OK, let me start by saying that…
~Though I love the movie, I’ve never actually read the Oz books by Baum. Yet.
~I’ve never seen the play.
~I went into this book expecting to be disappointed… I’d heard a lot of mixed reviews, and a lot of people said it was hard to get into and they couldn’t even finish it.
~I FINALLY read this because it was one of the winners for the June poll. And I’m so glad I did.
Now most of us are familiar with the story of The Wizard of Oz… The movie is about Dorothy, a girl whose house is caught up in a tornado, and her house (with her and her dog Toto inside) lands in the wonderful land of Oz – right on top of the Wicked Witch of the East. The Wicked Witch of the West (distinguished by her green witch skin) shows up and is pissed, but goes to grab her sister’s magical shoes. Then Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, puts the magical shoes on Dorothy’s feet and directs her to Emerald City to see the Wizard of Oz, who will hopefully help her get home. There’s also Munchkins, a yellow brick road, flying monkeys, a tin man, a talking lion, and an animated scarecrow.
Wicked is the intricate story of the sadly misunderstood Wicked Witch of the West – here now known as Elphaba. The story starts with Elphaba’s birth to a minister and his wife in Munchkinland. From there we see Elphaba as a young adult attending Shiz University and rooming with an ambitious socialite, Gelinda (AKA Glinda). Nessarose, Elphie’s sister and later known as The Wicked Witch of the East, is introduced. I don’t want to ruin the story for anyone, but you basically see Elphie develop her passions and purposes – for better or worse. Throughout the book I really grew to love Elphaba, to feel for her, and to totally side with her. And the book raises some very thought-provoking issues of what exactly evil is, and whether it actually exists.
I love how detailed the land of Oz has become in the hands of Gregory Maguire. Oz is divided into four main areas – the tribal Vinkus, agricultural Munchkinland, poor Quadling Country, and elite Gillikin – with Emerald City smack dab in the middle. There’s religious and political turmoil and plots. There’s moral and ethical dilemmas, there’s discrimination, there’s deception and intrigue. It’s all just SO GOOD. And Elphie is a great heroine – yes, that’s right. This book really does explain why the Wicked Witch seems so darn wicked, and you can’t help but cheer for her, even though you know that her fate is doomed.
Honestly, I could go into a LOT of detail here. I could go on and on about the things I loved about this book, the issues it raises, etc. But I’m going to save all that for when I meet others who’ve read the book, cause I don’t want to get all spoiler-y on you. But I do HIGHLY recommend this book, and I do plan to read the sequel, Son of a Witch. Also I’m totally dying to see the famous Wicked play now, even though I read up on it and I don’t think I really like the changes that were made. (For those of you who have read the book AND seen the play – what is up with Fiyero being a white guy on stage? I was looking forward to a cool dark-skinned guy with little blue diamond tattoos!)
Anyways, that’s my verdict and I’m sticking to it.
Sarah Says: 5 stars, and I’m going to go buy the soundtrack to the play tonight.