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I have been an avid fan of all things Oz since I was a little girl and so inevitably discovered the musical ''Wicked'' as I grew up and of course loved it which led me to this book and a whole new Oz. Many people have criticised this book for being overly complicated and confusing but I think this is just what readers need. Gregory Maguire doesn''t treat the reader like the child who first saw the 1939 film and wanted to follow Dorothy and her friends down the Yellow Brick Road; He beckons them into a darker world of political scandal, love affairs and religious allegory. The character of Elphaba alone is enough to draw in any young woman who knows what it''s like to be different and outcast. She is strong, witty and a beautiful character to behold, although a little more ''Wicked'' than her musical counterpart. Grown up fans of the musical simply must pick up this book to find out the wider story of Elphaba and although the musical deviates heavily from this source material they will delight in rediscovering some of their favourite characters and broader adventures and motivations. The books opening is a little difficult to get into, introducing some of the novels broader themes of adultery and religion in the time dragon clock yet the first chapter or so is definitely worth soldiering through just to get through a wonderfully wicked novel. Many plot points in this first novel are carried on throughout the ''Wicked'' series which all make for an interesting read, even if they rarely live up to the beauty of the first novel. Yet fans of the musical and the Oz series as a whole will enjoy this intriguing novel as an alternate to the story of the Wicked Witch of the West.
Wicked is intended as a prequel and companion volume to the classic story, The Wizard Of Oz and basically tells the back story behind The Wicked Witch Of The West. Here, we learn her name is actually Elphaba as Gregory Maguire attempts to put forward the case that maybe she wasn't quite as wicked after all and provides us with some of the story that occurred BEFORE Dorothy came to Oz.
Right from the beginning, this is pretty intense stuff with a strong fantasy setting that may alienate some readers straight from the get-go. There are some pretty hard to pronounce names and this all feels about as different from The Wizard Of Oz as you could possibly get with much reference to the lands surrounding Oz and The Emerald City rather than the areas some reader may be more familiar with. Elphaba's parents are featured and play a big part in the story, as does Elphaba's conception, before the plot really starts to get down to the nitty gritty and give some insight into the motives of The Wicked Witch's behaviour.
I didn't like this and found it a hard book to finish. I wasn't really feeling Oz and couldn't find myself drawn into this world at all. Neither did I much like Maguire's interpretations of established characters. It all just didn't quite gel for me.
There are several more stories set after this that continue the plot and establish something of a story arc that runs alongside Baum's original Oz novels but I found nothing here to make me want to read any further.
I know this book has established something of a cult following and reputation, due in part I think to the accompanying stage show, but this did absolutely nothing for me I am afraid and I failed to see what the attraction might be.
This is the second "alternative" version of Oz I have read and the second I have been disappointed by. I think in future I will just stick to the original series because it seems to be that other authors just can't recapture the magic!
Wicked - Gregory Maguire
I have heard a lot of amazing things about the West End show 'Wicked' which is taken from Maguire's book, though unfortunately, I have not been able to go and see it yet, so instead, I took up the next best thing; I picked up the book!
The book's RRP is set at £7.99, though it can be picked up for a lot less online.
Unbeknown to me, 'Wicked' is actually Maguire's first book in a four part series which includes; 'Son of a Witch', 'A Lion Among Men' and 'Out of Oz'. Even though I haven't read the other books in this series yet, from reading the synopsis', it is obvious that these books definitely do need to be read in order otherwise you will not be able to grasp the whole concept of the stories. From reading just this first book, it is clear that Maguire packs in a lot of information, and skipping just one book in this series would not be a great idea at all.
Anyway, let me take you into the infamous world of Oz, to a time never explored in 'The Wizard of Oz'.
FALL UNDER THE WICKED SPELL
"As long as people are going to call you lunatic anyway, why not get the benefit of it? It liberates you from convention."
Even if you have never seen it, you would have certainly heard of Dorothy triumphing over the Wicked Witch of the West along the yellow brick road in the classic novel turned film, 'The Wizard of Oz'. In this well known classic, we see Dorothy's side, but what about her arch-nemesis; The Wicked Witch of the West? Where did she come from? How did she become so wicked? And what is the true nature of evil?
Even with all those questions as an introduction to the book, I was still not prepared for how the story would actually go. I am not entirely sure what I was expecting, though perhaps I was expecting something along the lines of the original 'Wizard of Oz' story, all singing and dancing along the yellow brick road. What I got was completely and utterly different, and in my opinion, not all of it good.
All at once, Maguire takes us into a vivid fantasy world, complete with a simple map at the beginning (which to be honest, I barely glimpsed at though it was a nice touch). Everything was outlined to great detail in the world of Oz, and the picture was a whole lot different to the one we were introduced to all those years ago. As said, the land is described in huge detail, and a lot of the time, I felt it was too much detail. Not only was everything described even to the smallest spec on the grass, the political background of every 'town' was spelt out word for word which became too much after only a short time of reading, and I found myself skimming large parts of these lengthy descriptions. (more about this later in the review). Although in parts, the added description helped visualize the world of Oz perfectly, in the main it was too long winded for my liking and not really needed. Saying that, though, it did keep in with the style of the rest of the book, whether this is a plus or negative point, I am not sure.
Due to the above, among other things, I found the book extremely hard to get into, and therefore, it took me quite a while before I reached the third chapter! If it wasn't lengthy, and to put it bluntly, boring descriptive passages, it was political arguments and debates or an over-abundance to information about the history of Oz.
