I’ll admit, the musical overshadowed the book for me. I stayed away from Gregory Maguire’s Wicked, I suppose, because I expected something silly and pointless and that the characters might suddenly burst into song at random intervals. And I’ve seen The Wizard of Oz more than once, I figured I didn’t need to read Wicked, just like I didn’t need to read The Wind Done Gone because I’ve seen Gone With the Wind. But as soon as I finished Wicked, I wanted to carry on reading about Oz with the rest of Maguire’s books. Wicked was an incredible read.
Maguire begins Elphaba’s story some months before she’s actually born in a backwater of Munchkinland. Her father is an itinerant minister and her mother is a lonely woman. Elphaba is born strange, with green skin and animalistic ways. Her mother and Nanny try to teach her to be a little more human, but nothing much works until her sister, Nessarose, is born. Maguire jumps ahead, to Elphaba’s school years. She meets Glinda soon after arriving, as they are assigned to be roommates. Elphaba is still an outsider, though she no longer bites people. She doesn’t fit into Glinda’s snobbish society, though she does eventually make friends. Maguire also starts to drop hints about politics in Oz, as the Wizard starts to become a dictator after ousting the last Queen Ozma. Elphaba starts to champion the cause of the Animals, animals with sentience. She grows to hate the Wizard more and more as she learns about how his policies have destroyed parts of Oz.
The story we know only starts in the last part of this book, but we still get the story from Elphaba’s perspective. That’s really the whole point of this story, to understand the Wicked Witch’s story. After all, in L. Frank Baum’s original version, the Witch is a stock villain. She does bad things because she’s Evil, that’s all. In Wicked, we learn why she wants her sister’s shoes and why she wants to take down the Wizard. It’s a very impressive story. I loved the detail that Maguire poured into it, building on top of the world Baum created for children to turn Oz into a fully fleshed country, with centuries of history behind it.
And I promise that only one character sings in this book, but only once because she was begged and it only lasts one paragraph.