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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West » User review

A dazzling feat of fantasy storytelling.

  • Jan 4, 2011
Since childhood, I have been a fan of the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz, which was based upon L. Frank Baum's book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. While I have not read the Baum original, the movie was about what happens when Dorothy Gale's house lands in Oz, killing the Wicked Witch of the East, and how the Wicked Witch of the West pursues her to get back her sister's ruby slippers. We just presume that the Wicked Witch has always been wicked. But has she?

This book, Wicked, on which the wildly successful stage play of the same name is based, goes back to the birth of the Wicked Witch (Elphaba) and tells the story of her life BEFORE Dorothy's fateful visit to Oz. I saw the stage play during a visit to San Francisco this past summer and was intrigued; then bought the soundtrack to the Broadway production and was enchanted; now I've completed the loop by reading the book.

I expected the book to be just like the play, and it isn't (it's much darker), though it does follow the same basic premise to explore the issues of good and evil--and, more interestingly to me, our perceptions of evil; i.e., if society perceives a person to be evil, what impact does this have on that person? Can the ongoing perception of wickedness make a good person wicked?

I should mention that I am not usually a fan of the fantasy genre, but I am most definitely a fan of this book. Its story is richly written and beautifully told. In the front of the book is a map of Oz and I wondered what purpose it would serve. Having finished the book, I am so happy the map was there, because it helped create in my mind the land of Oz as I read, and it served as a travel guide during Elphaba's travels to the different regions of Oz.

In my opinion, this paperback--at over 500 pages--could have used a bit more editing so that I did not tire of the story before I got to the end. I excitedly picked up the book from my nightstand every night for the first half to two thirds of the book, but I struggled a bit to stay interested through the ending. This is the only reason that I'm giving the book 4 stars vs. 5.

If you're expecting to read a story about a wicked witch, you may be disappointed, but if you go in with a mind open to other possibilities, you will very likely be enchanted by the imagination of this talented author
A dazzling feat of fantasy storytelling.

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May 25, 2011
Sounds like a fun read, Sheri! I've started this one in the past, but I didn't get too far with it because of real life stuff. I should check this one out sometime in the future. Which did you like more, the play or the book?
May 25, 2011
Wow, that is a tough question, Adri! I guess I would have to say the play because I have been in love with with the music for the whole year since I saw the play. The book helped give me some back story that really helped me understand the play better, even though the play is not super close to the book.
May 25, 2011
Yeah, I think the general consensus is that the play is better. I've heard wonderful things about both, though. The music sounds like a lot of fun too!
January 04, 2011
Entertaining write up, Sheri! I think I'll borrow this book sometime; I am a sucker for fantasy and I thought the play was pretty fun. Thanks!
More Wicked: The Life and Times of ... reviews
review by . February 22, 2011
I loved this book, but I made the mistake of reading it after I saw the musical. The musical is loosely based on the book. I love both though. The telling of the story of Oz from the Wicked Witch's point of view. WE now get her trin of thought, and see how and why she is portrayed as she is in "The Wizard of Oz."Read this book and it's sequals like they are glimpses from the other side.
review by . July 06, 2010
Before you go on. Be warned when I start talking about this book I have a tendency to say to much. I tried not to put too many details out there to ruin it but if you haven't read it and want to be surprised don't read this review yet.      I have to say I never would have considered reading this book had it not been for my sister in law. She read the book and wouldn't stop talking about it. So in an effort to make her stop I read it. I absolutely love this …
review by . July 01, 2010
I was really touched by the original story line of Wicked. It changed my perspective of the Wizard of Oz story completely. Growing up having been in love with the movie, I found myself resenting everything it stood for, as if it were a non-fiction situation, and Wicked had revealed the truth to me.       I would recommend this book to anyone who loved the movie, and wants a huge reality check on their perception of this fictional world. If you were hoping …
review by . August 03, 2010
    This is an extremely well written book. I was sucked into the characters lives. I read it in my teens and remember being appalled and fascinated at the "truth behind the story" portrayal that Maguire presents.   I would reccomend this reading to anyone in their late teens as at that age it is shocking, intriguing, and exciting all at the same time. It also helps a person to see other moralities and question their own morality and way of thinking by example.  …
review by . December 30, 2010
Since childhood, I have been a fan of the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz, which was based upon L. Frank Baum's book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. While I have not read the Baum original, the movie was about what happens when Dorothy Gale's house lands in Oz, killing the Wicked Witch of the East, and how the Wicked Witch of the West pursues her to get back her sister's ruby slippers. We just presume that the Wicked Witch has always been wicked. But has she?    This book, Wicked, on …
review by . July 21, 2010
Going into this book, I knew that it was about the Wicked Witch of the West from Frank L. Baum’s The Wizard of Oz, but I really knew very little else. As the saying goes, there are two sides to every story and the author of Wicked, Gregory Maguire, does an excellent job of portraying this idea. Baum makes the story very fantastical and interesting, but it is also presented over the course of a few days (or a dream, depending on your viewpoint), so the scope is very limited. One of the things …
review by . July 02, 2010
   I love the different view of Oz that Gregory Maguire presents in this first part of three. Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West is far more different than what people think and it is inspiring to me since I have a morbid habit of sympathizing with the bad guys in books and movies. I felt excited and couldn't put it down. I love the way all the main characters in Oz are portrayed. Its like an intense emotional roller coaster that you don't want to get off of.      …
Quick Tip by . August 09, 2010
I very much reccomend. Best retelling of a "classic" story I've encountered. Makes you re-assess a few ideas (hopefully)
Quick Tip by . July 21, 2010
not my favorite book by this author. i really enjoyed most of his other books though, so defo check out those if you like this one.
Quick Tip by . July 16, 2010
Very entertaining... it's a whole new take with a whole new point of view!
About the reviewer
Sheri ()
Ranked #71
I have been a customer reviewer on Amazon.com for well over a decade and an Amazon Vine reviewer since the program began. I enjoy writing product reviews that will help customers make a buying decision. … more
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About this book


Born with green skin and huge teeth, like a dragon, the free-spirited Elphaba grows up to be an anti-totalitarian agitator, an animal-rights activist, a nun, then a nurse who tends the dying?and, ultimately, the headstrong Wicked Witch of the West in the land of Oz. Maguire's strange and imaginative postmodernist fable uses L. Frank Baum's Wonderful Wizard of Oz as a springboard to create a tense realm inhabited by humans, talking animals (a rhino librarian, a goat physician), Munchkinlanders, dwarves and various tribes. The Wizard of Oz, emperor of this dystopian dictatorship, promotes Industrial Modern architecture and restricts animals' right to freedom of travel; his holy book is an ancient manuscript of magic that was clairvoyantly located by Madam Blavatsky 40 years earlier. Much of the narrative concerns Elphaba's troubled youth (she is raised by a giddy alcoholic mother and a hermitlike minister father who transmits to her his habits of loathing and self-hatred) and with her student years. Dorothy appears only near novel's end, as her house crash-lands on Elphaba's sister, the Wicked Witch of the East, in an accident that sets Elphaba on the trail of the girl from Kansas?as well as the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodsman and the Lion?and her fabulous new shoes. Maguire combines puckish humor and bracing pessimism in this fantastical meditation on good and evil, God and free will, which should, despite being far removed in spirit from the Baum books, ...
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ISBN-10: 0060987103
ISBN-13: 978-0060987107
Author: Gregory Maguire
Publisher: Harper Paperbacks

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