One aspect which was not keeping in form with the lengthy processes was the characters. This is one part of the book in which I actually found interesting and entertaining. Although the book is centered upon the 'wicked witch', the other characters in the book are well thought out and bought from the page with great vigor. There are some characters whom really stand out in the story, whether you love them or hate them, and each have a well written history as well as a present characterization. There are a few lesser characters who hide in the background with their lack of substance and at times I found myself having to try to remember who each of them were, though these were few and far between. The story also touches upon the original story, with the witch meeting Dorothy and her band of followers, as they were a huge impact upon the end of the story for the witch, and although I disliked the way that Dorothy was written as it was quite different from my view of the original character, she still fit into the story well and worked as part of this new story. The backgrounds of her band of followers was also well thought out and quite amusing in parts, such as the Tin Man who is a victim of domestic violence, which brings a sense of modernization into the story. Although amusing and well thought out, we do not get to know these as we do other characters in the book, as this is not about Dorothy's tale but the 'Wicked Witch'.
So what about the main character? Does she meet up with expectations? Do we see her in a different light to how she was once painted?
This is an amazing piece of imagination, in my opinion. The book takes you right back to before the witch, Elphaba, was born, answering all the questions gradually that you may or may not have had in the original story, such as why her skin in green, what made her the person she was by the time she met Dorothy, what she really thought of the 'Wicked Witch of the East' (who happens to be her sister in this book), and how she really came about her name of the 'Wicked witch'. As with many books featuring a main character, I began to really empathies with her and I really began to see her in a different light. In my opinion, and many others who have either read the book or seen the show, she was simply misunderstood. Intrigued? That is how I felt throughout the book, even through the tedious parts. This author really brings this character to life. I will not say more as I do not want to risk giving anything away, though if nothing else appeals about this book, the 'real' story of Elphaba is one thing which may interest many of you who know the original story. It is worth picking up the book just to read about her character.
One thing I briefly mentioned above was the political aspect within the story. This is one thing which really did not appeal to me in the slightest. Not only is there political debates about Oz throughout the whole book in extremely lengthy paragraphs, there is also a battle of morals, good and evil and much more along these lines. At times, I felt as though I was reading a journal of government or something along those lines. Whilst there was a few small points of interest, I found the whole political argument too full on and found myself skimming most of it. Usually, I read through a book quite quickly, though there was way too much of this political and moral standing for my liking. Although some of it ran alongside the story well, I felt that it went overboard, and instead of a paragraph of explanation and debate, you had pages upon pages of it which bulked out the book unnecessarily.
The story on the whole was of medium strength, with the characterizations and main story line very interesting and often, quite entertaining, though the long explanations and descriptions alongside the arguments of politics and such like, literally made my head ache. The flow was hard to handle as it jumped frequently from a relaxed attitude to a long debate, and I found myself having to remind myself of many parts in which I had zoned out of.
So how does the ending compare?
One thing which I find very important in a book is the ending. A story can be written perfectly, though if the ending is wrong, then it gives me a really terrible feel to the whole book, almost as though I feel my time was wasted reading it, even if I did enjoy the rest of the story.
Throughout this book, I was not sure exactly whether it was enjoyment or curiosity which spurred me on. As the end approached, though, I did find my excitement and anticipation mounting as the story reached the point in which the original one told, though this time, from another's point of view. I found myself wanting to find out how it all ends, and I wasn't disappointed. Although the main bulk of the story had its ups and downs, the ending couldn't have been better. Everything was answered and everything rounded up beautifully. Although there is a second and furthermore book (or two), it is clear that these other books will take on their own story, stemmed from the end of this one. Whether I will read the next book, I am not sure as this one intrigued me and was really good at certain points, though in the main it was long winded and a heavy read.
It is difficult to say whether I enjoyed this book or not as, even once the covers had been closed for the last time, I felt strained. The whole book had been a long-winded read and not one to relax with. The political and moral aspects were too much for me and, in my opinion, not overly necessary to the story. The characters were great, especially the insight into Elphaba, and although Oz was written in too much depth, it was an eye opener to the original story.
I am glad that I read it as I now see Oz and Elphaba in a completely new light which has bought depth into the original story of Oz, though when it comes down to it, I am very doubtful that I will ever read it again.
This book can be picked up from just under £4.00 online, though Ebay does have it for less occasionally.
Please note: This review is written of the book without seeing the West End show.
If you've seen and enjoyed Wicked! the musical, then you'll probably enjoy Wicked, the book. However, that is most definitely not to say that they are the same thing. When I first started reading, I kept waiting for all the things that happened in the musical to happen in this book, but it just didn't happen. Once I'd realised that they were two entirely different things, I was able to relax a bit more and enjoy the book in its own right.
The story follows Elphaba, a young girl born in Munchkinland with green skin, a mouthful of teeth and oodles of attitude. We watch her grow up, go to school, and slowly become entangled in the dark, underground world of politics in Oz. Many of the musical characters are present - Galinda, Fiyero, Dr Dillamond - but their characters are quite different.
