Sunday Afternoon Reads: Wicked by Gregory Maguire

Having grown up with the Judy Garland technicolour version of Oz, the novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West really intrigued me. I mean, how much of a back story could there be? She was the evil villian - of the same vein as Ursula the Sea-Hag in The Little Mermaid, The Wicked Stepsisters in Cinderella, Cruella de Ville in 101 Dalmations. They were mean and nasty and harboured vendettas because, well, that's just who they were. Yet in life, when people are harsh or mean and seem to harbour grudges, I always seem to try and work out what makes them feel that way; what went so drastically wrong that they feel that attitude is their only recourse.

Wicked provides the back story behind who this character is... this wicked witch of the west. It follows Elphaba from her birth (where she appalled her otherwise normal parents by her fang like teeth and appalling green colour) and through her higher schooling years where we are interested to the other "witches" of the story - Nessarose, whose dictorial rule over Munchkinland earns her the title of Wicked Witch of the East, and Glinda, who never considers herself a witch at all until Dorothy gives her the title. It follows the passions for causes and for lovers that Elphaba pursues in early adulthood and the disappointments and struggles she has that lead her to be a somewhat embittered middle-aged woman who is living a life that she never really asked for in the first place.

Where the story really gets fired up is with the introduction of Dorothy as an antagonist in the story. Suddenly the story that you thought was so clear becomes very muddy and murky. Dorothy is perhaps not the innocent southern belle that she has been portrayed as. It brings to mind the truism that history is always written by the victors - we often don't get to see the losing side.

Gregory Maguire creates a story and background to the world of OZ that extends far beyond the realms of what can be seen in the movie. I haven't had a chance to see a stage play of Wicked but I doubt that it goes into the colour and significant amount of detail that he has been able to compact into a still very readable novel. I recommend this to all girls who ever wanted to wear ruby slippers and follow the yellow brick road.

4 out of 5 stars


  1. I loved this book! I read it ages ago, long before I ever saw the stage production, and it really turned my perception of the classic tale upside down. Well worth your time.

  2. I am about half way through this book. I have already put a couple of his other books on my to-read list. So creative and captivating.

  3. I thought it was a great story. A little slow in certain parts, but still a good read. :)