Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West
by Gregory Maguire
I have heard so much about this book that I felt I needed to read it. Or possibly I have heard more about the musical, but I felt it would only be right to read the book before watching the musical. So that I could say “Well that was nothing like the book” and get offended, of course.
I actually “read” the audiobook, thanks to the library. It was 20 CD’s long, so it took a really long time. I thought at times that this book would never end. My friend Millie described this book as “very political”. If it was some kind of allegory to American politics, that was completely lost on me. I think what she meant was that it has a great deal to do with the politics in the land of Oz. I have to say that I have enough trouble caring about the political bickering here in my own country sometimes, so I had a huge problem trying to muster up some kind of caring about the politics of some imaginary country. When the narrative went on and on about what was happening in what area of the country it was all “blah, blah, blah” to me. I mean, I feel bad about the fact that the talking Animals were persecuted, but do you want me to really get all fired up about something that doesn’t even exist?
It’s not my fault the main character made some really bad choices. The author was able to make the character of Elphaba disagreeable enough that I actually didn’t care enough about her to want her to make the right choices. I was like “fine, do your own thing! see if I care!”. Until about halfway through the book I wasn’t even sure she was the main character because I never got that attached to her.
I really don’t know how I feel about this book. It was very dark, but not the kind of book that is dark the whole way through. It starts out “normal” and gets darker and darker until you just basically give up at the end. I actually like “dark” books just fine, and I am not someone who likes a book with a happy ending. So it’s not the fact that it was dark that bothered me…I think it was that it didn’t start that way. I thought it was going to be one way, and it turned out to lead me through all that blah blah blah, then at the end I was left feeling like I had just listened to 20 CD’s and WHAT WAS THE POINT??
The plot was so complex in so many ways, and spanned so many years, that I could not see how they made this into a musical. They would have had to chop off large chunks of the plot. And possibly change some the characters and their relationships.
So I did go to Napster and listen to whatever tracks were available from the musical. From the track “The Wizard and I”, it was obvious that the character of Elphaba had been changed quite a bit. In the book, she never wanted to be liked, she never cared how she looked. She was more concerned about politics and being a revolutionary to even become attractive to even the reader. From another track, “Dancing Through Life”, I saw that apparently they have Nessa and Bok linked romantically in some way…that never happened in the book, either. Nessa was very religious in the book and never dated or showed interest in anyone. In fact, in the book there were a lot of extremely religious characters, which played into the political themes.
I hear really good things about the musical, so I will be looking for a chance to see it at some point. Hopefully by then the weird, rambling randomness of this long, long book will have faded from my mind…