Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire
Published HarperCollins 2000
Genre: Adult Fantasy
Format: Hardback from the library
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 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.
Everyone seems to either love or hate this book. And I must say – I loved it. I have never seen the Broadway show, so I don’t know how this compares, but this just makes me want to see the show even more.
Elphaba (the Wicked Witch of the West) has such a great voice for a main character. We all know her as the villain, but this story really reinterprets her. I felt really connected to her character and not that she was a bad person. Seeing her develop from a child to the adult all in the same book was cool to see that development as she grows into what she is. Her story is tragic and a little sad. She’s not a villain that acts out from nothing. Her wickedness is seen from an early age, but during her college years, she seems normal and just like any regular person, but singled out for her green skin.
I loved seeing all the foreshadowing throughout the book and all of the illusions to the original story. Some things, like why she melts with water or why she cares for the Wicked Witch of the East, are explained in more detail. It’s nice to have this background. However, Maguire also expanded upon Oz and splitting away from the original novel. He separates Oz into four sections, ruled by the Wizard of Oz. He gives it also some details of our world – college, religion, the fear of tyranny.
The plot follows her throughout her life. There are some slow parts, especially when the world building and characters get a little overbearing. Many people are in the mix, all with very strange names, so it takes a while to get really latched onto each character. Overall, it moves at a good speed that really tells the story. There’s nothing that is unceccessary, and if it seems like it is, it will probably just be revealed sooner on in the book. My favorite parts where the last two sections in Vinkus and when Dorothy arrives in Oz. I hoped for a little bit more interaction between her and Dorothy, but I’m not sure if that was just my crazy expectations or if that really happened in the original story.
Of course, there were some liberties taken here, so if you are looking for a strict retelling of the story, that’s not what this is. However, I really admired the themes here of what evil really is and loved this new telling of a classic tale. It was so much fun!