Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Literally the Best Reviews: Wicked

Wicked - Gregory Maguire
William Morrow
432 Pages

You’ve probably seen the award-winning Broadway musical, or at least heard of it. How many of you knew there was a book that began the whole adventure? If you’ve been to see “Wicked” and then decided to read Gregory Maguire’s book, Wicked, you may be in for quite a surprise. There are huge differences between the two versions of the story. Some will like one over the other. Me? I’m glad I saw the musical first. For me it made the book that much fuller.

Why am I glad I saw the musical first? It’s because I liked the show. Sometimes, I catch myself humming “Popular” from that show. That could also be because Kristin Chenoweth sings it, too. The musical is a fun show that shows the lighter side of the evolution of the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda of the South.  (Trust me on this, Glinda, is from the South in the Baum books.)

Meanwhile, Wicked, the novel by Gregory Maguire is anything but light and fun. Still, it is a fantastic read, set in the darker tomes of adultery, political ambition, and prejudice.  When I was in college, one of my writing assignments was to take a antagonist from a popular story and retold it from that person’s point of view. This is what Maguire has done, albeit on a larger grander scale than I ever did.

Elphaba, the jade-hued child of Melena Thropp and minister, Frexspar, is different from any other child around. It is more than the deep shade of green of her skin. It even goes beyond her questionable parentage. She is a strange child, outcast from her peers. It is not until she gets to university and forced to room with Galinda that she really starts interacting with others.

Once she leaves the confines of her home and sees the rest of the world as it really is -- its beauty and its ugliness. It is the ugliness that captures the attention of Elphaba and some of her friends. As an outcast in her own skin, she takes on activism on behalf of those other outcasts at her university. She ends up a renegade, hiding from her government, her family, and her friends.

The novel, Wicked, is much different from the hit musical. It is much darker, exploring the shadows of prejudice. It takes a longer, harder look at injustice. The musical takes a light-hearted view of the judgment viewed on people who are different, namely the green skinned interloper, Elphaba.

Gregory Maguire writes a social commentary that is woven into the tapestry of the stories of Oz. (How many of you know there are 14 books in that series?) His novel gives us a new look into the world of the Tin Man and the Wicked Witch of the West. Oz is not the glowing kingdom of as seen in the 1939 film. According to Maguire, there is much, much more to the world. There are depths still waiting to be explored.

I’ve heard many people say they didn’t like the book. When I ask whether they read the book or watched the musical first, they invariably tell me that they went to the show and then decided to read the book. I can understand that. The book is much heavier than the live show. Personally, I liked it. While it was not my favorite book, it was a good book to read. Wicked is the first book in a series. I highly suggest reading more about the Land of Oz.

Craig Bacon likes delving deeper into the magical worlds of many of the stories he’s read. There’s a world out there for everyone.