Jordan Bradt: I love THE WIZARD OF OZ, both the movie and the book by L. Frank Baum. I have his complete Oz series and devour it like dessert. In fact, my mom and I used to read his stories together. This review, however, is about an Oz story written by someone different, a certain man by the name of Gregory Maguire. He wrote, among other novels, WICKED: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE WICKED WITCH OF THE WEST. When I first heard about this book, I thought, “How wonderful, someone made the Wicked Witch not so wicked.” I am a firm believer that people are good and evil, not entirely one or the other.
Then, I actually read the book. Yes, I enjoyed it. For one thing, the pages are edged in green. The pages are freaking green, how wicked awesome is that?! Plus, the cover is awesome – Glinda whispers into the Wicked Witch’s ear, and she has a wicked smile. Tantalizing, no?
So back to the actual story, it was complex and interesting. Some sentences were hard to understand. I had to reread them, and reread, and then I realized he was trying to show a confused world; I wasn’t meant to understand. He also provided no descriptions. At first I was irritated – I LOVE illustrations. Then I realized he did that on purpose, too. He wanted me to use my imagination. Duh. There are some illustrations in the book, but they don’t really help, because they’re very dark and…cryptic. Yes, “cryptic” is a good word for them. Then I realized the author probably told the illustrator not to make them too distinct to continue with the “use your imagination” style.
Overall, great story, apart from the end: the last part of the book made the Wicked Witch act like a totally different person. I loved her at first, and then I hated her. The character development slipped. The book’s message is good, though. I prefer the musical, which I saw recently on Broadway. The message is much more coherent.
Now, welcome the Bradt Cousin’s guest speaker, my mother! She also read WICKED. Here is her take…
Cynthia Bradt, Guest Speaker: I found Wicked by Gregory Maguire to be wickedly hard to read. Every evening when I read before bed, I would promptly fall asleep after a few pages, to fall into wicked dreams where my mind tried to fathom what he was writing about. I could not picture any of Maguire’s descriptions or feel as if I knew the characters. The political references went right over my head and his use of long, awkward sentences with big unfamiliar words caused me to read and reread sentences several times until I just gave up and moved on. It was not until the last section The Murder and Its Afterlife that anything close to enjoying the novel began to take shape. This section referred to Dorothy in Oz. I was particularly struck by the feeling that Maguire had put excessively too much thought into analyzing the characters from L. Frank Baum’s book. Where most people enjoyed the movie for what it was, one can only feel that the movie frightened Maguire so much he had to think through the the story and characters thoroughly to alleviate his frequent nightmares and turn the wicked witch into something she obviously was not – good!