Wicked by Gregory Maguire

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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.

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11 comments

  1. >I did find this book hard to get into at first, but once I did I really liked it. I like the questions of what is good and evil and truth vs. propaganda. I'd like to see the musical but haven't yet (tickets are always so expensive).Cracked did a piece at one point about how Glinda is actually this evil manipulator that's really funny. Certainly not poignant like the points made in Wicked, but related and hilarious.

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  2. >I really enjoyed it as well šŸ™‚ I think I read it a year or so ago, and while it was hard for me to get into at first, it was so worth it in the end! I've never seen the play either, but I would be so annoyed with Fiyero being a white guy as well! It's just not right.Oh, and I side with Elphie as well, she rocks!

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  3. >I was one of those with mixed feelings about the book, but I can tell ya that the soundtrack is fantastic! The music is a little different – some of it is pretty dissonant. But I love the way it tells the story. Haha I've seen the play 4 times and performed several of the songs so I might be a little obsessed/biased. But I really hope you enjoy the music, and I think having read the book will give you a fuller understanding of the musical too. šŸ™‚

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  4. >I loved the play but never successfully finished the book. (You can actually see quite a bit of Wicked on youtube). I'm also obsessed with the soundtrack. I know that the book and the play are very different, but I'm really glad that you liked it.

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  5. >I had no idea that play was a book first! Now that I've crawled out from under my rock, this is going straight on my huge TBR list. This sounds soooo good. Thanks for the review, Sarah šŸ™‚ P.S. Maybe you didn't know this, but Margaret Hamilton, who played the WW of the West in the movie was also a kindergarten teacher! She often got asked "Why are you so mean to Dorothy?" šŸ˜€ Maybe Wicked explains why? šŸ˜‰

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  6. >Aside from "Rent," "Wicked" is my all time favorite musical. I've seen it twice and it gives me chills! Listen to the song "Defying Gravity." It makes me cry sometimes when I listen to it because I am an uber nerd, and it's so gorgeous and true and ahhhh! Sarah, the next time this comes to Rochester, we are totally going to see it! My friends and I loved it so much, we made our own "Wicked" music videos ahahaha..Anyways, I've been wanting to read the book ever since I saw the play, but I too have heard a lot of mixed reviews. I definitely need to read it ASAP now.

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