Wicked (The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West) by Greogry Maguire

Addition: Paperback

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 3 out of 5

Synopsis:

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?

Gregory Maguire creates a fantasy world so rich and vivid that we will never look at Oz the same way again. 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.

I chose this for our book club as I really enjoyed the musical but I have to say, I was disappointed with the book. It isn’t as close to the musical as I thought it would be and it was much heavier.

The story follows Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West. We learn about her parents and the friviolous life she led – which could explain why Elphaba was green. We saw a glimpse of her life at university, where she starts her political campaign and then as she starts this campaign, we follow what happens to her. We see her fall in love, be consumed with enough hatred to attempt murder, we learn what she believes in and is willing to fight for and we see a compassionate side of her.

I’m not going to lie – I didn’t enjoy this book much. I found the book very long and really confusing. There were several reasons why I was confused for most of the time and didn’t really like the book:

  • The names were very similar – this meant for me they didn’t stick in my mind! I found that some of the characters popped into the story at different points and I couldn’t remember who they were or what part of story they came from
  • There were a lot of unnecessary chapters, that I felt didn’t add to the story – such as the chapter where some of the university students go to the Philosophy Club
  • I thought that Maguire tried to put in lots of issues, but none of them were resolved. Elphaba feels strongly about the Animals – animals with the ability to talk and act like humans – and how badly they are being treated. This is one of the reasons she rebels and starts campaigning for them. However, she doesn’t see this through and has a breakdown and ends up spending several years in a convent. The issue of Animal Rights is bearly touched on again. This is the same with religion. Elphaba’s Father was a priest for the Unnamed God but Elphaba didn’t believe in that – she didn’t even think she had a soul. This is mentioned several times but never thought through. I felt that Maguire should have chosen one issue and seen it to completion – not dipping into several and leaving them unfinished
  • I thought the book too long to get going. If I hadn’t been reading this for our book club I would have put it down after 50 pages. I thought the first 200 pages could have been skipped. They were dull in my opinion and fairly confusing. The book was dense and long
  • The book was broken up into 4 parts but there were large time jumps between each part and it took a few pages before we learnt where we were now, which I didn’t like. It meant characters just appeared with no explanation and it left gaps in the story

There were some things I did enjoy about the book. I really like Elphie by the end. I liked her determination and wit. I also admired how she sought redemption at the end of the book. I thought the ending was very clever – and leaves the book open. I thought the last 200 pages were exciting and a good read – it was a shame I had to endure the first 300 pages to get there!

The rating for this book at the book club ranged from 2 out of 10 to 8 ot of 10. The general consensus was that this book is too long and very confusing. It made for good conversation but only one person liked it. We found that there were parts some of us remembered that others had forgotten and parts some had understood and others hadn’t! None of us will be reading the rest of this series.

I was surprised how different the musical is. In the musical Glinda – who is seen on the front cover of the book – and Elphaba are much closer and she features more in the show. However, in the book she isn’t a main character. It is the same with Nessarose, Elphie’s sister. The musical is light hearted and fun – this book wasn’t for me. I really enjoyed the show and am looking forward to seeing it again, but I didn’t really like this book.

I’m rating this 3 out of 5 because there were some parts of the book I enjoyed and because it isn’t the worst book I’ve read this year. However,  I don’t think I will be recommending it to anyone.

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3 comments

  1. I agree completely! I started reading this book and got about halfway through. I HATE stopping books and not finishing them but I was just so not interested in this one that I never wanted to read so I would have had to really make myself read it and that isn’t what I wanted. I didn’t finish it.

  2. I read the book before seeing the musical and liked the book a lot better. I liked that it was darker and had a lot more issues going on than the musical, which was light and fluffy and Disney-esque. I agree that parts of it were confusing, but I liked trying to figure it out. For example, I would have loved to discuss what Maguire was doing with the Unionist Church, as in what parallels to real religions he was making.

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