Mirror Mirror

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Overview

The year is 1502, and seven-year-old Bianca de Nevada lives perched high above the rolling hills and valleys of Tuscany and Umbria at Montefiore, the farm of her beloved father, Don Vicente. But one day a noble entourage makes its way up the winding slopes to the farm — and the world comes to Montefiore.

In the presence of Cesare Borgia and his sister, the lovely and vain Lucrezia — decadent children of a wicked pope — no one can claim innocence for very long. When Borgia sends ...

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Overview

The year is 1502, and seven-year-old Bianca de Nevada lives perched high above the rolling hills and valleys of Tuscany and Umbria at Montefiore, the farm of her beloved father, Don Vicente. But one day a noble entourage makes its way up the winding slopes to the farm — and the world comes to Montefiore.

In the presence of Cesare Borgia and his sister, the lovely and vain Lucrezia — decadent children of a wicked pope — no one can claim innocence for very long. When Borgia sends Don Vicente on a years-long quest, he leaves Bianca under the care — so to speak — of Lucrezia.

She plots a dire fate for the young girl in the woods below the farm, but in the dark forest salvation can be found as well ...

A lyrical work of stunning creative vision, Mirror Mirror gives fresh life to the classic story of Snow White — and has a truth and beauty all its own.

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Editorial Reviews

Boston Herald
“A brilliant achievement.”
Publishers Weekly
Maguire has a lock on clever, elaborate retellings of fairy tales, turning them inside out and couching them in tongue-in-cheek baroque prose. After his revisionist takes on Oz's Wicked Witch of the West (Wicked) and Cinderella's ugly stepsisters (Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister), he now tackles Snow White. The notorious Borgia habit of poisoning rivals inspired him to transplant the classic tale to 16th-century Tuscany, where Vicente de Nevada is an expatriate Spanish widower who lives with his daughter, the fair Bianca. Beholden to sinister Cesare Borgia and Cesare's sister (and perhaps lover) Lucrezia, Vicente is sent on what appears to be a fool's errand, to discover and steal from a Middle East monastery a branch of the Tree of Knowledge complete with three apples. When Bianca is 11, Cesare's attraction to her causes the envious Lucrezia to order a young hunter to murder her and deliver her heart in a casket. Bianca, of course, is spared and taken in by seven dwarfs. But this is not Disney; the dwarfs are boulders, stirred to life by Bianca's arrival ("a clothed, bearded obstinacy became slowly apparent"). Several years pass in surreal, dreamlike fashion, with Bianca tending to the dwarfs, who cavort stiffly and philosophize collectively. When Vicente returns successful, Lucrezia poisons an apple for her rival. Innocent Bianca's fate is gentle, but that of the corrupt Lucrezia, in brilliant Venice, is appropriately grotesque. Fairy tales in their original form are often brutal and disturbing; with his rich, idiosyncratic storytelling, Maguire restores the edge to an oft-told tale and imbues it with a strange, unsettling beauty. (Oct. 14) Forecast: The near-simultaneous release of this book and the opening of the big-budget musical version of Wicked on Broadway will likely land Maguire in the media spotlight. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-A dark and vivid retelling of Snow White transposed to the Italy of the Borgias. Lucrezia is the evil stepmother and five-year-old Bianca de Nevada grows into the role of Snow White. Vicente, a minor landlord beholden to Lucrezia and her brother/lover Cesare, unwillingly leaves his motherless daughter to go on a seemingly futile errand for Cesare. Journeying to Greece to seek out a branch of the holy Tree of Knowledge, Vicente languishes for years in the dungeon of the very monks who possess the relic. While her father is gone, Bianca develops into a lovely young woman, attracting Cesare's attention. Seeing this, Lucrezia orders her killed and sends a young hunter into the woods with the familiar instructions. Adding much historical flavor and returning to the edgy eroticism of the fairy tale, Maguire invests the journeys of the Borgias, Bianca, and Vicente with a compelling urgency. Readers will be intrigued by the new story and yet curious as to how the familiar elements are brought in. Sometimes seven, sometimes eight, the dwarves, slowly awakening to their possibilities, are droll and great fun to listen to. The language has an old-fashioned quality and the point of view shifts frequently, but teens who continue to the end will learn much of medieval Italy and a little of human nature, and have a new respect for the old tale. This is a great addition to the Maguire shelf.-Susan H. Woodcock, Fairfax County Public Library, Chantilly, VA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
cassette 0-06-056767-8 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs relocate to early-17th-century Tuscany, in this wildly inventive latest from the author of such adult fantasies as Wicked (1995) and Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister (1999). Bianca de Nevada is a motherless five-year-old growing up on her father Vicente's Montefiore farm, under the watchful eyes of crusty Fra Ludovico and earthy cook Primavera. When a visit from politically ambitious nobleman Cesare Borgia sends Vicente off to perform an "impossible" task (retrieving an apple-laden branch from the biblical Tree of Knowledge), Bianca is left to the tender mercies of Cesare's equally ruthless sister (and, rumor has it, lover) Lucrezia. Maguire rings several ingenious changes on the familiar tale, making the magical mirror now possessed by Bianca's de facto stepmother Lucrezia the creation of the seven dwarves with whom Bianca will find refuge, after Primavera's malcontent grandson Ranucchio disobeys Lucrezia's order to lure Bianca into the forest to her death. Vicente survives his ordeal and returns home to find his daughter missing and presumed dead. Seventeen years following these initial events, Cesare has perished in battle, Lucrezia has fallen victim to her own malevolence and paranoia, and Ranuccio completes his redemption with the chaste act that brings the story to its well-known conclusion. A succession of (mostly) brief chapters keeps things moving, and Maguire refreshes his source material capably, depicting the dwarves as eerie semi-human hybrids ("granite figures imitating creatures"), concocting a honey of a plot twist featuring a vagabond "eighth dwarf," and reimagining the notorious Borgia siblings as monsters giftedwith intellect, wit, and paradoxical depth. Almost everything works, in a pastiche that's a model of the form. Every bit as good as Wicked: wicked good, in fact. Author tour
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060988654
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/28/2004
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 141,555
  • Lexile: 950L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Gregory Maguire

