Monday, September 26, 2011

Gregory Maguire's Mirror Mirror

It's nothing new, but this weekend on a trip I read Gregory Maguire's Mirror Mirror for the first time, which as you can probably guess from the title, is a novel retelling of Snow White. Maguire is most famous for authoring the book Wicked, on which the musical was based. I have an old post on the book vs. the musical which you can read, but essentially, both are good, you just have to have different expectations for each. One is an inspirational family-friendly musical with catchy tunes which reverses the black and white villains and heroes of the book Wizard of Oz, another is an adult book which has many flawed characters and was meant to give depth and history to the Wicked Witch. It can be kind of a shock to go from the musical to the book unless you realize they're quite different and for different audiences.
Mirror Mirror was along the same lines as Wicked the book, but with no other expectations to go by it stands on its own as a strong retelling. The essential elements of the story are there-wicked queen, mirror, apple-but all a little different, and all woven in to history, an element I really love, set in Italy in the early 16th century. Again, this is an adult book-the characters are very frank about bodily functions, but really this is more historically accurate anyway. From the Publisher's Weekly review of it: "Fairy tales in their original form are often brutal and disturbing; with his rich, idiosyncratic storytelling, Maguire restores the edge to an oft-told tale and imbues it with a strange, unsettling beauty." Actually, despite their phrase "restoring the edge" implying that the edge is usually lost, this is one of the things I like about Snow White-really no retelling has been able to make it "dumbed down". Without the murder attempts it's not the same tale, and who can forget the demand for Snow White's heart brought back to the Queen in a box? Even Disney has these gruesome details.

Back to Maguire-Dwarfs are said to be creatures of the earth. Maguire's dwarfs are literally stone creatures learning slowly to take on more human characteristics such as individuality and quicker thought processes. It's really an interesting philisophical way to ponder humanity as if viewed from outside-this is an aspect of what can make fantasy great literature: the ability to imagine a world different enough from our own that we realize the profundity of characteristics of our world in matters we usually don't even think about.
I really enjoyed the book. Coincidentally, I happened to be in Washington DC last weekend, just at the time that the National Book Fair was going on, and Gregory Maguire was a featured author there-but I didn't get a chance to see or hear him.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for a recommendation^^
    I read your blog regularly so I think I should at least say hello^^
    I am also interested in fairy tales and always find in your blog so many inspirational things^^