When Dorothy triumphed over the Wicked Witch of the West in L. Frank Baum's classic tale, we heard only her side of the story. But what about her archnemesis, the mysterious Witch? Where did she come from? How did she become so wicked?
Gregory Maguire creates a fantasy world so rich and vivid that we will never look at Oz the same way again. Wicked is about a land where animals talk and stive to be treaed like first-class citizens, Munchkinlanders seel the comfort of middle-class stability, and the Tin Man becomes a victim of domestic violence. And then there is the little green-skinned girl named Elphaba, who will grow up to become the infamous Wicked Witch of the West - a smart, prickly, and misunderstood creature who challenges all our preconceived notions about the nature of good and evil.
Wicked is an interesting and original twist on a well-known classic that as stated above, will have you viewing all you know about Oz and it's wonderful Wizard a little differently. It is also a dense read that can be a bit of a struggle to get through!
Wicked is the story of Elphaba, a girl born with green skin and a little monstrous, growing up as an outcast, craving the love of a father who thinks her his punshiment for his failings in life. It chronicles her years as a toddler; as a student at Shiz University; as an Animal Rights activist fighting the Wizard's regime; as Fiyero's lover; and as a Witch simply looking for peace - and then revenge. Told from alternating points of view, Wicked shockingly details just how Elphaba came to be one of the most well-known and easily-recognised literary (and film) character.
Maguire has created a world and characters with Wicked that are spot on. Everything came to life in my mind and it was interesting to look at a world as familiar as Oz in such a different light. And not a pretty light, let me tell you. There is much in this book aimed to shock, I think, and for me it did. Many of Maguire's descriptions are vulgar and in your face, but I feel that's the point - so much of it felt over the top as a constant reminder that it is, in a sense, a retelling.
I do think that this also kept me at a distance from the story, however. I never felt much of an identification with the characters, though I did like Elphaba overall and felt for her plight. Certainly there were some characters - ok, most - that I wish I could slap around a little. So in some ways it scores points for eliciting some strong reactions! But I spent a lot of the book just wanting to get it finished (I had to write an essay about it, too) and not in the good 'oh, I can't wait to find out what happens next' way. My interest in it's original twist soon waned, unfortunately. Wicked is a much bigger read than it seems if only because there is so much to it. I'd read for what felt like ages and hadn't actually gotten far at all. It became frustrating, and honestly I probably wouldn't have finished it if I wasn't reading it as part of my studies.
Overall, Maguire has provided a thought-provoking twist of an incredibly well-known classic. I applaud much of it's originality. Certainly my thoughts about The Wizard of Oz have been affected! However I really just couldn't get into this novel the way I would've liked and it became a real struggle to finish it. Also, if you've seen the Wicked musical and love it - doesn't mean you'll love this. There is much, much more to the book, and I prefer to stick with the musical.
Published Year: 1995