Gregory Maguire is the author of several best-selling adult novels, including Wicked, which was turned into a Broadway musical. His books for younger readers include the picture book Crabby Cratchitt, the novel The Good Liar, and the popular Hamlet Chronicles series. While writing Leaping Beauty, Mr. Maguire sadly became allergic to all creatures great and small. Now he lives in a house without pets, though he is the father of three happy, noisy small children to whom, at this writing, he has not yet developed allergies.

Biography

Raised in a family of writers (his father was a journalist and his stepmother a poet), Gregory Maguire grew up with a great love of books, especially fairy tales and fantasy fiction. He composed his own stories from an early age and released his first book for children, The Lightning Time, in 1978, just two years after graduating from the State University of New York at Albany.

Several other children's book followed, but major recognition eluded Maguire. Then, in 1995, he published his first adult novel. A bold, revisionist view of Frank L. Baum's classic Oz stories, Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West places one of literature's most reviled characters at the center of a dark dystopian fantasy and raises provocative questions about the very nature of good and evil. Purists criticized Maguire for tampering with a beloved juvenile classic, but the book received generally good reviews (John Updike, writing in The New Yorker, proclaimed it "an amazing novel.") and the enthusiasm of readers catapulted it to the top of the bestseller charts. (Maguire's currency increased even further when the book was turned into the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Wicked in 2003.)

In the wake of his breakthrough novel, Maguire has made something of a specialty out of turning classic children's tales on their heads. He retold the legends of Cinderella and Snow White in Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister (1999) and Mirror, Mirror (2003); he raised the ghost of Ebenezer Scrooge in Lost (2001); and, in 2005, he returned to Oz for Son of a Witch, the long-awaited sequel to Wicked. He has reviewed fantasy fiction for the Sunday New York Times Book Review and has contributed his own articles, essays, and stories to publications like Ploughshares, The Boston Review, the Christian Science Monitor, and The Horn Book Magazine.

In addition, Maguire has never lost his interest in -- or enthusiasm for -- children's literature. He is the author of The Hamlet Chronicles, a bestselling seven-book series of high-camp mystery-adventures with silly count-down titles like Seven Spiders Spinning and Three Rotten Eggs. He has taught at the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons College and is a founding member of Children's Literature New England (CLNE), a nonprofit organization that focuses attention on the significance of literature in the lives of children.

