Monday, October 6, 2014

Egg & Spoon by Gregory Maguire Review

Hey readers! Happy Monday! It's been awhile since I have had time to share a book review with you guys, so I wanted to share a VERY special one with you all today. It's been a long rough week so I need to share this amazing novel with you all! This is a long one guys. I apologize in advance for all the gushing. This is just one of those authors that is too special to me. My absolute, hands down, favorite author of ALL TIME, Mr. Gregory Maguire! This time up for review? Egg & Spoon! Before we get to my thoughts, here is a little bit about the book and about Mr. Gregory Maguire!

A fantasy set in Tsarist Russia.

Elena Rudina lives in the impoverished Russian countryside. Her father has been dead for years. One of her brothers has been conscripted into the Tsar’s army, the other taken as a servant in the house of the local landowner. Her mother is dying, slowly, in their tiny cabin. And there is no food. But then a train arrives in the village, a train carrying untold wealth, a cornucopia of food, and a noble family destined to visit the Tsar in Saint Petersburg — a family that includes Ekaterina, a girl of Elena’s age. When the two girls’ lives collide, an adventure is set in motion, an escapade that includes mistaken identity, a monk locked in a tower, a prince traveling incognito, and — in a starring role only Gregory Maguire could have conjured — Baba Yaga, witch of Russian folklore, in her ambulatory house perched on chicken legs

Gregory Maguire

Gregory Maguire is an American author, whose novels are revisionist retellings of children's stories (such as L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz into Wicked). He received his Ph.D. in English and American Literature from Tufts University, and his B.A. from the State University of New York at Albany. He was a professor and co-director at the Simmons College Center for the Study of Children's Literature from 1979-1985. In 1987 he co-founded Children's Literature New England (a non-profit educational charity).

Maguire has served as artist-in-residence at the Blue Mountain Center, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and the Hambidge Center. He lives in Concord, Massachusetts.

Find Gregory Maguire

Before we get to my thoughts on Egg & Spoon, check out this amazing video interview with Mr. Maguire all about the novel!



By now, you guys all have caught on to how much I read. Many of you have followed my blogging career closely and with loving embrace for nearly six amazing months now. You have read about my “holy trinity” of authors who gave me the inspiration to start this blog, and from there you’ve heard me rave about my “Outstanding Octagon” of authors! Every day my life gets better and better in this literature world, but to who do I owe the most thanks? Who really brought me into the world of literature and showed me just how exciting it can be? JK Rowling? Stephanie Meyer? Unlike most of the world, no. They did not bring my into this world. For my love of all things literature, I can thank but one man. My idol and all time favorite author, Mr. Gregory Maguire. 

“Gregory Maguire…?” You may be asking, and for those of you that do, I hope a house lands on you. Gregory Maguire is the man who opened the window of opportunity for me in terms of reads many, many years ago. You may be wondering why I have never written about Mr. Maguire before if he is so important to me. Well, for that I have this answer: I have read honestly all but two of Maguire’s published works so many times over the course of the past 9 years that I don’t believe I could ever be critical of his works. I have nothing to say other than each and every time Gregory Maguire touches “pen to paper”, magic happens. Literary greatness is achieved; each and every time. 

For those of you who have no idea who Gregory Maguire is, I promise that I have plans to eventually feature and entire Gregory Maguire week on my blog where I promote his works exclusively. Trust me. Stick around and you will learn all I can teach you about Mr. Maguire. 

I have never had the opportunity to meet Mr. Maguire, as he often stays in the New England area and I am nowhere close to him. Unfortunately I have also never connected with Mr. Maguire online either. I make it a point to connect, in some way, to every author who I work with, be it Twitter, email, or even through a publicist. A connection with the author is something that is very important to me. I will be completely honest and say that I have sat down several times since I turned 13 and attempted to write Mr. Maguire a message telling him how big an influence he has been to me. Every time, though, I stop and scrap it, because: A) there are no words to describe how amazing Gregory Maguire is in my books (honestly) and B) I don’t want to come across as a crazy fan-freak and scare him off or offend him. Welcome to my mind. So instead, I am broadcasting my love of all things Gregory Maguire right here! 

All this being said, (and if I haven’t scared you off yet) please continue reading my review of Egg & Spoon.


