Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire
What a terrific book. I thoroughly enjoyed this one. I was trepidatious at first, having been told it was a little raunchy, overly sexual.
Mr. Maguire takes us to Oz, but in a totaly different way than Lyman Frank Baum did. We're seeing life through the eyes of the Witch, Elphaba. It's not all cheery and pretty. Munchins aren't teeny, they're just shorter than most people. There are two separate classes of animals: animals and Animals. The ones with the capital letters are sentient beings. They teach schools, they hold jobs, they have purpose (explains the Lion). There are cities, and countries. There's religion, politics, magic. There's a society run by a Regent called Ozma. Then, a man lands in a balloon. This man, a self-proclaimed Wizard overthrows the kingdom and names himself Ruler of OZ. Slowly, life changes. Animals lose their rights little by little. The government and the Wizard take over. It's not your mother's Oz, that's for sure.
We meet a preacher out in the back woods swap land, with a bored and promiscuous wife. Oh, and she's pregnant. Out comes....a green baby. Is she half elf or dwarf? Or is she, as her father states, a punishment from the Unnamed God? Punishment for not stopping his city from viewing a raunchy puppet show that almost told the future, that caused the villagers to go a little wild?
We meet Elphaba as an infant and toddler; she spurned and shunned by everyone, even her mother. We fast forward and meet her again as she attends college in Shiz, a city next to Emerald City. Her political and social views are forever moulded here. Her roommate is Galinda, a snooty rich girl. She befriends and Munchinklander named Boq. They work together to help Professor Dillamond, a Goat, fight against the Animal oppression being instilled by the Wizard's government. We see friendships bloom as a small group of friends join together. We meet Elphaba's younger sister, a beautiful girl named Nessarose...born with no arms. We see Professor Dillamond get killed, Galinda gaining knowledge and strength though his death and changing her name to Glinda, and Elphaba losing hope and running away from school.
We fast forward again to later years, in her mid to late 20's when she is accidentaly found by an old college chum, Fiyero, a man from the land of the vinkus, who is dark skinned with blue diamond shaped tattoos. She wants not to be found, she's been doing dangerous works with an underground rebellion, but she clings to this college friend. And they begin a love affair that ends in tragedy.
We meet her in her 30's. She's saddled with a child named Liir, with whom she has zero connection to. Is it her son? He's not green like her or dark like Fiyero. Who is he?
We see her sister Nessarose, who became a powerful ruler in Munchkinland, get crushed by a house. We see her questing for the shoes that her father crafted for her sister and that Glinda gave to Dorothy either out of pity or to get them out of Munchkinland (they were seen as an evil item, because the Munchkinlanders did not approve of Nessarose ruling through religion). We meet Dorothy, we experience the Witch's demise.
I enjoyed the intrigue, the throught-provoking characters. I liked that I'm thinking of Mr. Baum's work as I am reading this one, and I'm smiling as I compare and contrast the two.
Is Elphaba evil? Is she really the Wicked Witch of the West? You decide.