I was really looking forward to this new book by Gregory Maguire, but it just did not live up to my expectations.
Wicked is one of my all-time favorite books, and I had read a bunch of other books by Maguire, and while I haven’t liked any of them as much as I liked Wicked, I did enjoy them and have always found myself in awe of his writing. Unfortunately, that was not the case here.
I don’t want to make it sound like this is a bad book. It’s not. It’s just rambling and takes what feels like a very long time to reach its conclusion, which is saying something, considering the book is not even 300 pages long.
The subtitle of this book is “A Tale of the Once and Future Nutcracker”, and while we do eventually get to see Klara and her mischievous brother break her nutcracker on Christmas Eve, that’s not until the very end, and the nutcracker himself isn’t even the main character – Godfather Drosselmeier is. He’s the toymaker who makes, not only The Nutcracker, but also the Sugarplum Fairy and Fritz’s armies of soldiers. He and Klara together invent a world of toy heroes and villains, although it seems to be mostly Klara coming up with these things and Drosselmeier is just going along with it.
But before we get to all that, we meet Drossemeier as a child growing up in the woods with an old man and an old woman who say they are not his parents – that someone left him to die in the woods and they took him in and raised him, but when times get hard, the old man takes him out to the woods to kill him, but Drosselmeier accidentally swings the ax into the old man’s leg. He gets a tourniquet for him and manages to save him, but the tree they were chopping down falls on Drosselmeier, killing him instantly, but he is somehow, magically revived and finds himself back in the cabin in the woods. No longer trusting the old couple who raised him, he makes a break for it, and is accompanied by a woman who goes by Pythia, but one could also call her Mother Nature, and a mischievous satyr named Pan. They encourage the boy to stay in the woods, but he finds his way to town, and as he draws close to civilization, his two companions leave him, since they are creatures of the wood.
Drosselmeier goes on to have a series of adventures, but there’s very little that he cares about and there appear to be absolutely no stakes for anything he does. There’s very little emotion anywhere in this book, which mostly left me feeling cold about the whole thing. As a result, I couldn’t help but wonder why I was bothering to continue reading it when there are so many other books I want to read. But nothing about it specifically turned me away, so I kept reading more out of inertia than anything else.
In the end, I’m glad I did persist because Maguire does tie it all together at the very end, and while I’m not sure it was worth it, I did find it to be a satisfying ending, even if it was to a largely unsatisfying book.
What did you read this week? Anything else that didn’t live up to your expectations?