Friday, November 7, 2014

Egg and Spoon: A Russian Folktale Feast

I have to admit that I am guilty of judging books by their covers. Sometimes. My initial reaction to Egg and Spoon by Gregory Maguire happened to be one of those times. The cover looked awesome, so I took the book home and devoured it like a too-large chocolate babka.

Maguire is best known for his popular novel Wicked, which was later made into a hit play that has toured the country. I imagine his status as a successful writer limited his editors' attempts at trimming this big boy down, bringing to mind the example of J.K. Rowling's bloated fifth Harry Potter book. Like the Harry Potter book, however, it is enjoyable despite its too-muchness.

Egg and Spoon tells the story of an an imprisoned monk who tells the tale of two girls from radically different circumstances in 1905 czarist Russia. Starving peasant Elena Rudina is struggling to care for her dying widowed mother when a train carrying Ekaterina, a wealthy aristocrat traveling to Saint Petersberg, is forced to stop near Elena's village for repairs. As luck would have it, Ekaterina jumps off the train to rescue the Faberge egg she has been showing to Elena (who is aboard) just as the train is fixed and pulls away. The stage is set! What follows is a mishmash of fairytale, magic, humor, and ethical quandary that is essentially the book version of an amply proportioned matryoshka, a Russian nesting doll. While not for everybody, Egg and Spoon has a lot going for it. So give it a try. Or not. As the witch Baba Yaga (a major character full of vim and anachronistic witticisms) says, "There's the road, there's your life. I'm done with sharing."

Interested in other new titles from our library system?  Just click on the New Items link on the library's main page to browse and place holds on the new goodies. Приятного чтения (Happy reading!)

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