Elphaba is extremely prickly and cynical, and is extremely difficult to like. She is an exceptionally complex and well written character, and if I'm honest she is the main draw of the novel. I love the way she is completely different to any other female leads in novels, and is motivated by things like politics and science and art. Caustic and sarcastic, she is a world - literally - away from your average chick lit heroine. I'm not averse to chick lit by any means, and Becky Bloomwood of the Shopaholic series is one of my favourite fictional women, but it is nice to have a change from that and see something that's truly original. Elphaba makes certain decisions and does certain things that are a million miles away from anything I would ever decide or do, but the skill of Maguire's writing puts me firmly in her shoes and on her side. She takes things so seriously and because of that she doesn't feel comfortable with her more light-hearted school friends. I think a lot of people can empathise with feeling like an outsider for various reasons.
The political situation in Oz is covered in quite a lot of detail. Oz is split up into different regions, and there are many different races as well. Besides Munchkinland there is Gillikin, Ugabo and Quadling Country, all with their own inhabitants. The power struggles and tensions are all described very thoroughly, and this can start to get a bit dull. It is necessary, because obviously unlike things set in our world, we have very little previous knowledge, so the entire system has to be explained to us. It's also important because of how closely Elphaba is involved with that world - we need to know the background to understand her actions and motivations.
The sense of place created by Maguire is extremely impressive. He has his work cut out for him because Elphaba travels so much that she covers practically the whole of Oz, and you can imagine each setting so clearly it's almost as though you've been there. With some books, as you're reading you start to draw on your own experiences to picture what the setting is like. For example, in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry, Ron and Hermione spend a lot of time in the girls' bathrooms with Moaning Myrtle, cooking up a polyjuice potion. That bathroom, whenever I imagine it, is the junior girls' bathroom at my secondary school. With this book, though, everything is explained so clearly and so well and so beautifully that you don't need to draw on what you already know.
The story is difficult to define. I suppose it's more biographical in style, than anything. Although there's a vaguely romantic thread, like everything else in this book it's not exactly conventional. It's certainly a far cry from boy meets girl, anyhow. I do like the way Maguire decided not to let love or any romantic interest soften Elphaba too much, or detract from her political mission in any way.
The themes the book explores are certainly universal. Motherly affections, sisterhood, love, revolution and infidelity are all put under the microscope and examined through the lens of Elphaba's experiences. The tone is extremely different to other Wizard of Oz novels; it's clearly aimed at adults and isn't suitable for young children. There's plenty of adult content and in many places young children simply wouldn't understand what was happening.
The novel also explores the nature of good and evil. Elphaba begins life as a baby, completely innocent. She's a little unusual, but certainly not wicked. The way in which the story of The Wizard of Oz is weaved in and out of the narrative really helps with this. In Dorothy's story, the Wizard and the Wicked Witch of the West feature almost as bit parts, really; we know nothing of their personalities and goals and motivations. This adds depth and interest to their characters. Although in theory we know that The Wizard of Oz leads the land of Oz, we never think of him as a political leader! We don't ask about his policies, and we imagine all his citizens to be happy well-treated. This book rectifies this. Likewise, we see the Wicked Witch of the West and I, personally, had never asked myself why she was so antagonistic, and why the people of Oz and the Wizard feared her so. There is a lovely moment in Wicked the musical where Elphaba is trying to get the Wicked Witch of the East's (her sister's) shoes back from Dorothy, and she shouts to herself/the audience: "What kind of person takes a dead woman's shoes?!" When it's put like that, you do have to agree with her, and that line just about sums up the whole spirit of the novel. It also makes you think about how trusting you can be of someone's narrative - I found myself wondering what else that sneaky piece of work Dorothy had twisted or lied about! I admire Maguire for having the originality and the guts to take on such well known characters and do such brave things with them.
Overall I think this novel is fantastic. My one drawback would be that it's long, and there's a lot of political background that, whilst necessary, can be a little dry. This really is nitpicking though, so I'm still going to give it 5 enthusiastic stars!
Available online for £4-£5 ie it's a total bargain.
Im a huge fan of the Wizard of Oz - both the book and the film have been residents of my bookshelf since i was a child - so i was reluctant to read Wicked for fear that it may taint the work of Frank L Baum. Luckily... morbid curiosity overruled and i read Wicked and was instantly glad that i did!!!
I loved this book. Admittedly, it was initially strange meeting the character of the Wicked Witch of the West (or Elphaba as she is actually titled) as a child - but i loved the development of her character and seeing how she progresses throughout the book.
The only downside for me was the big gaps in her life story .... Gregory Maguire tends to skip years in her life - which can be a little frustrating.
This book gave me a whole new perspective on the wizard of oz - i never thought that i would actually feel a little sorry for that Green witch. I would definately recommend reading it.... now im just dying to see the show!!
I had heard of the musical "Wicked" but I had no idea it was based on a bookl, until I saw it sitting in a friends bedroom in her pile of "Too read" books, I asked to read the blurb on the back and as a huge fan of The Wizard of Oz since Childhood it immediately grabbed my attention. I bought it for myself at a bookstore on the way to the Airport and once I started reading it, was unable to put it down!
For those unaware of the musical or indeed the book the full title of the book is "Wicked -The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West"
In the Wizard of Oz it is told from Dorothy's perspective,Wicked is the story of Elphaba a girl born green in colour in Munchkinland, and how she had to endure the predjudice of her physical differences to eventually, through these predjudices becomes the Wicked Witch of the West. It includes the Good Witch Glinda and tells how the two's paths crossed. It also makes a fleating reference to Dorothy and the events in which caused the Elphaba's demise.
It allows the reader to get an insight into Elphaba's life and the trials and tribulations she faced. For me I found myself actually feeling sorry for her and wanting people to be nice to her!
Well written and captivinating from the 1st line.
