Hiddensee: A Tale of the Once and Future Nutcracker

By: Gregory Maguire
Published: 2017
# of pages: 283
Quote:  “And now – now there was some truth to it, even if it was only the truth of a story that, once heard, becomes history.  You might forget a story, but you can never unhear a story.” -p. 140

Goodreads description:

Having brought his legions of devoted readers to Oz in Wickedand to Wonderland in After Alice, Maguire now takes us to the realms of the Brothers Grimm and E. T. A. Hoffmann—the enchanted Black Forest of Bavaria and the salons of Munich. Hiddensee imagines the backstory of the Nutcracker, revealing how this entrancing creature came to be carved and how he guided an ailing girl named Klara through a dreamy paradise on a Christmas Eve. At the heart of Hoffmann’s mysterious tale hovers Godfather Drosselmeier—the ominous, canny, one-eyed toy maker made immortal by Petipa and Tchaikovsky’s fairy tale ballet—who presents the once and future Nutcracker to Klara, his goddaughter.

But Hiddensee is not just a retelling of a classic story. Maguire discovers in the flowering of German Romanticism ties to Hellenic mystery-cults—a fascination with death and the afterlife—and ponders a profound question: How can a person who is abused by life, shortchanged and challenged, nevertheless access secrets that benefit the disadvantaged and powerless? Ultimately, Hiddensee offers a message of hope. If the compromised Godfather Drosselmeier can bring an enchanted Nutcracker to a young girl in distress on a dark winter evening, perhaps everyone, however lonely or marginalized, has something precious to share.

My opinion: Honestly, I haven’t been a fan of the other books I’ve read by Maguire, Wicked and Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister.  After seeing the description on Goodreads, I was intrigued by the concept of a Nutcracker story.  I haven’t ever seen a Nutcracker retelling so I decided to check this book out.  I’m glad I did because it was an interesting, mysterious story.

The novel follows Drosselmeier, the man who gives Klara the nutcracker in the traditional ballet.  The reader slowly gets to know Dirk Drosselmeier as he gets to know himself.  He grows from a cautious child without much personality into an older man with a great imagination and all kinds of thoughts and feelings.  The novel takes place in Germany and mentions fairy tales collected by the Grimm brothers and also ties in Greek mythology.  It works really well except for the character who describes the Greek oracle who is unnecessarily poetic and reminded me of the dad in Something Wicked This Way Comes.

This would be a good book club read so there could be discussion after reading.  I recently saw a National Geographic article about fairy tales and how many of them have similar themes and structures throughout different historic periods and cultures.  I instantly thought of Hiddensee and how it ties Greek mythology into the Germanic fairy tales.  It’s a very interesting concept.  I also liked how Dirk grows from just Dirk, an abandoned child, into Godfather Drosselmeier, an influential man.

Why I gave this book 4/5 stars:  
Interesting and unique story, thought provoking themes, but the reader doesn’t really grow fond of the characters.

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