After brilliantly reimagining the worlds of Oz, Wonderland, Dickensian London, and the Nutcracker, the New York Times bestselling author of Wicked turns his unconventional genius to Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Wild Swans,” transforming this classic tale into an Italian-American girl’s poignant coming-of-age story, set amid the magic of Christmas in 1960s New York.
Following her brother’s death and her mother’s emotional breakdown, Laura now lives on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, in a lonely townhouse she shares with her old-world, strict, often querulous grandparents. But the arrangement may be temporary. The quiet, awkward teenager has been getting into trouble at home and has been expelled from her high school for throwing a record album at a popular girl who bullied her. When Christmas is over and the new year begins, Laura may find herself at boarding school in Montreal.
Nearly unmoored from reality through her panic and submerged grief, Laura is startled when a handsome swan boy with only one wing lands on her roof. Hiding him from her ever-bickering grandparents, Laura tries to build the swan boy a wing so he can fly home. But the task is too difficult to accomplish herself. Little does Laura know that her struggle to find help for her new friend parallels that of her grandparents, who are desperate for a distant relative’s financial aid to save the family store.
As he explores themes of class, isolation, family, and the dangerous yearning to be saved by a power greater than ourselves, Gregory Maguire conjures a haunting, beautiful tale of magical realism that illuminates one young woman’s heartbreak and hope as she begins the inevitable journey to adulthood.
This is my first experience of reading a Gregory Maguire novel so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I love fairy tales, especially the original Hans Christian Andersen tales, the darkness of them and the magic they invoke. Retellings is something I am really starting to enjoy. Gregory’s books are at the top of my list to read.
We follow Laura, living with her Grandparents in New York City. She is 15, struggling with the emotional fall out from family problems which consequently causes problems at school. I think Maguire has captured perfectly the struggle of being a teenage girl, it resonated a lot with me. She was very believable as a character and her struggles with her identity broke my heart a little.
The setting of this book is just perfect. Set over a few days as a snow storm sets in, you get the impression of the whole world closing in on this house. Christmas can be an incredibly difficult time of year. The family drama adds a whole level of intensity to this tale, even before the boy with a swan wing crashes onto the roof.
While Laura is trying to figure out where this boy has come from, how to help him and most importantly, how to hide him, she starts to under go her journey into adult hood. She begins to discover her femininity and an innocent sexual awakening.
This story is beautiful in its simplicity. The imagery is so well done and the writing is gorgeous. I loved the way Laura is interspersing the tale with a story of her own and how she grows in those few short days. I will certainly be picking up more of Gregory’s books.
Thank you to Anne for an invite onto the tour and to Headline for a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Gregory Maguire 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. He still serves as co-director of CLNE, although that organization has announced its intention to close after its 2006 institute.
The bestselling author of Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, Lost, Mirror Mirror, and the Wicked Years, a series that includes Wicked, Son of a Witch, and A Lion Among Men. Wicked, now a beloved classic, is the basis for the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical of the same name. Maguire has lectured on art, literature, and culture both at home and abroad.
He has three adopted children and is married to painter Andy Newman. He lives with his family near Boston, Massachusetts.