Title: Mirror Mirror
Author: Gregory Maguire
Published: 2003; Harper Collins
Date Started: July 16, 2012 Date Finished: July 30, 2012
Rating: Three out of five
Worthy of Note: While the covers of Gregory Maguire’s books are beautiful, the cut-out feature they have always makes me crazy because I’m afraid that they’re going to get torn while going in and out of my purse and covorting with my iPod and dread of black pens (a collective noun that I am officially coining). Few things upset me more than a damaged book, so if you ever happen to ask me if you can borrow from my shelves, be prepared for a somewhat intrusive, borderline-identity-theft series of questions and a collection of tasks – Golden Fleece style.
The world was called Montefiore, as far as she knew, and from her aerie on every side all the world descended.
Mirror Mirror, in the vein of Wicked, reimagines the story of Snow White to be, also in the vein of Wicked, more cruel, more heartbreaking, and more complex that its source material. And though it certainly was all of those things compared to Snow White, it fell short of my expectations. Wicked is the only other Gregory Maguire novel I have read, and it was not only an amazing reading experience, but also a personal one, since it took my sentimental childhood love of The Wizard of Oz, smashed it into tiny pieces, and rebuilt it with much of what happened in Wicked as mortar.
I realize that it would have been incongruent to have as much tragedy in Mirror Mirror as there was in Wicked. After all, we’ve all known since childhood that Snow White – or, in this case, Biance de Nevada – is brought back to life with true love’s kiss. But in the original fairytale, there are still horrific things: a dead father, a witch who is punished with red-hot shoes that make her dance until she dies. I was sad to find those things missing in Mirror Mirror – clearly I like my fairytale reincarnations very, very black. Aspects of the original that I did not care for tended to be the ones that remained. Each character was pretty static, growing older, but not really changing: Bianca embodied the innocent; Lucrezia, the sinner and the force of evil; Vicente, the noble and loving father. And they all stay that way from start to finish. Maguire’s version of the dwarves is quite interesting, more mythological than fairytale, but they are not enough to make up for everyone else.
I was excited to read how the Borgias would factor into this tale. At the beginning of the book, I could not help but imagine Francois Arnaud and Holliday Granger in their parts as Cesara and Lucrezia, as in The Borgias television series. As I read on, the faces stuck, but the characters themselves were slightly different. By the end of the book, the fact that they were Borgias did not have much bearing. Maguire could have created any character who came from great privilege but also great corruption and settled them into the story without much difference, except that perhaps the backgrounds would have required more explanation. The Borgias, being real historical people, have baggage baked right in, but only if the reader already knows who they are.
Perfection of bone, breath, and blossom.
One thing that did stand up to Wicked was Maguire’s beautiful poetic writing. Dull things were elevated to supernatural beauty by words alone, and losing myself in the language was much easier than losing myself in the narrative, which I was glad for because I really wanted to like Mirror Mirror. The actual poems, though often brief, were sometimes more telling of nuance of character than the prose.
By the time Lucrezia delivered the poison comb as her first attempt to kill Bianca, there were few pages left and the most exciting part of the story became the most rushed. True love’s kiss worked its magic and united two people whose previous meeting was not exactly the ideal meet-cute, i.e. attempted murder. And thus Snow White had her happy ending, though I did not really have mine.
P.S. Yes, that really is the new book I’m reading. Fifty Shades of Grey is so last month.