Good To Know

In our interview, Maguire shared some fun facts with us about his life:

"While I pride myself on trying to be creative in all areas of my life, I have occasionally gone overboard, like the time I decided to bring to a party a salad that I constructed, on a huge rattan platter, to look like a miniature scale model of the Gardens of Babylon. I built terraces with chunks of Monterey jack, had a forest of broccoli florets and a lagoon of Seven Seas salad dressing spooned into a half a honeydew melon. I made reed patches out of scallion tips and walkways out of sesame seeds lined with raisin borders. Driving to the party, I had to brake to avoid a taxi, and by the time the police flagged me down for poor driving skills I was nearly weeping. ‘But Officer, I have a quickly decomposing Hanging Gardens of Babylon to deliver....' Everything had slopped and fallen over and it looked like a tray of vegetable garbage."

"My first job was scooping ice cream at Friendly's in Albany, New York. I hated the work, most of my colleagues, and the uniform, and I more or less lost my taste for ice cream permanently."

"If I hadn't been a writer, I would have tried to be one of the following: An artist (watercolors), a singer/songwriter like Paul Simon (taller but not very much more), an architect (domestic), a teacher. Actually, in one way or another I have done all of the above, but learned pretty quickly that my skills needed more honing for me to charge for my services, and I'd always rather write fiction than hone skills."

"I steal a bit from one of my favorite writers to say, simply, that I enjoy, most of all, old friends and new places. I love to travel. Having small children at home now impedes my efforts a great deal, but I have managed in my time to get to Asia, Africa, most of Europe, and Central America. My wish list of places not yet visited includes India, Denmark, Brazil, and New Zealand, and my wish for friends not yet made includes, in a sense, readers who are about to discover my work, either now or even when I'm no longer among the living. In a sense, in anticipation, I value those friends in a special way."

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    1. Hometown:
      Boston, Massachusetts
    1. Date of Birth:
      June 9, 1954
    2. Place of Birth:
      Albany, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., SUNY at Albany, 1976; M.A., Simmons College, 1978; Ph.D., Tufts University, 1990
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Mirror Mirror

Chapter One

The roofs of Montefiore

From the arable river lands to the south, the approach to Montefiore appears a sequence of relaxed hills. In the late spring, when the puckers of red poppy blossom are scattered against the green of the season, it can look like so much washing, like mounds of Persian silk and Florentine brocade lightly tossed in heaps. Each successive rise takes on a new color, indefinably more fervent, an aspect of distance and time stained by the shadows of clouds, or bleached when the sun takes a certain position.

But the traveler on foot or in a hobble-wheeled peasant cart, or even on horseback, learns the truth of the terrain. The ascent is steeper than it looks from below. And the rutted track traverses in long switchbacks to accommodate for the severity of the grade and the cross cutting ravines. So the trip takes many more hours than the view suggests. The red-tiled roofs of Montefiore come into sight, promisingly, and then they disappear again as hills loom up and forests close in.

Often I have traveled the road to Montefiore in memory. Today I travel it in true time, true dust, true air. When the track lends me height enough, I can glimpse the villa's red roofs above the ranks of poplars, across the intervening valleys. But I can't tell if the house is peopled with my friends and my family, or with rogues who have murdered the servants in their beds. I can't tell if the walls below the roofline are scorched with smoke, or if the doors are marked with an ashy cross to suggest that plague has come to gnaw the living into their mortal rest, their last gritty blanket shoveled over their heads.

But I have come out of one death, the one whose walls were glass; I have awakened into a second life dearer for being both unpromised and undeserved. Anyone who walks from her own grave relies on the unexpected. Anyone who walks from her own grave knows that death is more patient than Gesù Cristo. Death can afford to wait.

But now the track turns again, and my view momentarily spins back along the slopes I've climbed so far. My eye traces the foothills already gained, considers the alphabet of light that spells its unreadable words on the surface of the river. My eye also moves along the past, to my early misapprehensions committed to memory on this isolated outcropping.

The eye is always caught by light, but shadows have more to say.

Rest. Breathe in, breathe out. No one can harm you further than death could do. When rested, you must go on; you must find out the truth about Montefiore. Granted a second life, you must find in it more meaning than you could ever determine in your first.

The name of the world

The world was called Montefiore, as far as she knew, and from her aerie on every side all the world descended.