About the Author:
Gregory Maguire was born on June 9, 1954 in Albany, New York but it is mere accident that his mother Helen died during childbirth. He received his B. A degree from the State University of New York at Albany and completed his Ph. D in English and American Literature from Tufts University. He was a professor and co-director at the Simmons College Center for the Study of Children's Literature from 1979-1985. In 1987 he co-founded Children's Literature New England.
Married to painter Andy Newman has three adapted children. He and his family live in Massachusetts. Maguire is a distinguished author and writes for children and adults with equal aplomb. His first novel was published when he was barely 24 years old.
He has written number of short stories and novels for both adults and children. He is also a contributor to Am I Blue? Coming Out From the Silence, a collection of short stories for gay and lesbian teenagers.
Among his best published works are:
For adults: (1) Confession of an Ugly Stepsister (1999) (2) Lost (2001) (3) Mirror Mirror (2003) (4) Son of a Witch (5) The Lion Among Men (2008) and of course Wicked.
Beside numerous short stories that he has written for children the most celebrated series containing: (1) Five Alien Elves. (2) Three rotten eggs (3) Four Stupid Cupids (4) Leaping Beauty (5) The Good Liar (6) Seven Spider Spinning (7) Six Haunted Hairdos together known as The Hamlet Chronicles set in the small town of Hamlet, Vermont.
The Assault by Harry Mulisch
Senseless by Stona Fitch
Just Like Beauty by Lisa Lerner
Morality Play by Barry Unsworth
Human Voices by Penelope Fitzgerald
And the Mennym books by Sylvia Waugh
In an interview he went in print saying "...... When I was writing Wicked, about the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz, I knew from the start that the book would have to include two of the things that prepubescent children have no interest in: sex and politics. Since the idea of the book (a fictional exploration of the nature of evil) came before the subject (The Wicked Witch of the West in Oz: A life story), I knew that the book would engage in philosophical enquiry. I doubted that a decisive conclusion could be drawn about the nature of evil and, indeed, the book mirrors that early assumption."
According to the author himself, I quote from an interview ".....I write for the approval of the three people whose names are taped to the top of my computer: SAINT JUDE, E. M. FORSTER, and MOMMY. Saint Jude, because he is the patron saint of lost causes, which fiction in development so often seems to be; Forster, because his combination of wit and moral sobriety is an inspiration and a goal; and Mommy because, well, you know." So that is Gregory Maguire for you.
Wicked is novel presenting characters, events and situations from Baum's books and the film in new ways, with many differences and the Wicked Years. These differences arise from the original Oz operating a mirror image of Kansas in a cultural and economic frame work.
Oz was healthy, prosperous and had excellent agricultural yields while Kansas was characterized by economic fall out, environmental vagaries mad poor harvest. The social differences in the Wicked Years indicates that the two series are set in similar and internally consistent but distinctly separate vision of Oz.
Unlike Baums's writing Maguire's Wicked contains adult language and really not meant for children.
Wicked is a political, social, and ethical commentary on what good and evil is really all about. It takes place in The Land of Oz, in the years with Dorothy's arrival. It centers around Elphaba, the misunderstood green skinned girl who grows up to become the notorious Wicked Witch of the West.
The story can distinctly be divided into two parts it begins with the Munchkilanders, then the Gillikins and five years later Elphaba's arrival to the Emerald City. Elphaba's visit to the Vinkus and the murders that ensues.
Elphaba is born to Melena Thropp and Frexspar. Malena was known to have many extramarital affairs although it becomes clear much later when she, at some point is approached by mysterious stranger who doses her with a potion from a green bottle and seduced. Elphaba is born to Malena and Frex believes that the baby is a punishment of God for failing to protect his parishioners. The baby not only had green skin but was also born with sharp milk teeth. She ends up with another baby daughter in Nessarose, it is unknown who was Nessarose father Frex or Turtle Heart. Surprisingly Nessa is born pink and she is disabled because she had no arms.
The second part takes us to a train to Shiz, a city in Southwestern Gillikan. Meets Galinda who was more interested in climbing up the social ladder than being friends with her outcast roommate. Ultimately they become friends. Elphaba teaches her how to think. They attend Doctor Dillamond, a goat, minority of talking Animals.
Elphaba meets Bog, a Munchikin but he has a crush for Galinda. She rebuffs. Doctor Dillamond is murdered. She approves his mispronounced Glinda to Galinda and concentrates on study of sorcery and carries on Dr. Dillamond's secret research.
Elphaba goes to Muchkinland, Glinda goes to north in Gillikin, Nessarose to south to Quadling country but none went west because few people live there. As the story goes with its turns and twists Elphaba and Glinda travel to the Emerald City and meets Wizard Oz. Elphaba stays back there against the Wizard's wishes for almost five years fighting the cause of the animals and planning to get rid of the Wizard of Oz.
Fiyero comes to Emerald City on business grounds, sees Elphaba and they reunite. He was married with children but they started an illicit love affair. But her life changes. Fiyero is killed and Elphaba turns mute aggrieved by Fiyero's murder. Ultimately she arrives at Vinkus meets Sarima, Fiyero's wife and their children. They become a family. Now Elphaba was staying at the castle Kiamo Ko and there by chance she discovers a mysterious book of spells "Grimmerie". At this point Elphaba receives a letter from his father (Frex) asking her to come to Munchkinland and help him out with Nessarose. Arriving there she discovers that Nessarose has become a witch called the Wicked Witch of the East.
