Wicked – Gregory Maguire

Posted 13 May, 2008 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 31 Comments


Title: Wicked
Author: Gregory Maguire
Date Finished: May 12, 2008
Yearly Count: 25
Pages: 406
Rating: 4/5

“One never learns how the witch became wicked, or whether that was the right choice for her–is it ever the right choice? Does the devil ever struggle to be good again, or if so is he not a devil? Is it at the very least a question about definitions” (231).

I must have seen the movie The Wizard of Oz a million times when I was little and I’ve read the book once or twice, but how do you ever really know a story unless you hear both sides? This story tells the tale of the Wicked Witch of the West, most commonly known in the book as Elphaba, and how she began the legend that she is.

Born a bright green girl she led a curious childhood and even more curious adolescence as a smart, witty, and deeply understood girl. Elphaba is passionate about Animals and determining what makes someone human, but more important to this story, what makes someone evil or good. Is evilness inherent or is it something that develops? Can someone who is evil become good, or visa versa? These things she seeks to learn as she grows up in the Land of Oz where the country is ruled by a tyrant Wizard.

Wicked is a type of bildungsroman, following Elphaba through her school years at Shiz, her time as a covert spy in Emerald City, and her years in recluse at the castle in Kiamo Ko. The story is very different from what I expected–I think I expected this to be a type of children’s book, but it isn’t. There is a little bit of language and sexual content, but mostly it contains deep adult themes such as politics, ethics, love, forgiveness, and what it means to have a soul.

Maguire weaves a beautiful story, and I grew to love Elphaba even as she matured into a tortured woman. He does a great job of developing her character, but the final encounter with Dorothy was still a little awkward for me–most of the story was believable, but somehow the ending seemed forced. My only other qualm with the book is there is so much left out and left up for the reader to interpret–such as Elphaba’s mysterious childhood in Quadling before going to school in Shiz, her time in Emerald City when she is on a secret mission, and of course I wanted more of the love affair between her and Fiyero. I guess if all of that was included the story could be a thousand pages long. But overall, I heartily enjoyed this story and my next step is to purchase the Wicked soundtrack since the play won’t be coming back to Texas until next year (and even then it will be a five hour drive to see it in San Antonio).

*I was hoping to use my Google Reader to find other’s reviews, but it didn’t work as nicely as it did for The Innocent Man. If you’ve reviewed it, leave me a little note with your link and I’ll include it. I did, however, manage to find Nymeth‘s review.

Jeane also reviewed this book here.

Happy reading!

31 Responses to “Wicked – Gregory Maguire”

  1. We read this book in my book club in ’06. Several of the girls really liked it, but most of us (me included) strongly disliked it. I did really enjoy the love affair between Fiyero and Elphaba though … it was strangely fascinating and I kept wanting more of it. I did a VERY brief recap of our meeting on this: http://storiedellesorelle.blogspot.com/2007/10/2006-wicked-by-gregory-maquire.html
    in case you’re interested. There’s really not much there though – sorry.

  2. Thanks for the review! I’ve been wanting to read this for ages. From the reviews I’ve read it seems to be one that you either love or hate. I’m a big OZ fan so I’m hoping to enjoy it as much as you.

  3. This book surprised me a lot as well…I also didn’t expect it to deal with those themes. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  4. I’m looking forward to reading this at some point–and seeing the play. Maybe we could take a road trip to San Antonio next year!

  5. *Heather – I’m really interested in knowing more why you and your group disliked this book! I have seen really mixed reviews of it, but I don’t think anything quite as polar as your post suggests. I definitely had to get used to some of the ideas in the book.

    *Nicola – I hope you enjoy it as well–this definitely portrays a different side of OZ and its inhabitants!

    *Nymeth – I didn’t either and at first it took some getting used to because I kept waiting for it to revert to a more YA feel, but I did some good thinking with this book (not that I don’t think as much when reading YA…)! I look forward to reading some of Maguire’s other works.

    *Laura – Roadtrip!! :) It is playing in Ottawa while we will be in Toronto, but that is about a 250 mile drive and not sure if I can convince anyone else to take it. I really want to see the play, though!

  6. Trish – to answer your question: In all fairness, it had to do (in part!) with the person who suggested it as our club read. Despite getting voted down for almost a year, she kept insisting on bringing it up again … we finally read it just to get her to drop it! But more than that, I couldn’t get into this book. I am a big Fantasy fan but was never a big Oz fan. The themes were good but I couldn’t bring myself to care about any of the characters (except Fiyero – LOL) and things just seemed to get weirder and weirder as the book progressed.

    As for the rest of the club, some of them are “non-fiction snobs” and dislike Fantasy on principle (sorry book club girls … I love you anyway!) and others just couldn’t get into the story at all. Then there’s my sister (who I wrote about on my blog) who had to quit reading early on.

    Hopefully that answers your question … if not, just email me and we can chat more! :)

  7. This is a book I’ve also passed by many times. Surprising too, because it seems like it would be right up my alley.

    Thanks for such a great review!

