Author: Gregory Maguire
Date Finished: May 12, 2008
Yearly Count: 25
"One never learns how the witch became wicked, or whether that was the right choice for her--is it ever the right choice? Does the devil ever struggle to be good again, or if so is he not a devil? Is it at the very least a question about definitions" (231).
I must have seen the movie The Wizard of Oz a million times when I was little and I've read the book once or twice, but how do you ever really know a story unless you hear both sides? This story tells the tale of the Wicked Witch of the West, most commonly known in the book as Elphaba, and how she began the legend that she is.
Born a bright green girl she led a curious childhood and even more curious adolescence as a smart, witty, and deeply understood girl. Elphaba is passionate about Animals and determining what makes someone human, but more important to this story, what makes someone evil or good. Is evilness inherent or is it something that develops? Can someone who is evil become good, or visa versa? These things she seeks to learn as she grows up in the Land of Oz where the country is ruled by a tyrant Wizard.
Wicked is a type of bildungsroman, following Elphaba through her school years at Shiz, her time as a covert spy in Emerald City, and her years in recluse at the castle in Kiamo Ko. The story is very different from what I expected--I think I expected this to be a type of children's book, but it isn't. There is a little bit of language and sexual content, but mostly it contains deep adult themes such as politics, ethics, love, forgiveness, and what it means to have a soul.
Maguire weaves a beautiful story, and I grew to love Elphaba even as she matured into a tortured woman. He does a great job of developing her character, but the final encounter with Dorothy was still a little awkward for me--most of the story was believable, but somehow the ending seemed forced. My only other qualm with the book is there is so much left out and left up for the reader to interpret--such as Elphaba's mysterious childhood in Quadling before going to school in Shiz, her time in Emerald City when she is on a secret mission, and of course I wanted more of the love affair between her and Fiyero. I guess if all of that was included the story could be a thousand pages long. But overall, I heartily enjoyed this story and my next step is to purchase the Wicked soundtrack since the play won't be coming back to Texas until next year (and even then it will be a five hour drive to see it in San Antonio).
*I was hoping to use my Google Reader to find other's reviews, but it didn't work as nicely as it did for The Innocent Man. If you've reviewed it, leave me a little note with your link and I'll include it. I did, however, manage to find Nymeth's review.
Jeane also reviewed this book here.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008