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

Wicked, maybe. Dull, definitely.

  • Jul 2, 2008
"Wicked" is the story of Oz as might have been narrated by Karl Marx, by which I mean it is boring and filled with dull proletarian propaganda. Why did Gregory Maguire take a charming fairy tale and turn it into a history of genocide and the struggle of the masses against their oppressive rulers? His "Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister" was an appealing historical novel--no magic, but an interesting variation of the Cinderella story.

I was expecting the same from this novel, especially after I saw the musical version of "Wicked" which was both charming and funny. The musical had a great ending that tied various references to L. Frank Baum's Oz into a unified story. It's hard to believe that the musical was taken from this turgid, dull biography of the Wicked Witch of the West.

The witch, Elphaba (her name is fashioned from L. F. Baum's initials) is born rather promisingly in the Clock of the Time Dragon, and immediately bites a finger off of one of her midwives. Does this mean that she is evil from birth? She is green with pointy baby teeth, but she isn't evil. Elphaba is kind to her handicapped sister, makes good friends in college, and subscribes to all of the right causes (Animal rights, for instance). She takes up the proletarian fight, falls in love, bears a son (probably), and joins a nunnery. She goes on a long, difficult journey to apologize to her lover's wife.

Then her sister is squashed by a falling house and Elphaba becomes paranoid and obsessed with her dead sister's shoes. Readers of L. Frank Baum's story can guess how "Wicked" the novel ends (the musical is much more upbeat).

It is true that Elphaba was mean to her (probable) son, desecrated a corpse, alienated her friends, and performed radical, experimental surgery on monkeys. However, she seemed more miserable, and toward this story's end, crazy rather than truly wicked. If she were featured on that cable T.V. show about evil, I think she'd end up as maybe a six on a scale of one to twenty-two.

I'd recommend "The Prince of Darkness" by Jeffrey Burton Russell for readers who are struggling with the enduring problem of radical evil. For those of us who are interested in the story of Oz from the Witch's perspective, go see "Wicked," the musical.

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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 . January 04, 2011
A dazzling feat of fantasy storytelling.
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, …
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.
About the reviewer
Elaine Lovitt ()
Ranked #171
I'm a retired geek whose goal is to move to Discworld and apprentice myself to Granny Weatherwax. I have degrees in Astronomy and Computer Science, but was seduced by the Dark Side a few years before … more
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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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