In the past, I’ve been pretty upfront about my love for nutcrackers. I love the story, their ties to folklore and the belief that they can be used to ward off evil and bringing good luck (I may be a tad superstitious).
A fan of fantasy novels, you can only imagine how excited I was to hear that Gregory Maguire was taking on the story of the nutcracker in his most recent novel “Hiddensee: a Tale of the Once and Future Nutcracker.”
That being said, let me make one thing clear: Like most of Maguire’s novels, this book is absolutely not the story that you think you are getting when you pick it up. This story does not focus on the nutcracker, but rather, his maker, Heir Drosselmeir the toymaker.
Without giving too many spoilers away, I will say that the book follows Drosselmeir through life, beginning with his youth as a young boy named Dirk. While at first you suspect (and maybe hope) that Dirk will grow into the nutcracker, that theory is quickly dashed when his mentor dubs him Drosselmeir.
There’s no getting around it: this book is odd. It’s quirky, dark and at times requires your complete concentration. It is not a cheerful rendition of German children dancing around the Christmas tree, plagued by the wretched mouse king.
It’s a highly symbolic journey into the human subconscious, with its theme for longing for childhood innocence making it relatable. It is, first and foremost, beautiful. I’m not sure I realized just how much I enjoyed this book until after I was done reading it.
Like all Maguire novels, this book makes you think. This is probably why I loved it so much. I’d recommend this read to nutcracker fans, literary nerds and fantasy enthusiasts alike. An absolute must-add for your holiday reading list!