I will not be giving out spoilers in this, or any other, review.
Author: Gregory Maguire
Summary: Maguire revisits the world of Oz to – as the title suggests – introduce us to the life of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West. We follow her story and get the chance to meet her parents, become more familiar with the religious and political unrest of Oz, and get a background as to what made Elphaba such a wicked witch. When she grows up, the readers follow her to school: an academy geared toward science and sorcery. As Elphaba grows and matures, she begins developing a high moral sense and great courage to stand up for what she believes in. She even meets dear Dorothy at the end of the novel, and it ends similar to the movie: with the Wicked Witch dying
Review: This was the second time that I attempted to read this book. I admit, I’ve never been much of a fan of the Wizard of Oz – Dorothy was too annoying, but it was also the whole story that just did not pull me in as it should have. When I learned there was a history of the Wicked Witch of the West, I ran out to the book store, picked it up, and began reading it. Halfway through, I set it aside, unable to make it much farther. Like the movie, I just could not get into it. I picked it up once more to see if I might have any luck this time, and the experience was not as entertaining as I might have wished it to be.
Maguire tends to ramble and leaves key details and characters that seem like they would be important out of the story. At the end of this book, I came to the conclusion that I no more understood the concept of the Time Dragon or any of the religious politics or the basic ways the cities operated than I did at the beginning. Maguire’s characters, however, carried on long, verbose conversations about these topics between them without a hint of explanation. It felt like I was standing as a spectator on the outside, eavesdropping on a conversation (and missing a good deal of it) instead of being a part of it. The question of why Elphaba is allergic to water was not answered either…
What this book does do well, however, is discussing the nature of good and evil. Maguire goes about tackling this through Elphaba. It seems from the very beginning that she’s got the entire world working against her, even her own parents. She’s born with unnaturally green skin, razor-sharp teeth that are constantly mouthing and biting on anyone that comes close, and preternatural intelligence. From the get-go, her parents are frightened of her, naming her a monster and this stigma follows her throughout her life. Even with other people’s perceptions of her, I find that Elphaba is the most complex of the characters in this story (albeit suffering from word vomit from time to time). Dorothy, on the other hand, is a sturdy little nobody from a place called Kansas that commits manslaughter the moment she arrives in Oz. She skips on throughout the story, and this bodes the question of why. Why does she mosey along almost obliviously while Elphaba works with a purpose (don’t we all try for this?) and eventually loses in the end? This where you’d have to come up with your own opinion, dear readers.
Maguire’s book is definitely not for the tentative at heart so tread with caution. In my case, I’ll keep seeing Wicked on Broadway as a firm dream on my Bucketlist!
Final Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars