Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Wicked by Gregory Maguire

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire seems to be one of those books readers either love or hate. Why? I think it's do to a mixture of life experiences, expectations, and beliefs. Does this review begin to sound like a psychology article? I'll explain.

Wicked is a book full of heavy morals, political views, religion, and the role of destiny. There is also highly descriptive events that deal with sex and sexual perversions, making this a rough book for children as a group - although it may be alright for some teens. I bring this up because of the musical. (Which I love and will be talking about in greater detail in a future post.)

For those who have been living under a rock, Wicked was made into a highly successful musical. The plot with in the book, which consists of many stories and topics, was simplified for the musical. It had to be, of course, it's a three hour musical based on a 450 page book! The musical has some of the political and moralistic flow that oozes out of most of the book, but it is truly the story of the friendship between Glinda and Elphaba, the witches of North and West respectively. The best way to put it is this: Wicked the Musical is the Disney version of Wicked the book. Just as the Grimms' fairytales were dark and disturbing, so is Wicked the book. I've seen lots of reviews for this book, some fawning and some damning. It seems that many of those unhappy with the book where disappointed because they expected something more like the musical.

Beyond the musical's influence, some people are put off by the way Maguire writes. He does not tie up all the loose ends and he doesn't finish his endings with finality. Wicked has some ends tied very nicely - if you can wade through the difficult prose and strange plot you will find out the origins of the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Man, the ruby slippers, and the winged monkeys. Other story lines just float out into the ether without resolution. It is not a book for enjoyment alone, there are deeply disturbing questions raised and imagery that is hard to push aside. I read this back in 1995, when it was first published. I read it again every few years. I love this book and yet I really don't know why. It doesn't make me happy. I know how the book ends, we all do. There is only one way for it to end, Elphaba has to die.

Book Description:
Years before Dorothy and her dog crash-land, another little girl makes her presence known in Oz. This girl, Elphaba, is born with emerald-green skin -- no easy burden in a land as mean and poor as Oz, where superstition and magic are not strong enough to explain or to overcome the natural disasters of flood and famine. But Elphaba is smart, and by the time she enters the university in Shiz, she becomes a member of a charmed circle of Oz' most promising young citizens.

Elphaba's Oz is no utopia. The Wizard's secret police are everywhere. Animals -- those creatures with voices, souls and minds -- are threatened with exile. Young Elphaba, green and wild and misunderstood, is determined to protect the Animals -- even it means combating the mysterious Wizard, even if it means risking her single chance at romance. Even wiser in guilt and sorrow, she can find herself grateful when the world declares her a witch. And she can even make herself glad for that young girl from Kansas.


Kelley said...

thanks for visiting me! Thanks for letting me know I am not alone!

(Stop feeling sorry for yourself, Flannigan!) Hee hee.

Still, glad that some folks answered.

Love the book review...but I'm left with mixed feelings about whether or not I want to read it, now.

Kandii said...

I read this book a few months back. I loved it and thought that it was simply amazing. It was incredible to watch how Elphaba's state of mind slipped, leading up to the tragedy between her and Dorothy.

I don't know, there was just SO much in that book to think about. It was some heavy stuff, and I think anybody who reads it, should be able to take something valuable away from it.