Munchkinland is struck by a storm killing Nassarose when a house drops on her. Dorothy and a dog named Toto were in that house. Glinda sent Dorothy off with Nessarose's shoes to the Wizard in fear of civil war there. On her way back Elphaba discovers that the Wizard was her father, not Frex.
When she comes to know that Dorothy was to kill her, she became furious and waved her burning broom in the air and inadvertently sets herself on fire and is killed. Dorothy returns to the wizard with the bottle of green potion but not the Grimmerie, which was too heavy. It is rumored that she returned to Kansas after the suicide if the Wizard.
It's interesting to note that Elphaba is dubbed as the "Wicked Witch of the West" more because of her sister's nickname "Wicked Witch of the East" than for any wicked deeds of her own.
It's a book so beautifully narrated that once you take it, you will be hooked till the finish.
The other book by Gregory Maguire that I have read is "Lost" but I am yet to get the hang over of Wicked. Excellent work.
(First published at ciao.co.uk under the same user name)
*~* INTRODUCTION *~*
I recently finished the book "Wicked" by Gregory Maguire. I read it after reading another of his novels, "Confessions of an ugly step-sister" a few months back (review for this book can be found on dooyoo, of course) and was curious to read some more of his work.
In addition, I have always been a huge fan of the film "The Wizard of Oz" which stars Judy Garland, so I guess I had a bit of a sentimental approach when I prepared to read this book, and was curious to see if any comparison could be made between it and the film.
For those of you who are unaware of the fact, "Wicked" is the inspiration behind the hit musical of the same name. The main character is Ephelba, the green-coloured wicked witch from "The Wizard of Oz".
*~* PLOT *~*
We are introduced to Oz in much more detail in this book, when compared to the film. Of course the film is not altogether based around Oz, and is more a tale of the characters and adventures of Dorothy and co, which is a stark contrast to this book.
We learn that Oz has many different policies and politics, which are largely dependent on which district of Oz one belongs to. We learn quite early on that Ephelba belongs to the district known as 'Munchkinland' and is therefore a "Munchkinlander". She seems to be a rather unfortunate child who has a very difficult childhood, given that her parents find it difficult to accept how different she is. There is a huge element of prejudice dealt to both Ephelba's parents given that their child is bright green which of course makes their relationship with their young daughter rather strained, to say the least.
Ephelba is not portrayed as the evil wicked witch that we are oh-so familiar with. She is in fact, a rather awkward and shy young girl which is rather unsurprising given her upbringing. When she is a bit older she attends The Shiz University and she faces many difficulties and has to try harder than most to gain acceptance and fit in. By accident, Ephelba becomes the roommate of 'Galinda', who is the good witch portrayed in the movie.
*~* MY OPINION *~*
The insight into Ephelba's character makes an interesting read; we learn that she is quite intelligent and enjoys burying her head in a book most of the time whilst she is at the 'Shiz University'. I think though, that the writer has confirmed that Ephelba is somewhat of an outcast by doing this, as she can usually be found in her room by herself, curled up reading a book, whilst some of the other girls are talking in little groups and socialising.
I think that Maguire has done this intentionally, so that the reader summons a certain amount of sympathy towards Ephelba.
The sympathy element to the book was, I thought, reinforced when Ephelba's younger sister joined her at the Shiz University thus reinforcing Ephelba's unpopularity and ridiculing from some of the other students. Her sister has a quite obvious disfigurement which is very different from Ephelba's, and thus the two girls attract more unwanted attention than they would like.
For the most part, I found Maguire's writing in the book to be very distracting. For my own tastes, there was far too much attention to detail given, which led to my mind wandering and my concentration on the story being compromised.
This is not normal practice for me, and as a regular reader of fiction I can only put it down to Maguire's writing style being TOO different for my own personal tastes. Don't get me wrong, I find that trying a book by a new (or new to me at least) author is usually an enjoyable and refreshing experience, but in the case of Maguire, I found his attention to the imagery of Oz itself and the different 'breeds' of those who lived there and their differing lifestyles and cultures was all just a little bit more than I could absorb easily. I found that this imagery was tiresome and the more that I read on, the more irritating it became.
This led my relationship with this book to be a difficult one. Whilst gaining a huge amount of enjoyment from books of all different genres, and reading several each week, I found that I had to struggle on a bit with this offering from Gregory Maguire, which is unusual for me, and a huge disappointment.
Thus, I probably would not approach any more of Maguire's work as his writing skills are not to my own tastes, and there is too much attention to detail for things that I personally struggle to enjoy - fantasy wonderlands and green-coloured characters are all fine and good, but I personally need much more 'depth' to a tale in order that it can be considered either enjoyable or readable.
It is disappointing then that I can really only award this book one star. This is due to it being such a struggle to read for the most part. I can not really recommend it too much, although I appreciate that fiction books like this one are very much a matter of opinion, and I am sure that there are vast amounts of people who have read it and enjoyed every page. Believe me when I say that I am very disappointed that I am not one of them.
Any readers who approach Wicked should do so with an open mind. I think perhaps the mistake I made personally is that my mind was not open enough! I think I approached the book with a comparison to the film I find so endearing, and this led to me being quite disappointed as no comparison can really be made. The book tells a much different story.
It was NOT a 'wicked' read and only gets one star from me - I am quite gutted that I didn't enjoy it! :-(
Wicked-By Gregory Macguire, is in essence the prequel to The Wizard of Oz. It's kind of a biographical account of Elphaba (the wicked witch of the west) and gives us the story from her perspective. In effect, this story is supposed to tell us how she became wicked.
