Egg and Spoon

Egg & Spoon by Gregory Maguire is our YA selection for the Convent book group's Witches month, and it's quite long -- more than 450 pages. I borrowed it from the library, let it languish by the bed for a while, then had to finish it in a gallop because the due date came up and I couldn't renew it because someone else (perhaps another member of my book group) had reserved it!

Possibly this haste means that I didn't get to savour the book as much as it deserved. I haven't read any other Gregory Maguire titles, though he is probably best known for writing the book on which the famous musical Wicked was based -- he is clearly drawn to witches. And there were certainly echoes of Wizard-of-Ozzery in the presentation of the witch featured here, even though she is the figure of Russian folklore, Baba Yaga.

I found Egg & Spoon in the adult Fantasy section of the library; the cover has a bet each way by claiming it's a book 'for readers of all ages' and I think this time I might have to agree. While it features two youthful protagonists in the 13 year old peasant girl Elena and young noblewoman Ekaterina, it's emphatically not a stereotypical 'YA' story -- it's crammed with magical allusions, historical asides and imaginative leaps. It might belong in that select category of Books for Adults Who Like YA. In the early stages it reminded me a lot of The Book Thief (also a member of that group) but the slightly laboured pyrotechnics of the writing settled down after a while and I relaxed into the story. I could imagine it being enjoyed by able primary school readers, young adults and adults.

I ended up liking this book much more than I thought I would at first -- maybe the lesson is to push on past the first fifty pages, because it really picked up steam after that.

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