My Weekend’s Booked #11: Wicked by Gregory Maguire

Is there that one world that seems to draw you in? For some people it’s Alice’s Wonderland, for others it’s Hogwarts, and yet others it’s Oz. Long time followers of the blog will recall the time I read Baum’s complete collection of Oz stories. And admittedly the magic of Oz has stuck with me to this day.

After reading the series I knew I would return, and it was only a matter of time before I was digging into Gregory Maguire’s Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. The book is a wonderful homage to the Oz world, but is uniquue in that it looks at the Oz world before Dorothy arrives. Every story has two sides, but when was the last time we paused to hear them?

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Wicked is told from the point of view of Elphaba (aka the Wicked Witch of the West). Her origin, her family, and the momentous decisions that form her identity. From the moment Elphaba is born she is disliked for her green skin.  Her mother is an adulteress and her father is a zealous priest. After spending several years on a missionary trip she arrives at university were she becomes roommates with society hopeful Glinda. That is the point where things begin to take a turn for the (dare I say it?) wicked.

I have not seen the musical (though I love the soundtrack), so this was my first experience with Maguire’s famous novel. Read: it is not a children’s or YA book, but rather intended for adult readers. There were several undertones to the book: satire and political, theology, equality and sexuality. It is not a light trip down the yellow brick road, but rather a look at the crawly things living under those pristine stones.

The characters were well developed and felt real in this book, while at the same time they remained true to their inspiration in Baum’s books. Maguire’s writing imbues the world of Oz in vivid tones, bringing the gay frivolity of the original books to a grounding halt. At the end of the book there were some loose strings, but it is my hope that Maguire goes on to answer those in his subsequent books (there are four books total in the Wicked Years series).

Have you read Wicked? The other books in the series? What did you think? I have found it to be a fairly polarizing book. Either you love it or you hate it!

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2 Comments

  1. I read the book, but I disliked the book a lot. I saw the musical first and then read the book and the two are not at all alike. The book was just way too dark for me and made just do sense.

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  2. Thanks for your insight! I think going into the book is hard after having seen the musical because you have certain expectations. I have read a lot of reviews voicing that opinion, and think it’s really unfair to the book to cast judgement on it based on the musical, especially since the musical followed the text. To me it’s like comparing Disney’s Cinderella to the Grimm fairy tale version.

    Wicked is dark certainly and that’s not for everyone, but there are several themes that cause the reader to pause that I have come to understand aren’t in the musical.

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