Book Reviews # 2 - Wicked


The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West


Gregory Maguire

Wicked is a fractured fairy tale by Gregory Maguire. What exactly is a fractured fairy tale? According to the Oxford Companion for Fairy tales they "are traditional fairy tales, rearranged to create new plots with fundamentally different meanings or messages. Fractured fairy tales are closely related to fairy‐tale parodies, but the two serve different purposes: parodies mock individual tales and the genre as a whole; fractured fairy tales, with a reforming intent, seek to impart updated social and moral messages".

Back cover: "When Dorothy triumphed over the Wicked Witch of the West in L. Frank Baum's classic tale, we heard only her side of the story. But what about her arch-nemesis, the mysterious Witch? Where did she come from? How did she become so wicked. And what is the true nature of evil? Gregory Maguire creates a fantasy world so rich and vidid that we will never look at OZ the same way again. Wicked is about a land were animals talk and strive to be treated like first class citezens, Munchkinlanders seek the comfort of middle-class stability, and the Tin Man becomes a victim of domestic violence. And then there is the little green skinned girl named Elphaba, who will grow up to become the infamous Wicked Witch of the West, a smart, prickly, and misunderstood creature who challenges all our preconceived notions about the nature of good and evil."

I decided to read Wicked after reading a lot of buzz from various book blog reviews. Supposedly everyone is loving this book. I'll be honest, I really didn't care for it. I don't know why I expected it to be a light tale, but I did. It was anything but light. It was well written, but dark and morbid. I found myself reading only a few chapters at a time, then giving up my reading time to browse the blogs. It wasn't bad enough for me to give up reading the book. I wanted to get through the story, even though I pretty much knew how it ended.

The story started with Elphaba's parents just before she was born. Frexpar is a minister and Melana, a discontent housewife. Elphaba is born, ugly and green with strong teeth that will bite off a finger. She abhors water and won't get near it. They can't decide who the father was, because Melana can't remember who she had been with. The story goes from there in fits and starts, skipping time periods and describing scenery and life, more than getting into the characters.

Elphaba falls into being a witch when she is sent away to away to school and isn't a very good one. She never really masters the craft and constantly works on trying to better herself. There are many side stories involving Glinda, her reluctant snobbish room mate who ends up being the Good Witch of the West. Elphaba's sister - Nessarose, born without arms, ends up being the Wicked Witch of the East, even though she is very religious, following in her father's footsteps. We find out Glinda made the special red shoes that Nessarose wears, that help her keep her balance. Elphaba wants the shoes and it's all she wants when Nessarose is killed by the house dropping on her.

Dorothy is pretty much left a side story until the very end when she is told by the wizard she has to kill Elphaba in order to go home. The ending is comical with Elphaba's old Nanny welcoming Dorothy to the castle and offering her something to eat and Elphaba's son trying to lure Dorothy into a room for a kiss. Dorothy only wants forgiveness for accidently killing Nessarose and during the conversation, Elphaba uses her broom as a torch. A spark lights her clothes on fire and Dorothy throws a bucket of water on her to put out the fire. We all know what happens next.

My curiousity about Maguire's fractured fairy tales has been satisfied and I can honestly say I won't be reading anymore of his books.


  1. I thought I would try reading the book after seeing the musical but I didn't get very far. Big difference between the two and I just couldn't get into it.

  2. What an in depth review! I haven't read this book, but all my friends have recommended it. I don't see the appeal of it. Sorry that it didn't live up to what you'd hoped.

  3. Thanks for such a useful review. I haven't read this, but it's hard to imagine what kind of "reform purpose" is imparted in a plot like this one -- except to grind some axes.

  4. I'm sorry you didn't enjoy it. Oh well; different strokes for different folks.

  5. I felt exactly the same way after I forced myself to finish it!!

  6. Well, it's sure refreshing to see someone else not liking the book after seeing so many people who love it to bits.

    I felt precisely like you did about it (which is why I was happy to find your review since I was beginning to think I was the only one thinking like that :) )

    PS I absolutely love the first quote in the comment form!!

  7. I tried to read this more than once quite a while ago and couldn't do it. After your review, I don't feel so bad. ;)



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