For this book review, I read Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire. I read this book in order to complete the first item on the book challenge, a book based on a fairy tale. I guess this challenge reminded me that I’m just not a fan of fairly tales. The male protagonist is generally disappointing and the female protagonist is often powerless and irritating. I tend to spend much of these books waiting for the female protagonist to get up and help herself for once. As you can imagine, these stories tend to aggravate me to the point of no return. So, you might be wondering, if I always hate stories like this one, why did I read it in the first place? Why didn’t I just skip this challenge? Totally solid points. I thought that the female protagonist being the Wicked Witch of the West would be less annoying somehow. So, you might be wondering how that panned out. Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, was sarcastic, impassioned, and extremely opinionated. I loved her, scowled internally at all of the people that made her feel angry, and passionately rooted for all of the causes that she supported. Basically, I became Elphaba. Elphaba was relatable, funny, and I loved her as if she was my best friend. I especially loved her unwavering support for Animal rights. Why shouldn’t every creature be equal in the eyes of society? I’m clearly more than ready to channel my inner Elphaba. Before I get too carried away, I’ll tell you guys a bit about the book.
This book takes place long before Dorothy even arrives in Oz in the L. Frank Baum classic, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. In this adaptation, we learn all about Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West. From her parents’ horrified reactions to her unsightly greenish skin tone to her enrolment in college and beyond, I loved her 100%. When she does go to college, Elphaba meets a lot of new friends and learns about a political cause that would inspire her for much of her adulthood. Interestingly, in college, Elphaba gets to know a professor who is a Goat. She admires his research about self-aware Animals that hold jobs and have the ability to speak. Side note: In the novel, intelligent Animals are often compared to their mundane and less aware counterparts with the use of a capital or lowercase letter in Animal, animal, Goat, goat, etc. When this professor is murdered, probably to prevent him from publishing his research, Elphaba starts a lifelong fight in support of civil rights for self-aware Animals. This fight becomes more important when intelligent Animals are discriminated against over and over again. Later, Elphaba’s sister, Nessarose comes to join her at her college. Meanwhile, Elphaba secretly continues her professor’s research about self-aware Animals.
“People who claim that they’re evil are usually no worse than the rest of us.” He sighed. “It’s people who claim that they’re good, or anything better than the rest of us, that you have to be wary of.”
– Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West
A few years later, Elphaba’s fight to free the Animals has been transformed into a quest to get rid of the Wizard of Oz. Well, that escalated quickly. As we learn how life has changed for Elphaba and her friends, Maguire directs our attention to Nessarose. Nessarose seems to be taking a bit of a dark turn towards sorcery and political corruption. Successive twisty turns aside, we learn about how Elphaba gets a bad reputation for evil, a winged monkey to do her bidding, and an enemy in Dorothy. As I read this book, I was glad to have another perspective in addition to Dorothy’s childlike and dreamy point of view in the original text by L. Frank Baum. Maguire even explains the feud between Dorothy and Elphaba. Was this relationship ever actually malicious at all or were Elphaba and Dorothy tricked into adversity by someone else? This rivalry made me wonder: Is it possible that the Animals in this story are more self-aware and caring than human beings?
Basically, what I found when I read this novel was that sometimes my love for a particular character is way more important than any other aspect of the fictitious world that he or she lives in. You can’t always tell what factors will make a story truly amazing. In this book, the factors that made the story so great centred around Elphaba’s love and support for Animal rights. I agree completely with her on this one. We need to fight so that everyone’s voice is heard and so that everyone is equally respected in society, no matter who they are. I found big chunks of this book that I adore as well as parts I didn’t even describe in this review at all because I found them so pointless and annoying. For example, I didn’t mention that Elphaba’s father is a minister and goes around, obsessively converting people. That’s one of the less-than-awesome things in this book, but I felt like Elphaba’s character totally makes up for any annoying weirdness found elsewhere in the book. Overall, I really liked the novel and I was glad to have read this quirky adaptation of one of my favourite stories. If you loved the original book by L. Frank Baum, I would totally give it a shot. If you’re getting a tad sick of fairy tale characters like I clearly was, I would recommend it to you for sure. Elphaba is amazing and I love her. A lot.