Friday, July 10, 2009

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

Summary: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 become 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. (picture: barnes and noble.com, summary: back of novel)

Review: At the start of this novel I tried to release all of MY preconceived notions of what it would, or should be. It was something I had heard a lot about and I did not want other people's opinions to cloud my experience with the book.

The day Elphaba is born, her mother contemplates drowning her child in the river she gave birth next to. She never thought, being a ministers wife, that she would be punished in this way, a child with green skin and razor sharp teeth. What could she have done to deserve such a fate?
But she resists the urges of her nanny, and allows the child to live. And thus begins Maguires extraordinary tale.......

Growing up in the country, without much influence from other children, Elphaba develops a mindset that will carry her, throughout her life, into the depth of political scandal and double dealings. She finds herself at Shiz, a prestigious college, where she meets Galinda. The two soon find common ground in their uncommon thinking. And when, after a series of unfortunate events , and spectacular experiences, they are both called upon to delve into a behind the scenes uprising against the Wizard of Oz.

Holding true to the classic story that L.Frank Baum gave us so many years ago, Maguire's story takes us into the mind of one of the most fascinating characters that I have met in a LONG time. I love Elphaba. I love the Wicked Witch of the West. I bawled when she got the bucket of water thrown at her. I am still angry at Dorothy and that blasted little dog!

Throughout the story you get to participate in Elphaba's fear of water, you get to see Galinda become Glinda, you get to see the nooks and crannies of a completely different Oz. This world is filled with "tick-tock" half machines(one particularly creepy fellow named Grommetik comes to mind), Animal professors, and a cast of characters that will live in your memory for years to come.

Reminiscent of the movie "Return To Oz", Maguires novel sheds light on this unique land. A much darker, much more sensual, much more "grown up" take on the classic story.

I found the political parallels intriguing, and the Animal/animal controversy very engrossing(you'll just have to read the book for those details). Is it possible to have a political viewpoint for the land of Oz?

All of that aside, this book took me a long time to get through. It is well written, but very detailed and "wordy" at times. I think the book would have been equal in quality content even with it edited down about a hundred pages. However, that is not to say the details were boring, just a little tedious here and there.

Rating: 4.5 (only for a few slight drags in the plot/details)

Sum it up: Any book that allows you to see straight into the eyes of evil, and still love the character looking back is exceptional indeed.

4 comments:

MindySue said...

EXCELLENT Review Kim. Now, I haven't read the book or anything, but you COMPLETELY made me want to.

nicole said...

this was a great review! i have read this book, and you summed it up VERY nicely!

Kari said...

I agree with Mindy: I think I need to read this book too!

Sweet Em said...

I wish I had read this book more recently so I could review it appropriately, and so I'm glad you reviewed it so well (and liked it). This is definitely one of my top 5 favorite books. I agree with your statement that is it "A much darker, much more sensual, much more "grown up" take on the classic story."

Personally, I remember liking the writing style of the author and would love recommendations from others on books with a similar feel.

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