Wicked by Gregory Maguire

I’ve been taking part in a reading group of sorts at the workplace and so have been told what to read over the past two months. But I rebelled as the holidays approached and saved a little reading time for something of my own choosing.

The something of my own choosing was Wicked by Gregory Maguire. It wasn’t an easy read; in fact, I learned a number of new words. (That’s somewhat refreshing, as it’s been a long time since I’ve had to keep a dictionary nearby.) I thoroughly enjoyed it and, unexpectedly, grew to love and admire the Wicked Witch of the West. I wonder if that was the intended result? I haven’t done a lot of looking about to see if that was what Maguire was going for with his little fantasy tale. (I do know that the witch’s name–Elphaba–was taken from the initials of L. Frank Baum, who created Oz.)

Maguire’s Elphaba is intelligent, passionate, misunderstood and ultimately, the victim of an unfortunate accident. Who knew that a green girl–whose birth is the combination of something called the Clock of the Time Dragon, an unknown potion, and an adulterous mother–raised by a missionary could end up in such a fix? She is philosopher and scientist, revolutionary and mother, lover and murderer. More than three-dimensional, this was a character I think I could really like, should our paths cross in real life. (I’ve overlooked the blue skin of a man, so I’m pretty sure I could overlook the green skin of a woman.)

Let me recommend Wicked to you, if you’re looking for something engaging and not-too-easy a read. It’s worth any effort you put into it. I miss Elphie already. I’ll probably end up re-reading it very soon.

I have to admit, I had never read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz before experiencing Wicked, so I was mostly comparing it to the movie. I got inspired, though, to read the original. To give it a little twist, I downloaded the book to my Palm from Project Gutenberg. There’s something ironic about electronically reading a book published in 1900. Anyway, I really enjoyed that book as well. It was interesting to contrast the book to the famous movie. As is typical, I liked the book better and I also liked better the Dorothy I made up in my head rather than the Judy Garland version.

I’ve decided to read the rest of the series–I think there are about a dozen of them. It could be that there are more plot twists in Wicked that correspond with the sequels. (Looking ahead to Ozma of Oz here.)

I’m off to see the Wizard…

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