My Thoughts:
I have been so caught up in the blogging world that some of my favorite authors have been falling under the radar and I haven’t had much time for my “personal” reading list. A few months ago, Mr. Gregory Maguire posted via Facebook that he would have ARCs of his newest novel, Egg & Spoon, at BEA earlier this year. Being in Southwestern Missouri, I had NO way to get to NYC, but was fortunate enough to have friends going. Try as they did, they were unable to grab an ARC for me, however one awesome friend took a picture of the line and Mr. Maguire signing books and sent it to me, It was awesome! This was the first time that I had even heard Maguire had a new book in the works. Gregory Maguire is, and always will be, an insta-buy author for me. He has never steered me wrong.

After reading the synopsis for Egg & Spoon, I was blown away. For a number of reasons. One, Gregory Maguire spins fairy tales better than anyone I have ever met and I can never resist a good retelling/spin-off. Two, I am OBSESSED with Russian history and culture. I have taken Russian languages and culture courses while enrolled in college and learned all about Russia’s amazingly unique fairy tales, I was really excited to hear that my favorite author was taking a stab at this one. Third, and final reason: BABA YAGA. Yes. YES. YYYEEESSSSSS. Even before my study of Russian culture, I was well aware of the exploits of Baba Yaga and her chicken-legged house. I knew this book was going to be amazing, but I had no idea it would be as amazing as it was.

I am a guy and I still have no problem making the following statement: I teared up after finishing Egg & Spoon. Not because it was a sad ending, but simply because it was over. I was overcome with the feels after finishing such an amazing piece of literature. The words in this review do nothing to describe how amazing this novel is, but I will try my hardest. 

As my readers will tell you, I oftentimes try to pick out some of my favorite quotes from the novels I review and incorporate them into my reviews. I just do that with Egg & Spoon, why? Probably because I have 44 highlighted passages. 44!! Even in a book with nearly 400 digital pages, that is A LOT of quotes, but I will try to throw some in here and there. While on the topic of length, this is NOT an easy read. Nor is it a short read. I would imagine the printed copy is well over 500 pages. I believe this is a children’s novel, but honestly I cannot see many young children being able to comprehend the language of this novel. Any fans of Maguire’s other works will agree that, while beautifully written, Maguire’s writing voice takes time to adjust to. You really have to absorb each and every word to get the full effect of his stories. On another hand, I think this is THE PERFECT novel for parents to read with their children to discuss the parallels between Russian life/culture and our own! Russia has a bad rep here in America and it’s really a sad deal. Russia has a beautiful cultural heritage and a history that puts ours here in America to shame, they have a truly interesting story! (Note that I just graduated with a degree in American History, what does that tell you?)

I’ve already kind of gone over the setting for the story on the large scale: Russia. But it’s so much more than that. Our story is an adventure from a humble village, to the Tsar’s Palace of St. Petersburg, all the way into the Siberian tundras of the north. Maguire does an amazing job taking his readers on an adventure to see ALL of Russia, not just the big cities and famous landmarks that most know of Russia! I have to go ahead and say that my favorite setting wasn’t a place, well kind of. It was a house, a mode of transportation, and one of my absolute favorite characters: Dumb Doma. Dumb Doma is Baba Yaga’s Izba (house) that sits atop a pair of chicken legs. The house walks, communicates, and remodels itself with hilarious results. Some of my biggest laughs came from Dumb Doma in this novel. It was great.

That brings me to another point I want to make about Egg & Spoon, just HOW funny it was. I really was not expecting to laugh as many times as I did, like ‘out-loud’ laughing at parts. Those parts? Basically any time Baba Yaga opened her mouth. Here’s a few of my favorite examples:

“Don’t take my comment as criticism. Starving peasants can be attractive and well behaved. I believe they also sing nicely from time to time.”

The kitten turned to the girl. “What is she was your governess?” “I take every second Saturday off and a week in the summer, and I REFUSE to sing stupid songs to make you behave!” shouted the witch. 

"How cheap. I'm much prettier than that. And I've taken better care of my hair. I give this a two out of three. Thanks for the tchotchke." 

"I am life," Baba Yaga corrected her. "You've stepped nearer, for good or for ill, for inspiration or for indigestion, I don't know yet. We'll see how you get on."

