Egg and Spoon
Under the melancholy blanket of an endless Russian winter, the isolated village of Miersk struggles to survive with little nourishment, ramshackle shelter, and scare provisions. With many of the young men conscripted for the Tsar’s army and the village girls swept away by devastating flood, the remaining village residents are forced to make do with what they have—which isn’t much. Counted among the few is Elena Rudin, the obedient peasant child spending her days caring for her invalid mother, trying to manage until spring comes and new hope blossoms. However, hope seems a little farfetched as the winter days continue to drag on—until a providential occurrence changes Elena’s life for good. When a colossal storm strikes and destroys a nearby trestle bridge, a lavish train headed for the Tsar’s palace is forced to stop in the township until repairs can be made. Desperate for food, Elena approaches the train with little hesitation, where she meets the privileged (and slightly spoiled) Ekaterina; a wealthy socialite groomed and trained to marry into the royal Russian line. Both seemingly trapped in their respective roles, the lives off these two girls are turned upside down in a case of mistaken identity and fate that send them on their own personal quests to freedom. With the help of a Firebird, a rare Faberge egg, and a grumpy Russian witch, the two daughters of Russia are sewn together to form a legend of their own.
“Day after day in the season of disaster, it can be hard to recognize a change in fortune when it comes. Elena was untried at hope. It was Second Chance Day, and the chance was coming.”
While the plot may seem slightly implausible, I really enjoyed this book. The design was beautifully worded and very descriptive—the text just tended to flow. I found the characterization to be very strong and relatable (but still able to invoke sympathy or contempt). In a many books these days, the protagonist tends to be put on a pedestal—perfect, ideal, unreachable. With Elena, I didn’t get that feeling at all. Maguire was skilled at revealing her and other character’s flaws—because, as you know, we, as human beings, find it impossible to be perfect. The symbolism and folklore was also very prominent in this book, which could sometimes be confusing for those of us who are not up to date on our Russian legends—but, in many situations, it also added to the intrigue and the literary flow that I mentioned earlier. While slightly dry and rigid at some points, the story was mostly kept fast-paced and energetic. I also enjoyed the humor that was scattered throughout—the dry wit of some character’s definitely kept the story light and airy. All in all, a good read that I would recommend for anyone looking for something a little different to add to their reading list.
“I don’t know what the crisis is…..but have you ever noticed that the world can hardly fail to be beautiful even when it is falling apart?”
I would recommend this book for all ages, as the fairy-tale impression would appeal to younger readers and the action and suspense appeal to the older.
Will Elena and Cat find a way to be happy in their own destinies that their circumstances have planned out for them—or will they find a way to make their own fate? Read Egg and Spoon by Gregory Maguire to find out!