Although I hated The Wizard of Oz, I adored this book and will be definitely reading the follow up book 'Son of a witch'-which unless I am mistaken, is about Elphaba's son.
This story is really so clever conceptually and is written brilliantly. It isn't a childrens story though, although I believe some mid-teen goths may really enjoy it! It is an in depth and touchingly realistic look at a young girl who grows up with a physical disfigurement. It shows how she lives with it and how she deals with other peoples prejudice. In this way the book is still applicably in a metaphorical way, to our modern (non mystical) world. It takes this wild and enchanting story and puts it in a very pragmatic and entirely believable adult content. Definitely worth a read even if like me, you aren't a fan of the fantasy genre.
Wicked - Gregory Macquire - No Price taken out of library
So as we know it Dorothy lands in Oz, she goes on an adventure finding the tin man, scarecrow and cowardly lion and skips down the yellow brick road to the Emerald City. She finds the Wizard, kills the Wicked Witch and clicks her heels back to Kansas. Huzzah!
Wicked intends to show the reader another side to Oz, which it does do... but in a totally drawn out way. The story starts with the birth of Elphaba (Wicked Witch of the West) and goes on to unravel her trials and tribulations growing up in a world which is full of deception and lies, much like our own.
I guess the big niggle I had with this book was that there was a lot of character to character dialogue revolving around politics that went on for page after page, it just seemed so unnecessary. I understand where Maguire was coming from when he was writing this book and I think it was a clever concept that didn't come to much in the book.
It is implied early on that we are going to find that Elphaba (the wicked witch) wasn't all bad after all. We do pity her in her early life, as a baby she is practically disowned by her parents and any person she meets because of her emerald green skin and feisty personality. As the book goes on she chooses a path of hateful revenge against the wizard of Oz and a university headmistress who is working alongside him. There are brutal murders, adulterous affairs and plenty of backstabbing. It certainly succeeds in removing the rose tinted glasses that cover our eyes when it comes to the harsh reality of life; it isn't all sickly sweet like a fairytale.
It isn't all bad, I do love the concept of this book, exposing the real "OZ" is no easy feat considering that Judy Garland and those red glittered shoes are so lovingly engraved in our minds, yet Maguire succeeds in his bid to show us the other side. As I previously mentioned the downfall is in the heavy political banter between characters that is not only unnecessary but doesn't serve any real purpose to the book, it doesn't enhance the plot or delve deeper into the story it just lingers on the hot topic of that chapter.
Would I recommend this book to you? Well that depends what you want to get out of a book. I will say it is highly enlightening reading about a place I remember fondly as a little girl and having my whole perceptions of it turned upside down. Skip some of the character chatter and sure I would recommend having a read, alternatively go and see the musical they made based on the book, but from talking to a friend it really isn't all that true to the book at all.
"Wicked" by Gregory Maguire is the story of the Wicked Witch of the West from that well loved story/film The Wizard of Oz. It is also now a hit musical and is currently showing in the West End. The Wizard of Oz was one of my favourite films as a child and I still enjoy it now with all the musical numbers and the funny characters so was quite intrigued to read the book. However Wicked is no fairy tale and is certainly not for children.
The story is based on the life of "Elphaba" the girl who grows up to become the Wicked Witch of the West. We discover that when Elphaba was born her green skin came as quite a shock to her family and neighbours. She is not like other babies in many ways, one is that she is born with very sharp teeth and bites the midwives finger right off! We see her difficult journey as she struggles to fit in both at home where her parents feel her green skin is either a curse or a punishment and she does not really experience any love and affection. Then when she begins university she experiences bullying as she is so very different to the other girls and not just because of her skin colour. It is here at university she becomes more aware and involved in the political struggles in Oz and so begins the next journey in her life. The story continues until we finally meet Dorothy and Elphaba enters the well known story but it all seems a little different now we know the truth (or is it?) about Elphaba.
If I had to sum up this book in one word I would say "Strange." It really was not what I expected. I have not seen the musical but have heard some of the songs and also heard good reports, however since then I have heard that the musical is only based loosely on the book. I found the book quite tough reading at times. Maguire has written a very detailed book but in doing so risks losing the reader at times as they struggle to understand all the political goings on in Oz. For me the political struggles were not very interesting and I found these parts of the book quite boring, I would have preferred to concentrate more on the characters of the book. I took quite a while to actually get into the book and start to enjoy it, I felt like giving up after the first chapter or two but I persevered and it did improve.
The other thing I really did not like about the book is that there are many parts of the book which are certainly of an adult nature. I can only assume that these parts are certainly not mentioned in the musical version of the book. They were a bit obscene and really did not add anything to the story so I would question why Maguire felt the need to put these in a book based on the Wizard of Oz a well known children's story. Maybe he likes to shock people, I don't know. I feel they could have been taken out and the story would not be any worse for it.
The good parts of this book include the fact that we watch Elphaba's character develop and see her grow and become more passionate and driven to what she believes in. We also see her struggle to connect and interact with other people, something she struggles with because she was deprived of contact with others as a young child.
It's also interesting to learn that Elphaba is not a witch in the sense of how we think of her from the original film. She only actually adopts the term witch much later on in the book and despite her green skin there is never any early indication that the people of Oz associated green skin with witches.
