Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire. It was not what I expected. I picked up the book because I was in the mood to read something completely opposite of my favorite genres. Fantasy and science fiction are never my first choice, but after a wonderful course in college in the these genres, I really began to appreciate it and the authors in a whole new light. In that course, we studied JR Tolkien, CS Lewis, George MacDonald and a few other pioneers in the field. I enjoyed most of the books and excerpts that we read, but I benefited most when we discussed it in class and I was able to grasp exactly what the writers were writing about. Believe it or not, they usually create other worlds and lands and languages for a reason other than entertainment. That being said, I quickly realized how politically charged the novel Wicked is as I found myself deeper into the book.
The premise of the book was actually the first thing to attract me to it. Like most other people growing up, I have seen The Wizard of Oz multiple times and am familiar with the story. Unlike most people I know, I have not seen the Broadway show of Wicked. You could say that my approach to the novel was unbiased in the sense that my only preview of it came from the back cover and rave reviews about the musical. Novels dive into the gritty parts of stories that are not always portrayed on stage or film. You will read every word in a book and let it sketch the story for you rather than the music and costumes and expressions that weave an impressionistic painting of the story. I will not argue whether one is better than the other, as I can definitely defend both and all art forms (as it relates to literature). In this instance though, I feel as if the musical would have won my vote though I still yet to see it.
Gregory Maguire is wonderful writer, and his ability to develop a rich story is evident in Wicked. To be honest I am hesitant to pick up another one of his books though. Perhaps it's not my style. I am glad I read it because I believe that it expands my knowledge of literature and writing and I hope some day to draw from his techniques, but I would not place it on my "favorites" shelf.
If you enjoy imagination and fantasy fiction, I would recommend you read Wicked. Please be aware that although green women, princes with blue skin, and talking Animals do not exist in our world, they most definitely exist in Oz and human nature exists as well: murder, hate, sex, scandal, and love. This is not a child's story, and Maguire's themes are adult, political and relevant. And because of this I am not surprised that his novel has been transformed into a musical. He is a powerful writer and very deserving of recognition as a novelist.