Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West
Written by Gregory Maguire
Reviewed by April D. Boland
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West is unlike any other novel I have ever read. Yes, I have read retellings before, but this one was so unique that, while others have faded from memory, this one will surely remain for some time.
Wicked is, as most of you already know, based on the story depicted in the Wizard of Oz, yet told from the Witch's point of view. In reality, it encompasses much more than that, with the arrival of Dorothy playing a pivotal yet subdued role. The encounter between Dorothy and the Witch, as described by author Gregory Maguire, is more about the Witch and less about Dorothy.
The Wicked Witch's actual name is Elphaba, and we learn a lot about her family and her childhood before anything else. Her green skin makes her the object of ostracism, fear and loathing, even among her own family. When she comes of age, she attends a prestigious college where she rooms with Galinda, soon to be known as Glinda. It is here that Elphaba learns her destiny - to be an animal rights activist and anarchist. (I kid you not.) These qualities, however, make Elphaba even more endearing and relevant to a modern audience.
Maguire's Oz turns L. Frank Baum's on its head while still respecting the creativity of its development. The Wizard, for example, is an awful tyrant, while Elphaba and her sister Nessarose, the Wicked Witch of the East, are only dubbed witches because of their supernatural powers, their other-ness, and their revolutionary rebellions against the Wizard. Politics, philosophy, fate and a bit of magic motivate Elphaba and direct her path in life. By the end, readers may find that perhaps the witch is not wicked, only misunderstood.