Literary Friday: Wicked

Synopsis according to Goodreads:
"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.

Wicked is definitely the best Gregory Maguire book I've read to date (I have 3 left to go, though). It weaves some subtle political and social commentary (from our own American current affairs, and past) into the well-known Baum Oz books, adding a rich depth to a story I don't much care for. That's right- I dislike The Wizard of Oz. You may commence with the booing.

Anyway, Wicked is well-written although, in his usual way, Maguire lets the reader connect the dots, and doesn't exactly answer any of the mysteries he sets up. Elphaba is not a relatable character, or a likeable one, but he still manages to convey sympathy for her constantly-foiled attempts to do good. 

In fact, I adore the musical, which distills this concept but sugar-coats it a lot more than the book. Don't read this expecting a whimsical love story with Fiyero, a hate-to-love friendship with Glinda, or a happy ending. The book makes Elphaba not just misunderstood, but actually at times truly wicked for her lack of compassion, empathy, and wide-scope-view-of-the-world. 

Ultimately, this is a musing on the nature of evil. With some pretty fleshed-out, three-dimensional (albeit not intimate to the reader) characters. I recommend it for fans of Gregory Maguire, the philosophy of morality, the Oz books, and political commentary with a flair of magic.

2014 Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge

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