Sometimes when I read a book and don’t really enjoy it, I wonder if I missed something or if the book simply isn’t what I wanted to be reading at the time or if I’m right and the book really isn’t that great. Recently I’ve read a string of books that I’ve struggled to get into or I haven’t enjoyed as much as I had expected to. I do believe in my right as the reader to not finish a book I’m not enjoying but as these recent books were advanced reader copies I received through Goodreads.com, I felt obligated to finish. Even if it took me a month to get through a 300-page novel. I worry, however, that my poor reception of the book is influenced more by what’s going on in my life or my own view of things than the actual quality of the writing and the story. So I hesitate to write my review, yet I, again, feel obligated to write something.
Review: Hiddensee by Gregory Maguire
I received Gregory Maguire’s latest novel, Hiddensee through Goodreads.com First Reads without any real idea what to expect. The book, which explores the formative years of the mysterious Drosselmeier from The Nutcracker, begins promisingly as it evokes the mood of a classic fairy tale or folk tale. It doesn’t take long, however, for the story to spiral into a tedious muddle of obscure ideas. In what I believe to be a demonstration of the fact that all stories throughout the history of storytelling are connected – a few plots repeated and altered to fit the time, the same characters appearing throughout history, elements seen over and over from mythology to folklore to modern novels – Maguire attempts to fit some Greek myths into his fairytale but without any real success since the beginning of the novel never really meshes with the middle and end.
The only part of the novel I truly enjoyed was the final part where the connection to The Nutcracker, that we know so well is finally made. Here Maguire ties some of his earlier elements and Dirk’s experiences into the toys he makes and the stories he tells. He even manages to make the fantastic elements of the story fit with the realistic scenario he’s created. In this part alone, there is true magic.
As a whole, Hiddensee seemed a bit self-serving. It felt as if Maguire wanted to write one book – the one relating to Greek mythology? Dirk’s emotional journey? – then attempted unsuccessfully to tie it in with one of his trademark fairytales.
When I signed up for Ron Schwab’s The Last Hunt, I didn’t realize it was the third book in a series. When I started reading it, I felt a little lost – if the first two books had been available at our library, I would’ve borrowed them to catch up – but eventually I pretty much caught up with the characters and the story.
Judging by the other reviews I’ve seen, perhaps reading the first two still would’ve helped me connect to the story because everyone else who’s reviewed The Last Hunt gushes about the book, the author, and the series. However, I found it sort of boring and quite predictable. For a novel centered around the final days of Native American freedom, an underexplored and crucial period of U.S. history, the writing was rather simplistic and lacked, I felt, emotion. In short, the story was good but the writing didn’t do it justice.