Book Review | Hiddensee
Title: Hiddensee by Gregory Maguire
Genres: Fantasy, Retelling
Publisher: William Morrow (Oct. 31st, 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.
Hiddensee was such a unique and intriguing retelling. It’s a book that I’ve been meaning to read for a while, but for one reason or another, kept putting it off. Since 2020 is the year I want to get my TBR down, I thought that it would be the perfect book to kick off my reading for the year.
Hiddensee tells the backstory of Dirk Drosselmeier, the maker of the the Nutcracker. It was interesting to read about his origin story. There was a lot of character growth that happened to Dirk throughout the course of this novel. I did enjoy reading his story and learning about his past.
That being said, this novel was awfully wordy for the sake of being wordy. I’m all for elegant writing, but there were just times throughout this book that I felt like the author was trying too hard. Because Hiddensee is “historical” fiction, Maguire wrote the language in this book like one of classic literature. However, this book was just not up to that quality, in my opinion, so it ended up falling a bit flat for me.
Also, most of this book is backstory. I would have loved to read more about the retelling of the actual Nutcracker story that we all know and love. Of what is included in Hiddensee, however, it was very well done. Klara was an interesting character and the author did an excellent job of keeping the original story unique, fresh, and engaging. I wish there would have been more of that in this book.
Overall, I did enjoy reading this book, but I didn’t love it. Don’t go into this book expecting a Christmas-y classic. If you love The Nutcracker and always wondered how it came to be, I really do think you’ll enjoy Hiddensee. However, if you really don’t care or just enjoy watching the ballet once a year or so, I think you’d be best to skip this book.