Like any child, she looked out and across rather than in. She was more familiar with the vistas, the promising valleys with their hidden hamlets, the scope of the future arranged in terms of hills and light.

Once a small dragon had become trapped in the bird-snaring nets slung in the uccellare. Bianca watched as the cook's adolescent grandson tried to cut it down and release it. Her eyes were fixed on the creature, the stray impossibility of it, not on the spinney in which it was caught. How it twitched, its webbed claws a pearly chalcedony, its eyes frantic and unblinking. (Despite the boy's efforts, it died, and his grandmother flayed it for skin with which to patch the kitchen bellows.)

Bianca regarded visitors to Montefiore with fierce attention: emissaries of the world. But the bones of her home -- the house itself -- remained as familiar and unregarded as her own fingernails.

Montefiore was larger than a farmer's villa but not so imposing as a castle. Too far from anywhere important to serve as a casale -- a country house -- it crowned an upthrust shoulder of land, so its fortifications were natural. On all sides, the steepness of the slope was a deterrent to invaders, and anyway, Montefiore wasn't large enough to interest the condottieri who led their small armies along the riverbank on one campaign or another.

Had Bianca an adult eye, she might have guessed from its mismatched roofs and inconsistent architectural details that many owners had lived here before her family arrived, shaping the space with a disregard for symmetry or loveliness. When its masters had had money, they'd made attempts to drill a little grandeur into the old stone hull, like crisp starched lace tied under the wet chins of a drooling nonna. A recently completed interior courtyard, handsomely done with columns and vaults in the revived archaic style, provided relief from the roaring breeze.

Except for the courtyard, though, most attempts at improvement had been abandoned in mideffort. Some windows were fitted with glass, but in most windows, squares of linen had been nailed to the shutter moldings, pale light conferring a sense of height and volume to the dark rooms. Along one retaining wall, a loggia ran unevenly, its walls inset with terrazzo putti whose faces had become bubonic with the remains of insect cocoons. For half a century the chapel had stood with a roof beam and naked struts, the old cladding and tiles having been swept away in an arrogant gale. When the January tramontana blustered in, the geese sometimes sheltered there from the wind, though they seldom took communion.

Fortunately too inaccessible to garrison an army, Montefiore was nonetheless valuable as a lookout. From time to time in its history it had been commandeered for its prospects. On a clear day one imagined one could glimpse the sea.

What child does not feel itself perched at the center of creation?

Mirror Mirror. Copyright © by Gregory Maguire. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Table of Contents

The roofs of Montefiore 1
1502
The name of the world 5
Lago Verde 9
What they told her, what she saw 15
Don't leave, don't follow 21
A pack of dirty thieves 27
Trouble and his sister 29
I am a girl who did no wrong 32
Cesare 33
Lucrezia 35
I am a woman who slept with my father the Pope 37
What I saw then 39
I am a rock whose hands have appetites 41
A moment ago 43
A stroll in the country 45
Under the twists of thornbank 51
What lies in the mirror 53
Prince Dschem's secret 55
The three eyes of God 65
The vision in San Francesco 71
1506
Bianca awake 81
Shades of rock 97
I am a gooseboy or am I a goose 104
Mirrormirror 105
I am a hunter who cannot kill 111
Bring me her heart carved from her chest 113
Interview with an assassin 123
A walk in the woods 125
The heart of the woods 131
I am a rock and my brothers are rocks 137
Seven 139
1512
The dwarves 147
A hole in the world 157
The beast in the wall 163
Al-iksir 171
Vicente 177
Mirror mirror 187
The return of the prodigal 191
Beware beware 199
The figure in the clearing 205
Interviews 211
An ivory comb, my dear 217
I am a girl who did little wrong 225
She wakes once more 227
A bodice, my darling 231
Two bites from the Apple 235
The oval window 245
I am a woman who killed for love 249
Reflections 251
Vigil 255
1519
Thais 259
Fire and ivy 265
The heart of the matter 271
Montefiore 275
Note 277
Acknowledgments 279
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First Chapter

Mirror Mirror
A Novel
The roofs of Montefiore

From the arable river lands to the south, the approach to Montefiore appears a sequence of relaxed hills. In the late spring, when the puckers of red poppy blossom are scattered against the green of the season, it can look like so much washing, like mounds of Persian silk and Florentine brocade lightly tossed in heaps. Each successive rise takes on a new color, indefinably more fervent, an aspect of distance and time stained by the shadows of clouds, or bleached when the sun takes a certain position.

