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Wicked by Gregory Maguire - Classics Retold

Thursday, September 19, 2013


This month is Wizard of Oz month here at the blog.. where I read the original and then also read the retellings.  So of course you know I would be reviewing Wicked right?  Let's start off with... I didn't love Wicked.  That's right!   

So let's check out the goodreads description:

In Baum's land of Oz, 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. Green-skinned Elphaba, future Wicked Witch of the West, is smart, prickly and misunderstood; she challenges our preconceived notions about the nature of good and evil..

So I wanted to love this book. But I didn't. I do love that Elphaba (the Wicked Witch of the West) was actually good. She has a mysterious birth... which tries to explain why she is born green. Of course she faces a lot of prejudice because of this.  Eventually she goes off to college (yes I skipped a lot of the plot line).  At college she rooms with a beautiful girl name Glinda.  Glinda studies Sorcery and Elphaba studies Animal Science.  Animals can speak and are educated but they are mysteriously becoming unable to speak or have any intelligence. 

Elphaba heads to the Emerald City to see the Wizard to discover what he thinks of the animals.  She finds no one cares about what she thinks.  So she hides in the Emerald City trying to fight for her cause.  She finally leaves the city and goes and eventually returns to Munchkinland where she was born so meet back up with her sister (Wicked Witch of the East).  This is where she gets the name Wicked Witch of the West from the Munchkins because of her beliefs. 

The book now follows what Baum wrote about in the original book.  A house falls onto the Wicked Witch of the East.  Glinda finds out and goes to the scene where she gives Dorothy the silver slippers because she murdered the Wicked Witch of the East.  Elphaba is very upset because the slippers were rightfully hers.  By this time the Wizard has sent Dorothy to kill Elphaba.  Dorothy tells Elphaba this but Elphaba is still angry and accidentally sets her self on fire with her broom. Dorothy throws water on her which Elphaba happens to be allergic to.

So I hoped I described this story goof for you.  Honestly this book has a lot of stuff going on.  I like the parts of the books that have to do with Oz.  The new story of who the Wicked Witch of the West really is and why she ends up bitter with her life.  On the other hand this story is stuffed with lots of political themes and well lots of lessons for us all to learn.   That is the part of the book I just don't enjoy.

Wicked is the first in "The Wicked Years" series, and was followed by Son of a Witch (published in September 2005), A Lion Among Men (published in October 2008), and Out of Oz (published in November 2011).  I have not read the other books in the series.


The crystal ball says:


Rain is pouring...  Not sure if this was really worth my time, must get umbrella.
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15 comments:

  1. I found myself in much the same boat with Wicked. I even tried Son of a Witch, but didn't get far at all. I'm done with that series. I give rewrites a chance because some of them are really good, this just wasn't one of the best for me.

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    1. I don't know what it was... just a lot of too much preaching to me. I was like OK... we get it. I wanted to know all about Elphaba and why she is how she is.

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  2. You're not alone. I liked it. I didn't love it. I liked some of the philosophical discussion, but you're right; there's a lot of it. Worked much better on Broadway.

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    1. I love the Broadway show. I was going to do a review on it before the month is over too so be on the lookout!

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  3. My wife read this and she didn't like it either. She also really wanted to like it but by the end she was not impressed.

    Do you plan in reading the others still or did this put you off the whole series?

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    1. Sad to say that I will not be continuing on with this series. I might try to read one of Maguire's other books though. Like the Ugly Stepsister. I think that's what it's called. That one sounds neat.

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  4. I did enjoy this, but the other books in the series weren't nearly as good. I guess I could only get through the politics and philosophy because of Elphaba.

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    1. True... it was clever and it made me feel really bad for Elphada. She was just a girl trying to have a good life with friends and family.

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  5. Hi Angela,

    I'm in the same boat as you - I really wanted to like this book, but a really didn't. I found the parallels interesting, but for the most part I was bored by all of the politics. I've been told that the musical takes the good parts of the book and discards the rest.

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    1. The musical is really really really good. It is the parts of the book I loved. I have been to the musical twice now and just blown away each time!

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  6. I haven't read any of these books, for whatever reason I've never been interested in it. I have thought about reading the second book because what I've heard is the main character, or a main character is gay.

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    1. Oh I hadn't heard about that in the second book. good spin on the series then. If I remember there was something in there about dating an animal too (because they were intelligent and could talk). What it stood for wasn't bestiality but that people should be able to love who they love. Black/white person. Asian/black person for example. But you know I could be wrong it's been a while since I read Wicked.

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  7. I love Wicked the Musical and I tried hard to like the book. Tried and failed.

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  8. I really liked Wicked, although it took me a while to do so. I read the first half of the book really slowly and just couldn't get that into it, so I left it alone for a few months. When I went back to it, I tore through the second half and really enjoyed it. I can easily see why it's not a book people love (the musical is better!).

    Sarah

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  9. I love the novel, although it's been too long since I read it for me to mount an effective defense of it.

    From what I remember, the political stuff worked just fine for me. I think that what makes it work -- if you think it does, which most of the commenters here clearly do not -- is the idea of that element of the book being an outgrowth of the original L. Frank Baum book. In other words, the idea is that if the original is mostly a fairy-tale type of metaphorical/allegorical storytelling, "Wicked" represents the more literal, real-world side of things. I thought the politics more or less made sense. But I say that now, not being able to actually remember the specifics; so I might have a different opinion on rereading the novel.

    I did read the sequel, "Son of a Witch," and I was mostly bored by it. I tried the third in the series, "A Lion Among Men," but couldn't get into it at all and gave up after 50 pages or so. Maybe I'll try it again at some point.

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