Published by William Morrow Paperbacks
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction
Amazon Kindle* | Amazon Paperback*
Wicked by Gregory Maguire is a wonderfully creepy, magical and sometimes disturbing book, perfect for your fall reading list. Maguire creates a “Wicked” Witch we can empathize with and relate to while providing commentary on the role religion, racial inequality and suppression play in fueling evil. An interesting look at whether evil is born or created. I empathized with misunderstood Elphaba and enjoyed her personal connections with the characters we’ve come to love from the traditional story and new ones we never knew. I particularly loved Elphaba’s college years to the end where the story really picked up.
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.”
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I love fairy tale retellings or books that explore a twist on the conventional and Wicked by Gregory Maguire certainly fit the bill. The book centers around Elphaba’s life who is misunderstood from the moment of her birth and her green skin turns her family’s world topsy-turvy.
Her parents are already an unlikely pair -her father a fanatical, ranting religious minister and her mother a promiscuous, lonely and uncaring person. Elphaba’s birth only complicates the discord in her parent’s relationship. The fanatical rantings of Elphaba’s father and strange ceremonies involving a Clock Tower and Unnamed God were tough for me to digest and set a dark and sour tone for the beginning of the book. I found some scenes in this part of the book very disturbing and I really disliked Elphaba’s parents. I was glad when she grew up and moved on to college and escaped her parents’ strange hold. Throughout the book, the author describes the different cultures in Oz, how their people and societies differ and how the Wizard treats the different sects.
I really enjoyed the story when Elphaba goes to college, makes new acquaintances and learns to fit into society despite her “color.” She develops her own identity and interests and I came to care for and empathize with her. She fights for Animal equality (these are the Animals that can speak) and becomes empassioned for the cause. We are also introduced to Elpahaba’s sister, Nessarose, who is quite unique in her own right, and the owner of the magical red shoes which have a unique twist in the story. Elphaba leaves college and the story turns more political as war wages throughout Oz. The war bored me a bit but what pulled me through to the end was watching Elpahaba develop throughout the story ever so slowly into the “Wicked Witch of the West” and how others perceived her as Wicked.
I totally related to Elphaba and slowly found her endearing. I often feel misunderstood as wicked because of the nature of my job even though that’s not who I am, just what I do for a living. I could relate to her ostracism as a young child because of her color as in elementary school I was teased because of my dark skin. Elphaba learns from her experiences and turns into a woman with strong convictions and passion for what is important to her.
This book was definitely a roller coaster for me, some parts I sailed through easily and others just dragged. I haven’t seen the Broadway show but this book certainly has me curious how they turned it into a musical! I am also curious to read Maguire’s other fairy tale retellings about Snow White and the other Oz characters.
I found very interesting how the author uses the book as his commentary on the sources of evil, how men and women differ, how religion pays its role and how racial inequality and suppression fuels evil. Overall Wicked* by Gregory Maguire was worth the read, if only to remember that we shouldn’t judge people to be Wicked, until we’ve walked a mile in their shoes and seen where they come from.
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“Glinda didn’t see the verdant world through the glass of the carriage; she saw her own reflection instead. She had the nearsightedness of youth. She reasoned that because she was beautiful, she was significant, though what she signified, and to whom, was not clear to her yet.”
“When goodness removes itself, the space it occupies corrodes and becomes evil, and maybe splits apart and multiplies. So every evil thing is a sign of the absence of deity.”
“That’s what misbehavior is all about, just a little extra loving being asked for.” (I gotta remember this when my kids misbehave!)
“I never use the words humanist or humanitarian, as it seems to me that to be human is to be capable of the most heinous crimes in nature.”
“I shall pray for your soul,” promised Nessarose. “I shall wait for your shoes,” Elphie answered.
Books Like This You Might Enjoy (Besides Harry Potter which is a must read):
UnEnchanted: An Unfortunate Fairy Tale by Chandra Hahn* – 5*, a YA story about a girl who goes from zero to hero and fight off her family’s fairy tale curse. A surprisingly enjoyable read, FREE on Kindle and Audible
First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen: A Magical Foodie Tale – 4*, when a mysterious stranger threatens the foundation of the magical Waverly sisters’ family, they must combine their magical gifts to stop them.
The Visitant: A Venetian Ghost Story by Megan Chance Review – 5*, a turn of the century ghost story when Venice was a dark and scary place.
Have you read Wicked or any of the other Gregory Maguire books? Have you seen the show? How did they compare? I’d love to hear your thoughts and as always happy reading!