Ruth is an exception - she doesn't talk and we read the whole novel until the end not knowing what Ruth thinks of all the events that occur.
"Approval and disapproval alike satify those who deliver it more than those who receive it."
In the Epilogue, Ruth says: "What is the use of beauty? ...beauty helps protect the spirit of mankind, swaddle it and succor it, so that we might survive. Beauty is no end in itself, but if it makes our lives less miserable so that we might be more kind -- well, then, let's have beauty, painted on our porcelain, hanging on our walls, ringing through our stories. We are a sorry tribe of beasts. We need all the help we can get."
Beauty is the main theme of the novel. Clara, the Cinderella of the story, is beautiful but is confined within her house. Iris is ugly. The painter has a collection of paintings of "God's Mistakes" and they are contrasted with his painting of the beautiful Clara. Iris and Clara talk about how kindness is a form of beauty.