Like I mentioned earlier, I had SO MANY highlights in this book that I couldn't even begin to write about each important note I made. Especially concerning the humor in this one. I laughed so much. Honestly, not so much at the puns and funny lines, but also at the multiple nods to other works of literature references. One of the things I love about Gregory Maguire is his ability to throw in Easter eggs to reference his other works. This novel was FULL of them. There were a few Confessions nods and then a WHOLE bunch of Oz nods. Every time I came across one of them, I did a mental "woohoo!". One of my favorite nods to his Wicked Years series came in the form of a quote that wasn't even Out of Oz specific, but rather a quote from a 190 year old song by John Howard Payne, "'Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam, be it ever so humble, there's no place like home." How cool is that? Also, this book features an "American tornado touring the Russian provinces", Oz reference? I seriously don't think I could have loved this novel any more if I tried.

Also, I LOVED all the theatre expressions and allusions. Maguire is known for being a huge advocate of the arts and it showed in his writing. He used many, many metaphors comparing elements of the story to theatre life. It was really awesome to read. Here are a few more great quotes with some of the awesome 'nods' I mentioned:

"Your storybooks and the works of Miss Austen rarely suggest that true love strokes at Candidate Number Four Hundred Seventeen."

"ORIGINAL CAST RECORDING proclaimed each sleeve at the top of its front cover. The titles were things like Annie Get Your Gun, The King and I, Damn Yankees, and something called Cats." (Makes me wonder what OCRs one would find in Mr. Maguire's personal collection. If his collection is anything like mine, this list could go on and on forever.)  

Okay we have to move on before this turns into a novel on its' own. So the last big thing I want to touch base on are the characters in Egg & Spoon. This novel has a host of lots of characters so there is no way I could ever hope to cover them all, but I do want to say a few words about the main ones. First off, and important to mention, Egg & Spoon is told in the third person POV by a narrator who has been imprisoned for his role in the story. It was a really interesting take on the story and actually provided the story with a neat little "dark-ish" undertone. The whole situation had this mysterious "who is he?" kind of feel so by the end of the novel when you finally learn the truth about the narrator, you are really excited you go to know how story. His scenes were some of my favorites!You guys have already read all about my love of all things Baba Yaga so it shouldn't come as a shock that she was my favorite character. Our two main characters, however, gave the story it's heart and soul! Elena Rudina and Miss Ekaterina Ivanovna de Robichaux have a story very similar to The Prince and the Pauper where the two girls, who look strikingly similar, trade places and eventually learn that "the grass isn't always greener on the other side". Over the course of their journeys, we see huge character development from these girls and by the end of the novel I loved them both, which really surprised me. There are so many other amazing side characters that really help to make this novel one of Maguire's finest.

In all honesty, I think I could write about this amazing novel until the Ice-Dragon awoke (see what I did there?), but like all good things, this review must come to an end. All-in-all, I don't know that I can say enough great things about this novel. Having read nearly every one of Maguire's published works, I was under the impression it would take a miracle to say that he could outdo himself. Kudos to you, Mr. Maguire, because you did just that! With Egg & Spoon, I was brought back to the same mindset I was in a decade ago when I first fell in love with your works. I am so glad I read this novel and highly recommend it to any and all readers! I know you guys are used to my five star rating system, but I am giving Egg & Spoon a 6 star review! I will be honest and tell you guys that this novel is currently tied for my favorite book of 2014 and I REALLY don't know how that is going to effect my year-end recaps! :) 

Seriously everyone, Egg & Spoon was worth every second it took me to read it. I cannot wait to hear everyone else's thoughts on the novel. And Mr. Maguire, if you are reading this: thank you. Thank you for not only changing my life with your words, but for changing the face of literature, theatre, and so much more over the years! This novel has such an amazing theme of cultural relativism, that I believe it to be the perfect novel for both young and old! We can all use a lesson in multiculturalism! Let me know what you thought about Egg & Spoon in the comments!



Alright everyone, that's all  have for you on the topic of Egg & Spoon by my all time favorite author, Mr. Gregory Maguire! As you guys read, I absolutely loved this read and fully expect it to make it to the top three of my Top Reads of 2014 list! Look out everyone, Gregory Maguire is taking my list by storm! I really hope you all take the time to check out this read, it's well worth the price and the time! You will NOT regret this one! Thank you so much for stopping by! Until next time, Happy Reading!


1 comment:

  1. What an exception review, written by an exceptional person. I am glad that I get to call you friend. Gregory Maguire would be proud!