Book Review: Wicked by Gregory Maguire

June 11, 2015

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire is a re-imagining of the famous Wizard of Oz stories by L. Frank Baum, this time however, it is from the point of view of the Wicked Witch of the West.

  • 560 pages
  • Publisher: Harper
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061350966

Book Review Wicked The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory MaguireMy rating for Wicked – 3
Buy this book in paper or elec­tor­nic format*
More Books by Gregory Maguire

I read Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire after my sister gave it high marks. I tried reading a few years ago and couldn’t get interested, but this time I figured I’d give it another shot since I really like “alternate” stories where characters are given new dimensions and stories are re-told or re-imagined in a way which gives the reader a new perspective on old favorites.

That being said, I think the idea of telling an Oz story with the Wicked Witch as the “good gal” is brilliant, but unlike similar concepts such as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead the execution is not as inspiring.

There are elements in the story, which I felt were essential to the plot, which were never explained, such as the whole “time Dragon” side story. I’ve read the book, re-read some parts and I have no clue what is the “time Dragon”, besides some magical carnival ride.
I was hoping this would be explained at the end, but it wasn’t which seems strange to me because the author insists this is a crucial piece of the puzzle.

I heard this book was very “literary” and it is, but I think Mr. Maguire has lost the balance between “verbose” and “wordy”. This is the exact kind of book kids in my English class hated to read (that was before we could google every other word to find the definition in half a second).

The author seems to spend a lot of time on the mundane, yet skips and jumps just when the story gets interesting or something happens. Sure, that’s real life and it might work in “The Sopranos” but it doesn’t work in this genre.

I didn’t care about any of the characters and I’m sorry to say that because I’ve invested several hours in this book. I didn’t care about Elphaba, her sister, father, roommates or any of the other characters. All of the main characters seem to be stuck in some teenage state of anguish, pettiness and immaturity.

There was much talk about the profound social commentary of Wicked. I guess I didn’t see it.
Rich people look down on poor people? Rich People are mean? Poor people are driven to be mean? People are a product of their upbringing? Don’t judge people by their color?
Social commentary to me means Gulliver’s Travels and the like, or heck, even South Park does a better job at social commentary.

Finally – there is no ending.
OK, Dorothy kills Elphaba – but I knew that from page one.
The author goes to great detail to explain to us that water is Elphaba’s Kryptonite and then…she has a bucket of water in her home?
That’s like you and me keeping cyanide pills in our medicine cabinet.
There is no “wrap up”, not explanation of things untold, unsaid or unexplained.
The ending left me empty (not hungry for more).

I found this book mediocre and somewhat disjointed. Yet, I found it strangely interesting – maybe because I think that the idea is brilliant and the overall story is good.

Buy this book in paper or elec­tor­nic format*

More Books by Gregory Maguire

Zohar — Man of la Book
Dis­claimer:I borrowed this book.
*Ama­zon links point to an affil­i­ate account

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