I also liked how Maguire tied in events from the original Oz story to this story. We learn how the famous red shoes become magical and why people want to get hold of them, we also learn how the witches flying monkeys come to be and various other details that link to the original story.
The book does make you think about wickedness and evil and whether someone is born evil or is it a result of their circumstances and what happens to them in their life. Also what we might interpret to be a wicked act might actually be a misguided or misunderstood action. It also highlights the problems in only hearing one side of the story and this book allows Elphaba to put forward her side and then leaves the reader to judge whether she really was a wicked witch or not!
If you are interested in the Wizard of Oz then this might be a good book for you to read to let you learn "The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of West." However if you are not a big fan I think it's a book you should give a miss to because you probably won't find it interesting enough on its own. I am a fan of musicals but having read the book I am not inclined to rush out and see the musical so often it's the book that's better than the film/musical but not in this case!
I have just discovered that there is in fact a follow up book called "Son of a witch" so if you did enjoy this book you could read the next, I don't think I will bother though!
Pages - 495 paperback
ISBN - 978-0-7553-3160-4
Written as a prequel to The Wizard Of Oz, I was quite intrigued with the idea of this book and sat to enjoy it but was strangely unimpressed. The book itself is lovely, a nice thick, shiny hard back with green edged pages, a broad visual allusion to Elphaba, the witch.
I like the story line well enough but the story telling is a different matter. It is awkward and uncomfortable to read, unsettling in style which prevents the reader from being entirely absorbed and from developing the greatest empathy for the characters. I found myself skimming out of boredom at times and forcing myself to go back and read those elements.
But, since I liked the story and not the presentation, I made the effort to see the musical and I was blown away!
The musical makes of the story everything which the author, despite his ultimate control, could not.
For that reason I would say see the show and do not feel guilty if the book is not what it should be.
My reviews may appear in the same or a slightly different format on other sites.
I am have a confession to make. Infact I have two confessions to make. 1) I am addicted to musicals. 2) I am addicted to reality TV shows about musicals. So when a contestant on one recently sang 'Defying Gravity' from Wicked I went slightly overboard in that I a) bought the soundtrack, b) booked tickets to see the musical (review to follow after trip in September!) and c) borrowed a copy of the book.
I was never really a fan of the original Oz stuff. I also (controversially) hate the film. 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow' sucks. So I didn't know what to make of this book. And having read it, I still don't know. It's kind of an odd one. Maybe not the most articulate way of describing it, but it's the most accurate way I can think of describing it.
For a start, it is really really long. Do not embark upon this book lightly; if you are not really a reader, just stay away. You know it makes sense. If you are a reader, give it a go. I don't particulaly like fantasy novels usually and I guess this would really fall into this category, but bits of it I really liked. Bits of it, admittedly, I really didn't but bits of it were great.
It is a little 'racy' in the beginning as my housemate said to me. Don't let that put you off though. It is dark; it's nothing like the shiny happy 'It's A Small World' style of the musical of the same name. In fact it's really only loosely based on the musical of the same name. Fans of the musical will not necessarily be interested in the book. Look away if you aren't a fan of spoilers but bad things actually happen in this book and people die and everything. There's a murder too; in fact there's several. Happy ending - what's that? And none of this contrived stuff like in the musical with the Tin Man and the Scraecrow etc neatly falling into place - there are hints of it in the book sure, but it doesn't tie up quite as nicely as Broadway would have us think.
For me, I found that it was really quite a patchy read. Bits of it gripped me intensely and I couldn't put it down. Bits of it bored me. Bits of it just were so random they seemed thrown in from another book; Gregor Maguire has some great ideas but I think maybe he tried to fit too many of them into one book. Maybe he should have left some more for the sequels. It's good fun overall but poolside read it ain't. Not that I have a pool...
So really what I'm saying is that this really is not one for kids who saw the musical and liked the nice singing goat. Keep away from the eyes of children who are easily disturbed; they will be. If however you are an adult and you fancy a nice easy read and are prepared to ignore the weirder sections then read on.
This has been sat in my pile of books for ages, waiting for me to get around to reading it and I finally did when I got the sequel out from the library. I have heard a few of the songs from the musical and liked them but the world's obsession with it was putting me off a bit so I didn't read anything about the plot or anything so all I knew was that it was about Elphaba and Galinda when I started out. It follows the life of Elphaba, who was to become the Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard Of Oz, from birth, through her schooling and on to her first love, being part of a resistance movement and her ultimate demise and the hands of Dorothy.
I did find this quite an enjoyable book, I especially loved the part about when she was a baby with sharp teeth, I found it very amusing when she bit off the midwife's finger. There was a lot of politics in it which slowed the story down and was wuite boring but most of this just washed straight over me, didn't interest me that much but didn't make me enjoy the book much less. It made me laugh a few times, tear up at a few others and facepalm a few more. It really is nice idea and a good look into the inner workings of someone's mind throughout their life through rejection, prejudice, acceptance, rebellion, loss and eventually madness. Seeing things from the point of view of a villian is definetely an interesting literary device that does work well here. I probably wouldn't read it again though.
Gregory Maguire is best known as an author who writes books that follow characters from well known fairy tales and stories. He puts a spin on what we know already of a story. For example he has written about Snow White in a book called 'Mirror Mirror', he has also written a book called 'Confession of an Ugly Step-Sister' based on the story of Cinderella, from the perspective of an ugly step-sister. I was never interested in these, until I came across one based on one of my all time favourite stories, 'The Wizard of Oz'.
