I finished Gregory Maguire’s Lost last night. It’s a weird book. I can’t really say that I liked it, because I found the ending flat and unsatisfying. There were parts of it that I did like, but ultimately I found it somewhat confusing and convoluted. It was not as good as Wicked, and it’s sad, because there was the germ of a great idea behind this book.
Winnie Rudge is descended from Ozias Rudge, who believed himself to be the model for Charles Dickens’ Ebenezer Scrooge. Rudge regaled youngsters with tales of being haunted by a specter, and he later surmises one of them must have been young Master Dickens, who is known to have been in Hampstead during his youth.
The book opens with a jarring car accident Winnie witnesses while on her way to a Forever Families adoption group meeting. For much of the book, Winnie’s purpose in going is completely unclear. She books a flight to England to visit her cousin and friend, John Comester, who lives in Rudge House, the ancestral home of the Rudges, and who is missing when she arrives to find workmen at Rudge House.
Don’t read further if you plan to read the book.
John is actually being a jerk and avoiding Winnie. Winnie is weird, no doubt, but I still can’t figure out why most of the people she encounters in the book treat her so shabbily.
The book slows way down around the middle, and it was hard for me to finish, but dammit, when I dedicate so much time to a book, I feel bad putting it down. So I slogged through it.
I think Maguire has had some really good ideas for stories, and I enjoyed Wicked very much. Steer clear of this one. In the words of an Amazon review I found by Terry Mesnard (and can’t figure out how to link directly to):
The bookstore was out of Wicked but they did have Lost. I almost wish they didn’t. Not just because I didn’t like the book but because it made me almost not want to read Wicked.
The problem for me was that Maguire seemed to gloss over everything. He keeps the reader distanced from the characters. Not once did I feel like I got to know Winnie. On one hand this was partially intentional as Winnie herself is a very distanced character who retreats into her writing when faced with a situation she doesn’t want to acknowledge. Ironically enough, the one area that Winnie was a bit too revealing involves a “plot twist” I guess. I hate to call it so because it is the ONLY thing that was concretely and blatantly obvious.
The end result to me was such a wishy-washy mess that when all of the story threads “came together” I didn’t care. The last third of the novel I read to have a conclusion and get it over with, not because I genuinely cared. It’s hard to care about a character you don’t ever get to know. The end result is that I should have listened to the reviews here instead of the critical praises saying “A brilliant, perceptive, and deeply moving fable about loss…”. I’d recommend you do the same. Here’s hoping Wicked is much better.
Terry, Wicked was much better, and I hope you still checked it out.