But the traveler on foot or in a hobble-wheeled peasant cart, or even on horseback, learns the truth of the terrain. The ascent is steeper than it looks from below. And the rutted track traverses in long switchbacks to accommodate for the severity of the grade and the cross cutting ravines. So the trip takes many more hours than the view suggests. The red-tiled roofs of Montefiore come into sight, promisingly, and then they disappear again as hills loom up and forests close in.

Often I have traveled the road to Montefiore in memory. Today I travel it in true time, true dust, true air. When the track lends me height enough, I can glimpse the villa's red roofs above the ranks of poplars, across the intervening valleys. But I can't tell if the house is peopled with my friends and my family, or with rogues who have murdered the servants in their beds. I can't tell if the walls below the roofline are scorched with smoke, or if the doors are marked with an ashy cross to suggest that plague has come to gnaw the living into their mortal rest, their last gritty blanket shoveled over their heads.

But I have come out of one death, the one whose walls were glass; I have awakened into a second life dearer for being both unpromised and undeserved. Anyone who walks from her own grave relies on the unexpected. Anyone who walks from her own grave knows that death is more patient than Gesù Cristo. Death can afford to wait.

But now the track turns again, and my view momentarily spins back along the slopes I've climbed so far. My eye traces the foothills already gained, considers the alphabet of light that spells its unreadable words on the surface of the river. My eye also moves along the past, to my early misapprehensions committed to memory on this isolated outcropping.

The eye is always caught by light, but shadows have more to say.

Rest. Breathe in, breathe out. No one can harm you further than death could do. When rested, you must go on; you must find out the truth about Montefiore. Granted a second life, you must find in it more meaning than you could ever determine in your first.

The name of the world

The world was called Montefiore, as far as she knew, and from her aerie on every side all the world descended.

Like any child, she looked out and across rather than in. She was more familiar with the vistas, the promising valleys with their hidden hamlets, the scope of the future arranged in terms of hills and light.

Once a small dragon had become trapped in the bird-snaring nets slung in the uccellare. Bianca watched as the cook's adolescent grandson tried to cut it down and release it. Her eyes were fixed on the creature, the stray impossibility of it, not on the spinney in which it was caught. How it twitched, its webbed claws a pearly chalcedony, its eyes frantic and unblinking. (Despite the boy's efforts, it died, and his grandmother flayed it for skin with which to patch the kitchen bellows.)

Bianca regarded visitors to Montefiore with fierce attention: emissaries of the world. But the bones of her home -- the house itself -- remained as familiar and unregarded as her own fingernails.

Montefiore was larger than a farmer's villa but not so imposing as a castle. Too far from anywhere important to serve as a casale -- a country house -- it crowned an upthrust shoulder of land, so its fortifications were natural. On all sides, the steepness of the slope was a deterrent to invaders, and anyway, Montefiore wasn't large enough to interest the condottieri who led their small armies along the riverbank on one campaign or another.

Had Bianca an adult eye, she might have guessed from its mismatched roofs and inconsistent architectural details that many owners had lived here before her family arrived, shaping the space with a disregard for symmetry or loveliness. When its masters had had money, they'd made attempts to drill a little grandeur into the old stone hull, like crisp starched lace tied under the wet chins of a drooling nonna. A recently completed interior courtyard, handsomely done with columns and vaults in the revived archaic style, provided relief from the roaring breeze.

Except for the courtyard, though, most attempts at improvement had been abandoned in mideffort. Some windows were fitted with glass, but in most windows, squares of linen had been nailed to the shutter moldings, pale light conferring a sense of height and volume to the dark rooms. Along one retaining wall, a loggia ran unevenly, its walls inset with terrazzo putti whose faces had become bubonic with the remains of insect cocoons. For half a century the chapel had stood with a roof beam and naked struts, the old cladding and tiles having been swept away in an arrogant gale. When the January tramontana blustered in, the geese sometimes sheltered there from the wind, though they seldom took communion.

Fortunately too inaccessible to garrison an army, Montefiore was nonetheless valuable as a lookout. From time to time in its history it had been commandeered for its prospects. On a clear day one imagined one could glimpse the sea.

