Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Book Review: Wicked by Gregory Maguire

ISBN: 0061350966
Published: September 25th, 2007 (first published September 29th, 1995)
Publisher: Harper
Read from January 5th to 26th, 2014
Synopsis from Goodreads:
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 arch-nemesis, the mysterious witch? Where did she come from? How did she become so wicked? And what is the true nature of evil?
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 strive to be treated like first-class citizens, Munchkinlanders seek 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 be 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.


I've known about the Wicked musical for years, and even though I've never actually gotten to see it performed, I've listened to the soundtrack millions upon millions of times. Hopefully, one day I'll actually get to go see it.

Because of the musical, I've been wanting to read the book for the longest time, and I've actually owned it for more than a year now without getting around to it. I had heard nothing but great things about it, so I had high hopes for the book. I think it managed to reach them.

I love getting any type of backstory to an already existing story. I think it makes things interesting, especially when it comes from a different author so you get another point of view. Few people read or watch (only watched in my case) The Wizard of Oz and feel sympathy for the Wicked Witch of the West, but in Wicked, she's Elphaba. Readers get to know her from when she's a young child, and it isn't until late in the book that the title Wicked Witch of the West even starts to be mentioned. By that point, you've gotten to know here too well to really hate her.

The book weaves together aspects of The Wizard of Oz really well while also making itself very unique. There were some things that I recognized as different from The Wizard of Oz movie, but I'm going to assume that it lines up with the book and that was a result of changes in The Wizard of Oz's movie adaptation. This book is also much more adult than The Wizard of Oz, and it's probably best that younger readers not pick it up. There's one scene in particular that comes to mind.

What Maguire did of making Elphaba sympathetic while also showing her as the same Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz is very impressive. That alone makes the book enjoyable. However, I think even someone who knew nothing about The Wizard of Oz could get plenty of enjoyment from the novel. Nothing in it requires prior knowledge, although being familiar with The Wizard of Oz does help you pick up a few references and things.

I would recommend Wicked to anyone who is curious in a different take on The Wizard of Oz and a different view on The Wicked Witch of the West.

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