I was very intrigued by this book from the outset...in the smallest of nutshell's - it is exactly what it says on the book: 'The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of West'. We are taken back in time, way before Dorothy 'dropped' into the land Oz. We learn how the wicked witch - affectional named Elphaba (after the initials of 'The Wonderful Wizard of Oz' author L (('L' sound)) Frank (('F' phonetical sound)) Baum (('B' phonetical sound)) ) grew up, we follow her turbulent 'bullied' times at school and watch her grow into a strong minded, nature obsessed, passionate, politically righteous, driven lady.
Elphaba is not depicted as the evil green witch from a far off lair, who likes to cackle here and there, flying around on her broomstick (we very cleverly find out how she learns to fly later in the book) as one might expect. She is depicted as the emerald girl, who was born of 'normal' parents (very interesting discoveries as to why she is green emerge), but because she is green, she is left feeling rejected by her embarrased and ashamed family. She is just...different.
One thing I absolutely love about this book is it's ability to challenge our preconceived ideas of what good and evil is. We are lead to believe from the original story of Oz, that Elphaba IS wicked - but that's only because the majority of people say so - how do we know she is not misunderstood? How do we know that she has not been...framed...and is in actual fact doing good and the 'good' people are perhaps the bad, manipulative, propganda spurned ones???
We discover that when Elphaba starts university, she is made roommates with none other than Galinda from the upper uplands (the north). We learn how her name changes to Glinda, and how she becomes 'Glinda the Good, from the North'. We learn how they find mild friendship from initial loathing. Along the way we meet a host of other characters that we have never met in Oz before: Elphaba's mother and father (a whoooooole other story there, as we discover that Elphaba's birth leads to many questions being asked and the destruction of her core family - which is understandable, she was born green for goodness sake - who wouldn't question this - especially as her parents have 'human coloured' skin!) We also meet the Head teacher at their University (who has 'connections' with the Wizard), Boq (a Galinda obsessed, munchkin), Dr Dillamond (an Elphaba inspiring teacher, who is also a goat) and Fiyero (the 'unusual' foreign boy with diamond tattoes on his skin).
The attention to detail and plot is rich. However, Maguire's detail is sometimes so scrupulous I found myself wondering if it was really necessary to know each and every detail about each and every thing in Oz. I found 'Wicked' quite difficult to read at times, as it felt like Maguire was taking forever to make a point, which could be, essentially quite straight-forward to explain. We also get side-tracked into the 'goings on' of Oz, which deviate from the main storyline, which I find confuses matters.
'Wicked' has been turned into a stage musical (which is superb, by the way) - but the storyline is VERY different. The book (which came before the musical, so it's the original version, by the way) can be incredibally dark, heavily political and down right obscene (well, I couldn't think another word to best desribe the casual use of words such as 'c*ck', 'sh*t', f*ck etc) - which I was absolutely not expecting.
I found myself falling in love (well, almost) with Elphaba and despising everyone around her. We eventually meet Dorothy (a la original) but we learn about what other things happen in and around the story that we already know. There were moments where I was gripped to the book, as Dorothy kept making matters worse for herself and upsetting Elphaba without even realising (ok, this is really hard trying to give anything away).
One thing I didn't like about this book is the way that it's chapters are divided. The book is actually divided into 'chunks' that depict stages of Elphaba's life. Within these chunks there is no consistency of size or number of chapters. This want for consistency in chapter size is a personal thing, but it made me feel unsettled reading - as I felt the need to check how many pages were in each chapter to work out if I had enough time to read a whole one - or go to sleep (I don't know about you, but I can't stop reading a book if I haven't finished a chapter.) For those of you that are interested, this might be the opportunity to mention that the UK edition is published by Headline and is approximately 402 pages (but at times, felt about 4402!) and cost is the usual hardback/paperback price (I noticed it's currently in many popular bookshop's '3 for 2' promotions).
If you enjoy books that really delve into a subject and uncover every stone and really gets it's teeth into an idea, then this is for you. If however, you are like me and enjoy a good story at a good pace, which doesn't leave your eyes following the words whilst thinking 'hmm maybe I need to reread a bit, I don't know what's going on' then this one might not be for you. Which I think is shame as the story is very clever and has some amazingly brilliant concepts and ideas about politics, people and the nature of good and evil. It made me question things around me, such as the media, for example, are we only being told one side of every story etc...hmmmmmmmm.
If you can, get the UK edition of the book in Hardbook - it is simply beautiful. It's black cover and shiny green shadowed face of Elphaba and green painted book edge is stunning. If you want a cheaper option, the book is available in paperback which opts for the logo and imagery from the stage show. Obviously a marketing ploy to get more bums on sits in the west-end - which really annoys me as the stories are so, so, so, sooooooo different (they should have transfered the beautiful style of the hardback dammit) - grrr and arrrgh all round.
I'm still not tempted by any of Maguire's other books, but I would reread this again...IF I had PLENTY of times on my hands to give it my full attention and was able to read it for a few hours non-stop.
As the west-end promotion say, 'Something Wicked this way comes'...it is truly a Wicked book.
Thanks for reading :)
(also on ciao)
An astonishingly rich re-creation of the land of Oz, this book retells the story of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, who wasn't so wicked after all. Taking readers past the yellow brick road and into a phantasmagoric world rich with imagination and allegory, Gregory Maguire just might change the reputation of one of the most sinister characters in literature.