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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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03/30/2005 Archived Entry: "Book Review: Wicked"

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West
by Gregory Maguire
Published by Regan Books
ISBN: 0060987103
416 Pages, $15.00

Reviewed by Janine Fennick

I finished Wicked this morning and I'm sorry I did.

I really really disliked the book. I was reading the Amazon reviews for the book and I cannot believe that so many people were extolling its virtues. Dull, tedious, meandering, pointless. I hated all the characters, I didn't have empathy for anyone, I never understood anyone's motives, I kept waiting for something to happen and it never did. It got up on a lot of soap boxes about things but never followed through in terms of payoff, it raised points and then forgot about them, there was never any explanation of anything. I'm not a big fan of the film and I am a huge fan of the books but I wasn't looking for serious canon as long as it was entertaining. It wasn't. I can't swear to what the musical is like -- haven't seen it yet. I'm hoping it's better (there's no way it could get worse and I'm sure most of the psuedophilosophy must've been cut away to fit into a 2 1/2 hr musical).

It's a shame because someone else might've taken the same concepts (even the highly pretentious non-stop socio-political-spiritual ones) and written a thought-provoking, entertaining book. It wasn't that I wanted it to be a grown up Oz book or even just the same -- I just wanted it to be likeable. It's also odd how a lot of the Amazon reviews spoke of it being a satire or funny -- I found very little humour in it at all.

I've since removed any other Gregory Macguire books from my wishlist since this one made me want to gouge my eyes out.

Replies: 4 comments

I haven't read the book yet, but I heard that the musical is very good. I plan to see it in New York. I'll be honest with you, I can't wait! I think anyone that can be negative about someone's thought that they thought was good has a cold heart.

Posted by Lily Kathleen @ 01/04/2006 04:18 PM PST

I agree with Janine Fennick's comments. I, too, felt the book was unfocused, had pointless episodes and raised issues regarding personal relationships, social class, religion, and the nature of evil that remained unexamined in any depth. Although I found the book a compelling read (probably because I kept hoping something significant would happen), I also found it frequently bizarre, irritating and unpleasant. Telling the story from the Witch's point of view is an intriguing idea that unfortunately resulted in a story full of sound and fury, but signifing nothing.

Posted by P Sharp @ 01/07/2006 10:47 PM PST

The jury is still out on how I felt about this novel. At times I found it brilliant, yet other times I found it muddled and hazy. The best I can surmise of a theme (apart from the obvious political commentary) is the pardoxical nature of man. I wanted to sympathize with Elphaba, but found no redeeming qualities in her in the end. She was a failure at everything she did, crippled by the failures of her parents. Because she never quite fit into any world or any social group, she couldn't thrive. Though she attempted to make a connection with the Animals, they too rejected her in the end, thus perpetrating her lacking sense of direction. I never did get the business with the shoes and why she felt she needed them. It was not believable that her character would have wanted them or even bothered so hard to get them. What do you make of Yackle? She pops up at every transition in the novel, but I have no idea what to make of her. I did, however, find the novel intriguing, and I would definitely give Macguire another chance. By the way, the musical is worse than the book. Fortunately the music, powerful and electrifying, makes up for the meandering and often confusing plot.

Posted by Jennifer Manuel @ 02/09/2006 07:32 PM PST

I don't think I would go as far as to say I hated the book, it was well-written and intriguing. The characters that I really sympathised with either died or were absent for most of the novel. This served a purpose of course, it's just unfortunate that Elphaba worked so hard at making herself unlikable. The parts of the book that made very specific reference to the original novel felt very awkward and forced to me. By the time Dorothy is approaching the Witch's castle in Winkie Land, Elphaba's actions have ceased to make any sort of sense. I found the novel to be gripping at many points and I was quite curious to see how things would develop into the story I was familiar with. I would say the books strengths are in setting up a classic greek tragedy, extemporizing on familial relations, the nature of existence and pre-destination and making the reader feel dreadful. The religion I found to be rather irritating, really, mainly because of my clingy purist view of Oz and the complete lack of religion or anything like in Baum's books. As to the musical, I heard enough of it too often to really detest it. I don't like broadway musicals on the whole and 'Wicked' is very broadway. I'm relieved to see that I'm not the only person in the universe who had issues with this book.

Posted by Jack Walton @ 03/04/2006 02:50 AM PST

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