I’ve just discovered a very strangely flawed, diamond-in-the-rough author. I still haven’t decided if I even like him or not, yet there’s something compelling and mystifying about his writing that keeps me from totally dismissing his work. When I tell you who it is, you’ll be wondering how I could have just discovered him, seeing as his book Wicked launched one of the most successful Broadway shows. Yep, I’m talking about Gregory Maguire.
I just finished his book Mirror, Mirror. It’s a darker retelling of the famous Snow White story. The story is set in Italy where a nobleman named Don Vicente de Nevada and his daughter Bianca live peacefully on their small estate. Bianca means white in Spanish- how clever. It took me a bit to get that, so I feel like an idiot. Anyway, Don Vicente and Bianca’s life is suddenly toppled over with the arrival of Pope Alexander VI’s daughter and son, Lucrezia and Cesare Borgia. The cool thing about these characters is that they are real people, not just imagined. I’m sure a lot of what Maguire writes about them is fiction, but if you do some research, it’s clear that the evil way in which their painted in the book isn’t far from the truth of who they really were.
Cesare requests that Don Vicente leave on a mission to retrieve a holy relic for him. Cesare promises that Don Vicente’s daughter and the estate will be cared for in his absence. Without much choice, Don Vicente goes away, leaving behind his 7 year old daughter to be taken care of by Lucrezia.
Let me get to the whole mirror part. As the years go by, Bianca grows up to be quite lovely. The mirror (which was found by Don Vicente in a lake some time back and placed in his home) draws Lucrezia to it. She becomes obsessed with its magic. For years the mirror tells her she is the fairest and most beautiful in the land, but as Bianca grows, Lucrezia has a feeling Bianca’s beauty may end up far outweighing her own. Jealous of the girl and afraid that Cesare will fall in love with Bianca over her, she sends her off with a huntsman, telling him to take her deep into the forest and cut out her heart. Of course, we know he doesn’t end up killing her. Bianca is simply left to wander the forest alone, until 7 dwarves find her and take her into their home, providing for her as the years roll on. Don’t expect these dwarves to be the cute, lovable kind in the actual Snow White story, though. They’re stranger and a whole lot uglier.
Because years have passed and Bianca has grown older and prettier, the mirror now tells Lucrezia she is no longer the fairest of the land. Bianca has surpassed her in beauty. With this revelation comes a second one. Lucrezia had no idea Bianca was still alive. This time, she plans to finish what she started.
I like the stories aura about it. I like it’s uniqueness. What I don’t like is a certain style Maguire uses. There are times when I can’t make sense of the story. He can be a confusing author. I don’t care how famous or popular an author is, I don’t believe it gives them the right to completely stray from the author’s path to a reader’s heart. If you want to capture a reader, be better equipped with the tools to explain things to us and not leave us out in the cold.
I also don’t like the very strange sexual dialogue that peppers the story. It feels overdone sometimes, and some scenes have a strange sexualization to them that really ruin the story. The whole part about Don Vicente’s cook and her sexual relationship with a squid is strange. I wasn’t sure if that was meant to be a metaphor or something, but it’s weird stuff like that that causes me to hold back from loving Maguire.
And yet, I can’t say I dislike him. He’s a mystery. There are moments when I’m captured by his words, his tone, the setting. And then moments when he lets me down and I lose interest. I’m on the fence about him, so I’m giving him another chance with another book of his. I’ll blog about that one when I’m finished.
Love him or hate him, there is a certain brilliance in him, as I said in the beginning, that still makes him a diamond. He’s a flawed one, but still a diamond nonetheless.
So bite the apple if you choose, but don’t say I didn’t warn you… 😉