I was lucky enough to see Wicked when I was in 7th grade and it was with the original cast in Chicago – except that night Elphaba was played by the understudy so I didn’t actually get to see Idina Menzel play her. But I did see Kristin Chenoweth play a dazzling Galinda! It was an amazing show that left me star struck. Everything was magical and the music still captures me.
So you can imagine why I’d immediately jump at the chance to review a book by William Morrow, the mind that made the world of Wicked before it was a world-wide renowned musical. Morrow is back with a new fantastical novel called Hiddensee, inspired by the timeless story of The Nutcracker. “Inspired by” is used loosely here. It’s not really a “holiday read” and it’s not the backstory of the Nutcracker or even close to the ballet with which most are familiar. It has more to do with Herr Drosselmeyer, the man who can make toys come to life.
Readers might be disappointed if you’re expecting something as whimsical as the ballet or if you’re hoping to find Easter eggs about it in the story. Though if you’re completely unfamiliar with the ballet and the story of the Nutcracker and Clara, you can still enjoy this book. Prior knowledge of those stories is not a prerequisite for enjoying Hiddensee.
The imagery is particularly vivid – a particular skill of William Morrow’s, I think. It’s set in Germany in the early 19th Century and it reminds me of some Brother’s Grimm stories I read in a fairy tale course in college – I mean in tone, but they do make an appearance in the story. If you like German romanticism, you’ll probably like Hiddensee. If you don’t like German romanticism, it might be a little harder for you to appreciate it. The story can also run a little slow, so if you’re looking for a quick read to get you into the holiday spirit (sort of – German romanticism isn’t exactly…festive), then Hiddensee might not be for you.
But if you’re a person who loves fairy tales flipped on their head, you just might want to order a copy from HarperCollins.
• Hardcover: 304 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (October 31, 2017)
From the author of the beloved #1 New York Times bestseller Wicked, the magical story of a toymaker, a nutcracker, and a legend remade . . .
Gregory Maguire returns with an inventive novel inspired by a timeless holiday legend, intertwining the story of the famous Nutcracker with the life of the mysterious toy maker named Drosselmeier who carves him.
Hiddensee: An island of white sandy beaches, salt marshes, steep cliffs, and pine forests north of Berlin in the Baltic Sea, an island that is an enchanting bohemian retreat and home to a large artists’ colony– a wellspring of inspiration for the Romantic imagination . . .
Having brought his legions of devoted readers to Oz in Wicked and 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.
About Gregory Maguire
Gregory Maguire is the New York Times bestselling author of Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister; Lost; Mirror Mirror; and the Wicked Years, a series that includes Wicked, Son of a Witch, A Lion Among Men, and Out of Oz. Now a beloved classic, Wicked is the basis for a blockbuster Tony Award–winning Broadway musical. Maguire has lectured on art, literature, and culture both at home and abroad. He lives with his family near Boston, Massachusetts.