Sunday, February 20, 2011

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire


Quasi-Historical Fiction / Fantasy / Fairytale Retelling (406 pgs.)


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 stive 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 preconcieved notions about the nature of good and evil.


After seeing the Broadway play Wicked on the West End in London over Christmas break, I found a new thing to obsess over. And when I found out that the play was based on a book, well, that little discovery ended in a trip to my local Barnes & Noble. I was really excited to start this read, but I had absoutely no idea what I was getting myself into.

I think I should start with the positives. Gregory Maguire's characters are absolutely amazing. So much depth goes into every little detail of their being. Elphaba's, or the Wicked Witch of the West's, character is complex and dynamic, and makes you question what you really know about good and evil.

Gregory Maguire's writing is absolutely breathtaking. He has literally created a whole new world... a new society, a new class of people, and a new political system. He breathes life into his story by giving his characters real-life political and societal obstacles. Oz is a real place, with real people! Or so Maguire led me to believe.

Now, onto the not-so-positives. This book was really--to sum it up in one word--weird. I can't seem to describe it any other way. It's one of those weird/bad dream kind of books, almost like an Alice in Wonderland kind of thing. I read a review somewhere that said that this book was filled with all kinds of allegories and intricate metaphors... maybe I'm just not intellectual enough, because I didn't catch that at all.

If you're like me and you wanted to read the book after seeing the play, understand one thing right now... the play and the book are two totally separate entities and are not alike at all. I wish I would have known that before reading, just to prepare myself. And unfortunately, if I had to pick one over the other, I would definitely have to go with the play. It was SO much better.

I liked the fact that Gregory Maguire took and old story and put a new spin on it, and gave an old villain a new look, but this one was just too weird for me. A piece of advice... see the play, don't read the book (because the play is really fantastic). All in all, an okay read.



Appropriateness Factors:

There are a couple of scenes that took me off guard, that were quite a bit adult. Take it for what it's worth.


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