What child does not feel itself perched at the center of creation?

Mirror Mirror
A Novel
. Copyright © by Gregory Maguire. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Reading Group Guide

Introduction

In Mirror Mirror Snow White is called Bianca de Nevada. She is born on a farm in Tuscany in 1495, and when she is seven, her father is ordered by the duplicitous Cesare Borgia to go on a quest to reclaim the relic of the original Tree of Knowledge, a branch bearing three living apples that are thousands of years old. Bianca is left in the care of her father's farm staff and the beautiful -- and madly vain -- Lucrecia Borgia, Cesare's sister. But Lucrecia becomes jealous of her lecherous brother's interest in the growing child and plots a dire fate for Bianca in the woods below the farm. There Bianca finds herself in the home of seven dwarves -- the creators of the magic mirror -- who await the return of their brother, the eighth dwarf, long gone on a quest of his own.

Questions for Discussion

  1. Maguire has said he doesn't want to be known as the writer who retells children's stories for adults. Is Mirror Mirror a retelling of the story of Snow White, or is it something else? Something more than a fairy tale? Something less?

  2. The version of Snow White that we are most familiar with is from the collection of the Brothers Grimm. Countless picture books as well as film and theater adaptations set the book where the story itself was collected: in the shadowy woods of Bavaria, Germany. There is a northern cast to the telling even in the title: Snow is less familiar in the Mediterranean than in the Black Forrest. What undertones arise when telling the story in a northern clime that are absent in a Mediterranean setting? How does the story change by being set on sunny Tuscan slopes rather than in the aromatic pinesforests of the Alps?

  3. An airy tale exists in a kind of "nevertime." The famous "Once upon a time" beginning of the old tales generally signals a setting vaguely medieval, freed from cultural or historic details that would pin the story down to a specific century. To paraphrase writer and critic Jane Langton, a fairy tale happens in an amorphous period some time between the fall of Constantinople and the invention of the internal combustion engine. We expect wishing wells, swords, goblets, maybe even battering rams and spinning wheels; we don't expect spectacles, wheelchairs, a postal service. What does it do to an old tale to slap it into a particular set of decades -- in the instance of Mirror Mirror, the first three decades of the sixteenth century? Is that story at home here?

  4. Mirror Mirror, more than any other novel of Maguire's, features figures from history. Lucrezia Borgia and her bother Cesare Borgia, the model for Machiavelli's The Prince, have central roles. (Think how the traditional prince who wakes Snow White with a kiss differs from Machiavelli's The Prince!) Pope Alexander VI, his courtesan la Cattanei, the scientist Paraclesus, the poet and typeface designer Pietro Bembo are referred to in passing. (Maguire has mentioned that a temptation he found very difficult to resist was to find roles for the young Michelangelo, the older da Vinci -- so many famous figures of the High Renaissance were thriving in these decades.) Is the inclusion of actual figures in a tale of fancy in any way dismissive of their place in history? Does it strengthen the story?

  5. In Disney's Snow White, the dwarves are named. This was a daring move, for in a fairy tale, creatures like dwarves, woodland animals, crones in the wood, and so on, are meant to perform a universal function, to stand in, like a Greek chorus, for the rest of the world. To name the dwarves is to confer individuality upon them and to threaten to muddy the focus of the story. How does Maguire play with this stress in his naming the dwarves in Mirror Mirror?

  6. Maguire was planning to begin the first draft of Mirror Mirror just after his kids began the school year in September 2001. He was still making notes on September 11, 2001. Writing seemed futile and self-absorbed in those nightmarish weeks. Can you see why the first lines Maguire could bring himself to write of Mirror Mirror were the four lines on page 32
    I am a girl who did no wrong.
    I walked this side of Gesù when I could.
    I kept an angel in my apron poacket.
    I do not think it did me any good.

  7. In a sense, the original story of Snow White is a story of maturation, of evolution. How do each of the characters evolve in Mirror Mirror?

  8. In terms of symbolic weight, the apple in the Snow White tale -- the poisoned apple -- is likened to the apples from the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden. How farfetched is this association? Does it work?

