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?
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.
(Summary from back of book)
When I was in New York City last month I was lucky enough to be able to see the musical, Wicked on Broadway. It's roughly based off of this novel but I'd heard from a few of my friends who read the book that the two works have almost nothing in common. Ingtrigue.
I picked up a copy to see what all the fuss was about. Also, I just really like the idea of what people see on the surface not being the reality. How perceptions are often mislead and how people are often misunderstood. I like the thought of never being able to know the whole truth. Like there's always guesswork involved and it's all we can do to try and figure out at least some of the facts.
So with that said, even though it wasn't all that similar to the musical, I adored this book. It's much darker and more political and sexual than the play but that kind of stuff worked in prose form. It wouldn't have worked as well on stage. I don't think people would want to sit there and think all of this through but when they're reading, they have the time to do that. Having that little edge of controversy and dissention there really helped to add an urgency and a seriousness to the events in the book.
Also, the characters were so amazing. Maguire knows how to give characters layers and personalities so that you never know what's going to come out of them next. Elphaba and Nessarose and Fiyero were some of the most complex people that I have ever read about. It was honestly a work of art.
The other thing that I enjoyed about Wicked is how nothing ever turns out perfect. In the play there's always little light moments and everyone ends up relatively happy but in the book it's more realistic. There's death and danger and hatred and lies and the author shies away from none of that. It's all there laid out on the table for you to make of it what you will.
Gregory Maguire knows how to capture a reader's interest. He definitely captured mine. I would recommend Wicked to anyone who's seen the play or anyone who's looking for a little excitement.
This is a monumental book.