WARNING: Vague, minor spoilers. But this book has been around for a long while. So it’s okay.
For those of you who follow my blog, you know it has been a long road for me in my attempts at reading Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire. Although I like the book and enjoyed reading it, I just couldn’t concentrate and on my first attempt didn’t manage to get through more than two-thirds of the book. Maybe less.
That was in November. This is February, it’s a new year, and I FINALLY FINISHED Wicked! Well, I actually restarted and then finished Wicked. But either way I’m quite happy to have read the book.
As I said above, though I struggled to get through Wicked I really do like the book. I like the writing style and most of the characters. I particularly liked the map of the Land of Oz near the front of the book. As a kid I always loved when books started with a map of the setting. Through my experience with Wicked I’ve learned I still enjoy books with maps; I feel they help to orient the reader within the fictional world the characters explore. Plus they’re fun to look at.
Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, was my favorite character. She’s not “perfect” and I did not like everything about her. One super quick example – she’s a murderer. She also holds beliefs that are problematic for / hypocritical in consideration of her worldview. But Elphaba is certainly interesting and makes for a great titular character. Elphaba is strong, she’s complex, and she is bookish (like all good creatures).
“Elphaba had a bad case of what Galinda called the reading sulks. Elphaba didn’t curl up – she was too bony to curl – but she jackknifed herself nearer to herself, her funny pointed green nose poking into the moldy leaves of a book.”
Perhaps one of my favorite my favorite aspects of Wicked was the Ozian politics, and the real world moral questions that they raised. Especially today in 2017 when American politics are in a scary state, the Ozian political issues raised in the novel – the Wizard’s travel banns for Animals, the secession of Munchkinland, Dr. Dillamond’s research and murder, Elphaba’s covert resistance work and the like – seem of particular importance.
A huge theme that underscores the novel is that of perception and reality. Wicked is a retelling of the L. Frank Baum classic The Wizard of Oz, and from the very beginning of the novel the entire narrative of The Wizard of Oz is called into question. Is the Wicked Witch of the West really wicked? Is she even a Witch? Who is the Wizard, and why has he taken over the Land of Oz? Wicked asks the reader to leave his or her preconceived notions at the door (or cover page), to leave them behind like a pair of dirty shoes on a boot tray. We all think we know the story of the Wizard of Oz. The question Wicked asks us is do we really?
“Was it an accident I just saw that, Fiyero wondered, looking at the manager with new eyes. Or is it just that the world unwraps itself to you again and again, as soon as you are read to see it anew?”
Have you ever read Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, or seen the play inspired by the novel? What are your thoughts? Which storyline do you prefer – Wicked or The Wizard of Oz? Let me know in the comments, and as always, feel free to reach out to me via the Contact page.