  9. In her monologue in the chapter called "Mirror Mirror" (page 187), Lucrezia Borgia muses: "Out of out need we patronize our artists, we flirt with our poets, we petition our architects: Give us your lusty colorful world. Signal to us a state of being more richly steeped in purpose and satisfaction than our own" Of course her life of wealth, power, and comfort proves relatively unsatisfactory. She is always hungry for more. Perhaps it is the storyteller and the novelist who provide their "lusty colorful world" to nurture us, distract us, console us. The philosopher Roger Scruton said, "The consolation of imaginary things is not imaginary consolation." Is this true of Mirror Mirror? If there is consolation to be had in his novel, what is its character?

  10. For an alternate version of a Snow White tale by Gregory Maguire, take a look at the short story called "The Seven Stage Comeback" in A Wolf at the Door and Other Retold Fairy Tales, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, published by Simon and Schuster. For another alternate version check out "So What and the Seven giraffes," included in Maguires collection called Leaping Beauty and Other Animal Fairy Tales, published by HarperCollins children's division. What is it about fairy tales that they can survive multiples retellings, even by the same author? Perhaps not only survive retellings, but thrive on them?

  11. Who is the fairest one of all?

About the author

Gregory Maguire received his Ph.D. in English and American Literature from Tufts University. His work as a consultant in creative writing for children takes him to speaking engagements across the United States and abroad. He is a founder and codirector of Children's Literature New England, Incorporated, a non-profit educational charity established in 1987. The author of numerous books for children, Mr. Maguire is also a contributor to Am I Blue?: Coming Out From the Silence, a collection of short stories for gay and lesbian teenagers.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 150 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2009

    another outstanding unusual story

    Mr. Maguire has done another outstanding job with an old classic. This is truly another way to look at fairy tales, and one that will make you think. Well done!!!!

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2009

    didn't like it, but I don't like Gregory McGuire, so...

    I did not enjoy <i>Mirror, Mirror</i>, which was a book club suggestion rather than a personal choice. I had read <i>Wicked</i> and not liked it much- the writing style seemed oddly impersonal and the tone did not work for me. McGuire seemed to be going for a balance between the cold pragmatism and cynicism of the Wicked Witch and the delightful, magical feel we associate with the Land of Oz. Despite liking the musical, the book left me cold. Because of that I was not looking forward to reading another book by the same author.

    In a retelling of a well-known story the author must be extremely strong on points such characterization in order to compensate for the lack of surprises in the plot. In <i>Mirror, Mirror</i> McGuire tried to achieve this by mixing the Snow White story with the mythologized history of the Borgia family. An interesting concept, but ultimately too similar to <i>Wicked</i> in its faults. The characters seemed to be flimsy and one dimensional. Despite the apparent purposefulness of this choice with regard to the dwarfs, it felt like sloppy writing. The details of Lucrezia's possible incestuous relationship with her brother felt like salacious gossip rather than useful addition to the plot.

    The ending was also disappointing. The worst part of Snow White is that she runs off with her prince despite hardly knowing him- and even worse, the reader doesn't know him either. <i>Mirror, Mirror</i> repeats this, despite having the opportunity to introduce a prince of an entirely different nature or a relationship that comes out differently from our princess and her prince in Disney and Grimm's.

    Basically, if you liked <i>Wicked,</i> you might like this. I'd call it a toss up. If you love Snow White stories, go for it. If you didn't like <i>Wicked</i> or haven't read anything by McGuire, I wouldn't bother. You're not missing much.

    4 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 10, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Eeek

    Deffinately not Maguires best. The plot was nonexistant, the characters compltely drab, and the scenarios were somewhat disgusting. It was an utter peice of crap, but a peice of crap written beautifully.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 3, 2013

    Pretty good :-)

    I love how Gregory Maguire takes classic tales and creates a new twist on them. Really enjoyed reading this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 1, 2013

    I stopped reading this I thought it was so bad.

    I stopped reading this I thought it was so bad.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2012

    I need it!

    I need the sample! This sounds so good! Plz i need this!!!!

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2011

    Darkly Delightful!

    My favorite book from Gregory Maguire! A beautiful retelling that has made this fairy tale my new favorite! Also a quick read!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 15, 2010

    Ages 25 and 13

    My niece and I both read this book since we've enjoyed some of Gregory Maguire's other works. We both found it harder to stay interested in this book. It has a very slow beginning. My niece didn't even finish it, and she loves to read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 23, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    A new outlook on an old story...

