Wicked by Gregory Maguire chronicles the “life and times of the Wicked Witch of the West”. This interesting and imaginative novel opens with the Witch, also known as Elphaba, watching Dorothy, the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Man, and the Scarecrow on the Yellow Brick Road. The Witch listens to their conversation for a time and then as a storm approached and the group began to leave the Witch saw her sister’s shoes on Dorothy’s feet. This simple thing awoke the anger of the witch, “The shoes should be hers! –hadn’t she endured enough, hadn’t she earned them?” From this captivating and intriguing beginning we flash back to just before the Witch’s birth in Munchkinland. We learn of her parents’ relationship struggles and their differences in personality and also of the odd circumstances surrounding her birth. The novel records the difficulties of one growing up with green skin and odd tendencies. We read about her experiences at college and how she met up with Glinda, the good Witch of the North. Then we ultimately learn of her resistance against the Wizard of Oz and her death at the hand of Dorothy.
While the premise of this novel greatly interested me I think that the actual application left something to be desired. I expected to learn the Witch’s side of the story and while that was included I was also overloaded by the political and religious agenda that seemed to permeate the story. There was too much about the struggles of the government and about the nature of God and the existence of souls. While these things played a large part in the life of Elphaba I think they could have been condensed and served the same purpose. There was also a large amount of sexual conversation, which probably wouldn’t have bothered me if Maguire called it sex, instead he insisted on coming up with odd phrases like, “dragon-snaking” and play with “Uncle Flagpole”. There was also a disturbing sexual scene involving people and animals that was a bit over the top. Overall the story was interesting and while not always a page-turner it did capture my attention and provide an interesting perspective on an old favorite.