  8. *Heather – eeks–I’m sorry for the bad experience. This book wasn’t what I expected at all, so I can see how it could have gone a totally different way for me. Hopefully your group has read some better reads since then!

    *CJ – I hope you enjoy it if you ever do pick it up! It’s always interesting to see the “other” side of the stories we know so well.

    *Stephanie – I think you would like this one! I look forward to reading your thoughts when you do get around to it.

  9. I’ve got this on my pile, and I was hoping to get to it for Once Upon a Time, but not so sure I’ll make it. It was nice to read your review…the book sounds far different from what I was expecting. But I still think it sounds enjoyable. Thanks for the fabulous review!

  10. I’ve never heard of this one but it sounds great. I’ve never read Wizard of Oz. I’ve always wanted to. Do you think I should read it first so I’ll understand this one better?

  11. *Debi – When I was doing my search for other reviews (part of weekly geeks), I saw your post about receiving it as a gift. I hope you enjoy it when you get to it. I’m not sure what my expectation was, but it was very different from what I got with this book!

    *Natasha – What??!?!? :) Surely you’ve seen the movie…right? Honestly it has been so long since I’ve read the book that I’m not sure if you *should* read it first or not. I would watch the movie, though–of course it would be interesting to read a review of this book from someone who isn’t familiar with the story of Oz.

  12. Of course I’ve seen the movie! That would be really weird if I’ve never had. Although, I do think that it’s weird that I know a ton of people who have never watched Star Wars either. Is the Wizard of Oz book different from the movie or does it follow pretty close?

  13. *Mrs. S – Yes I believe so–I haven’t seen the show, but I’ve heard it is outstanding!

    *Bethany – I’ve seen very polarized reviews of this book as well, butI was really interested by it. Hope you like it!

  14. Reading your review reminded me that I started this book 2 years ago and never finished it. It seems readers either love it or hate it so I think I’m thinking about giving it another try.
    P.S. I’m also in Dallas =)

  15. *Natasha – I must have missed your comment–I’m sorry! I couldn’t say how closely they follow because it has been years since I’ve read or seen the movie. I’ve seen the movie enough times to remember it pretty clearly, but not as much with the book. After finding out that it is a type of allegory, I’d like to go back and read it…someday. :)

    *emmegail – Yay for Dallas! :) I grew up here, mostly, so I love it. I hope you do end up liking it. I have seen negative reviews, but mostly before I read the book so I usually just skim through–so I’m not sure *why* people didn’t like it.

    *Jeane – Thanks for the link! I know you’ve also liked his other books, so I look forward to finding some of those soon–I do have Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister on my shelf, but now I’m interested in Son of a Witch.

  16. Joy

    Hi Trish! I didn’t have much interest in reading the book, but LOVED the musical. It was fabulous! Glad you enjoyed the book, though. :)

  17. I LOVE musicals (listen to them in the car–drives hubby crazy), but I missed Wicked when it came to Dallas last year. The next time it is coming to Texas is in 2009 and then only to San Antonio (5 hours away)…I’ll have to figure something out.

  18. I read this one before I did book blogging, and I had mixed feelings towards it. There were parts I really really liked, but I agree. I found the long explanation of her childhood strange. Maybe everyone else got it, but the dragon clock was sort of weird to me.

    Anyhow. Still an interesting take on the land of Oz. I especially enjoyed the different look at the Wizard.

  19. Kim – Yes, the dragon clock was very strange! My mind doesn’t really like to imagine fantasy type things, so I had a difficult time with some of the parts of the book–such as Madame Morrible’s Gommetick (or whatever the name was–sorry, too lazy to grab my book). I loved the different perspective the book gave, though, into the land we all thought we knew so well.

  20. My English teacher gave this to me as a grad gift 7 years ago, so when I saw it on the ‘New and Hot’ shelf at B&N last year I was puzzled. Ah well, it’s a book that needs reading, and the proles only read what’s ‘New and Hot,’ right?

    Great review.

  21. I didn’t really care for this one at all. But I’m glad to be in the minority. I just didn’t like some of the graphic scenes.

  22. *Raych – I was surprised that it was published so long ago–but I guess maybe it was popularized by the musical? It was definitely an interesting book–hope you get around to it one day. ;)

    *Becky – I think maybe it is about half and half–either love or hate this book. I think I was somewhere in the middle, but I really want to see the musical after reading the book!

  23. I loved this book so much, I flew all the way from Florida to NYC to see the play opening month! Now that is devotion to a book! Great review!

    (jumped over from Bookworms Carnival)

  24. I have this one but I don’t think it’s calling to me yet. I’ve heard a handful of songs from the musical, particularly Defying Gravity though and fell in love with it more because of the lovely voices of Kristin and Idina.

    Oh gee, is the musical based on the book? I mean I’ve always thought so. Maybe I should read this soon.

    Oh dear, this month’s Bookworms Carnival is indeed piling up books on my TBR!

  25. I loved this book! I thought it was such a cool and original idea to see the whole story from her perspective.

    Thanks for the review!

  26. My bookworn carvival post is about Confessions of Ugly Stepsister and most comments have raved about this book as well. I will have to read it too:)