    This book gives a fresh perspective to the Cinderella story. The hidden depths exposed throughout the telling of Mirror Mirror kept my attention through most of the story. The beginning of the story was a little difficult to wade through, but set the scene for the rest of the book. It gave great insight into each of the characters.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 17, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    The ability to take a moment in History, add a fairytale and cre

    The ability to take a moment in History, add a fairytale and create a story that sheds light on both takes a mind that is rich in imagination, a broad grasp of History and a deep understanding of the Genre of Myth.  Gregory Maguire has proven his ability to retell a familiar tale in such a way so as to cause a tale to never be heard with “the same ears” again.  In this retelling of “Snow White” and “Sleeping Beauty,” he drafts Lucrezia Borgia into the role of the “Evil Step Mother/Witch” and makes more real a “bedtime story,” even though the original always spoke more than we parents wanted our children to understand.
    Set in early 16th Century Italy, a time of City-States who were in a near constant state of war with each other, the Vatican was less than Holy in its duty to over See of the world and farms were kingdoms unto themselves. Don Vicente and his daughter, Bianca, live on one such farm.  Their idyllic life is suddenly and rudely interrupted when, Lucrezia and Cesare Borgia, daughter and son of Pope Alexander VI, whose term as Pope set a standard of corruption unsurpassed until recent history, arrive.  Cesare, an arrogant warrior, sends Don Vicente on a quest to attain a branch from the Tree of Knowledge spoken of in the Book of Genesis, leaving the beautiful Bianca at the mercy of Lucrezia.  A (possible) historical fable is born and detailed with remarkable deftness.
    How the mirror is discovered, who made it, it’s designed use and the change brought about when all of the books elements are eventually combined is a delight to read and a moment of literary brilliance in writing.  The mirror is never meant to be a fortuneteller; rather, it is intended, as are all mirrors, to tell the truth as the seer would like it to be once all the “blemishes” have been removed. As is true in all good stories, the quest for power is prominent in the action of this book and, as is true in all fairytales, that power is subjugated by the true power found in innocence and truth.  The elements that cause such conquest are clearly evident, fluid and all around us; their familiarity causes those elements to be invisible until one becomes aware, as if waking from a dream, of the results wrought by the effect of the elements.  Quests are fulfilled once the seeker is brought to the place of facing the truth of their essence. Only then are we found to be worthy of the discovery of what we seek.  
    There is allusion to sex and violence in this story.  The characters are well developed and “believable” (as much as one is willing to suspend disbelief to believe in the existence of earth dwelling dwarfs). The ending is a commentary on the bitter-sweetness that is life.  We lose things that are dear, discover hidden strengths, learn to grow up, return home to find it has changed in our absence and we are not immediately recognized as belonging there.  
    Reading Maquire is a trip to the bedtime stories of one’s childhood, seeing them with the eyes of an adult – the fantasy made sense we were children because we wanted to believe; they make more sense now because we are willing to see life more clearly but still consider the possibility of magic.  

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 23, 2013

    Unique telling of a great story

    Yes

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  • Posted November 27, 2012

    Beautiful

    Beautiful

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 25, 2012

    Not like movie. AT ALL!!!!!!

    Bad.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2012

    Quick enjoyable

    Thumbs up

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 6, 2012

    Mirror Mirror the movie

    So last night i watched Mirror Mirror an Reallyyyyy enjoyed it! I was hoping there was a book version of the story and I think this is it but I'm not sure. Accoring to some of the comments this book is boring and some would like their money back. So I'm thinking this isn't the right book and I probs won't get it. COMMENTATORS THANK YOU FOR SAING MY $9.99!

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2012

    Well written

    This was well written but not as interesting to me as the wicked series.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 21, 2013

    This book as some thought but not thing.

    This book as some thought but not thing.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2012

    Fyyf

    FYI best book i ever read in my life

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 10, 2010

    First and Last time reading this author.

    I was completely disappointed. I love retellings and reworkings of classics, but this one was ALMOST as bad as "pride and prejudice and zombies".....Almost.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 27, 2009

    Not in the same league with his other books

    As wonderful as I thought "Confessions" and the Wicked series was, this book was totally lacking. The characters were flat, the plot non-existent and the book was depressing overall. It truly had no redeeming value at the end. Mr. Maguire, please go back to "Wicked" and writing interesting books. I would honestly ask for my money back on this one.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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