Mirror, Mirror

By Gregory Maguire

Why I Chose This Book
I had no business reading this book with so many other books ahead of it on the list! But I inherited this milk crate of books that I have been driving around with in the trunk of my car for a week or two, and because the top row was a lot of mystery novels, including a bunch of books in a series of Dutch crime novels (*shudder*), I didn’t really dig through it with much interest. But then there I was on Saturday at some kid’s birthday party in the park, and I was packing up the chairs and tables with help, and the guy noticed the crate of books, and I sent him home with <em>Seabiscuit</em> and opened up the second layer. There was some actual fiction in there, and so I brought a few into the house. Sunday ended up being both a busier and a lazier day than anticipated, and the living room was so clean and sunny, and I blew through it basically in a day.

Why I Chose Right Now to Review This Book
Husband is sick and not eating dinner, and Filly has fallen asleep on the couch, and Fella is picnicking in front of <em>Short Circuit</em>, and the living room is still tidy and sunny, and it’s not a movie I have to pay very close attention to in order to keep up with, and if I just review the book now I can put it back into the Box of Obscurity from which it sprang instead of leaving it at the top of the garage steps to trip over a couple times per day.

Nutshell Review of the Book
Meh. It’s a retelling of a classic story (Snow White), but I couldn’t really figure out the point of it. I also don’t get why the author bothered to incorporate a real historical figure if he was also going to include lots and lots of magic. It had enough momentum to keep me interested and the magical parts were very imaginative, but the whole totaled much less than the sum of the parts.

Detailed Review of the Book

Part of the book served as a fictionalized biography of Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia, with hints at some of the political intrigue that surrounded them. Part of the book was an examination of mythical creatures (dwarfs, unicorns, straight up magic from ancient times), and the power–I guess–of perception and how perceptions can affect reality. The other part of the book was a fairly straightforward adaptation of the Snow White story, with the details thrown in that Disney left out (the poisoned comb, the suffocation bodice). The most compelling characters were the house staff: Primavera the cook/nurse and Fra Ludovico, the house priest. Primavera’s grandson, the woodsman Ranuccio, was someone I’d follow to another novel, even. The dwarfs were weird and grotesque and not like any other dwarfs I’ve encountered in literature, and the handful of scenes in which Bianca de Nevada stood up to her Borgia guardians hinted at a girl with some real spark, but there was way too much Lucrezia. Way too much of it. And for a book called “Mirror, Mirror,” the danger/potential/value of the mirror was not nearly emphasized enough. Even when the dwarfs and Lucrezia talked about the mirror, you still didn’t really get what it was all about. If the story was supposed to be about Bianca coming to some awareness after her own bouts of self-reflection, I didn’t really get that she was a stronger or more accomplished person in the end, either. Vincente’s character journey left me cold as well, and no matter how many times the author suggested that the dwarfs were the foundation of the earth, of life, of time, it never went any deeper than the author just saying so. And then again always with the Lucrezia. If you really want to do Lucrezia Borgia and you really want to do magic, I think you should have found a way to make Lucrezia the subject of your story instead of your antagonist. I can imagine a book that is a fantastical biographickish retelling of the Lucrezia tale, or a reimagination of the traditional fairy tale, but they don’t mesh well here.

Of the three of the Maguire novels that I’ve read now, I still like <em>Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister</em> the most.

What’s on Deck
–I confess that I’m already reading Byatt’s Possession, again. It was in the box of books. I think I might have been the one to have loaned it to the milk crate owner in the first place. I am thrilled to have it back. Even though I know how it ends I am thrilled to follow the characters again.
–The second book in the Game of Thrones series
A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
Woman on the Edge of Time by (Marge?) Piercy

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