The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West

by Gregory Maguire

Wicked by Gregory Maguire

Book Review
by Andy Freede

Before cracking the cover of this wildly entertaining twist on the classic story, a word of warning: This is not your Grandmother’s Wizard of Oz.

If it is inevitable that every good novel is eventually adapted into a Hollywood movie, then the truly brilliant ones must spawn Broadway musicals.   What fun it was from beginning to end to take a story as familiar as the one of Oz, and to turn it on its head to approach it from an entirely new angle.

What if the Wicked Witch of the West was not the great big meanie that we all thought?  What if she was a victim of circumstance, discrimination and her own ideologies?

What if the Wizard was a manipulative and arrogant megalomaniac?

What if Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, was a spoiled debutante, more concerned with her own self image than the welfare of Oz?

This unique spin on the classic tale gives such a unique perspective that it allows the reader to become so much more involved in the characters and their flaws than we have ever been allowed before.  Following the life of a peculiar green girl named Elphaba from birth to an untimely watery death, we are given a view of a difficult and challenging life.  We are allowed to sympathize with a child born physically different and her parent’s struggles to accept her as their own.  We can identify with the young college student, labeled the “weird” girl, as she makes her own friends and finds a cause that is worth fighting for.

The role of Dorothy is pushed to the background as more of an unwitting pawn in a political power struggle than as a real heroine.  Ephaba holds no real animosity towards her as much as she sees her as a nuisance, placed in her way by the forces with which she is at odds.

If’ you’ve only seen the Broadway version of this story, you may be in for a shock when reading it.  It is definitely an adult story, filled with complex interactions, and it does not feel the need to provide a happily-ever-after ending.  We’re not even really sure whether Dorothy actually makes it home at all.

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