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Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked…

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West

by Gregory Maguire

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Wicked Years (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
20,40250573 (3.62)1 / 501
  1. 253
    The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum (TuesdayNovember, lucien, sturlington)
    lucien: An obvious choice and one that's already listed. I will add that if your only exposure to the original is the film, I'd recommend this short read. There are several ideas Maguire plays with that are only in the book.
  2. 92
    A Lion Among Men by Gregory Maguire (KrazySkaterChick)
  3. 94
    Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire (Kerian)
  4. 52
    The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly (Shuffy2)
  5. 30
    Grendel by John Gardner (mcenroeucsb)
    mcenroeucsb: Both are books that give you the "bad guy" take on classic tales.
  6. 20
    The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti (mhmolinaro)
  7. 31
    Was by Geoff Ryman (jonathankws)
    jonathankws: Set more in the 'real world' this re-telling of Oz compares three protagonists: a gay male actor with AIDS, a girl called Dorothy who a fictional L. Frank Baum 'created' Oz for, and a makeup girl on the set of the original film version film who encounters Judy Garland.… (more)
  8. 42
    The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor (joyfulgirl)
  9. 32
    A Barnstormer in Oz by Philip José Farmer (jonathankws)
    jonathankws: More affiliated to Science Fiction, this retelling focuses on Dorothy's son who returns to Oz by accident.
  10. 11
    A Nameless Witch by A. Lee Martinez (infiniteletters)
  11. 23
    Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs (khoov00)
    khoov00: This book seems to appeal to some with the same sense of humor as it would take to appreciate the book Wicked.
  12. 414
    Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell (hayfa)

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English (496)  Spanish (5)  Dutch (1)  Catalan (1)  Hungarian (1)  All languages (504)
Showing 1-5 of 496 (next | show all)
I read this around 6-7 years ago, and re-read it recently after I decided to try the rest of the series. I remembered not liking it much the first time through, but I was a big enough fan of the premise I thought I should make it fresh in my mind before I tried the sequels.

And the premise is fantastic. A completely different look, and more details about the life of, the Wicked Witch of the West. I love this sort of thing, and I still like the story for being that. Elphaba is a great character, and I loved the world in which this is set.

But the main focus of the novel is a dark political situation that Elphaba is constantly trying to unravel, and the nature of good and evil. I didn't necessarily want either of those things when I started it, and the latter point in particular feels pretty forced. And as the below reviewer mentioned, almost none of the political mysteries are resolved, and neither is the nature of evil, of course.

It actually dodges almost every question it asks. The reason I never picked up the sequel was because this novel was so disgustingly evasive about the origin of the main character in that work. It all but tells you who he is, but when the characters are questioned directly, they shrug their shoulders and say maybe.

The ending felt like it tripped and fell a little while trying to straighten up the politics and evil. A dinner party at the end sticks in my mind, then and now, where the guests discuss the nature of evil. It was pointless, and contributed nothing but confusion, as Elphaba never really takes a stand for anything. That's the point, in some sense, that she dies confused and without a cause, but... man. It was ugly getting there.

I also thought her meeting with Dorothy at the very end became suddenly out-of-character and a little wacky for the serious tone of the rest. Really? Elphaba sends crows to peck her eyes out? And the talk with Dorothy in the castle proper turns into a strange series of pratfalls that is a bit frustrating to read.

I probably will continue with the second book in the series. Maybe the political situation is confusing because it was being set up for future novels, and maybe Son of a Witch will address some of my problems with this book. I know, though, that it won't be the light, entertaining, and detailed novel of the characters of Oz that I'm looking for. ( )
  ConnieJo | Aug 24, 2014 |
All I remember from reading it years ago was how unfulfilling the effort of reading it was. It's not like Maguire's writing style was hard, but the lack of closure, no matter how minimal or unimportant, was denied in every point of the plot and every facet of the characters. That made it a bore and a trek to complete. ( )
  champerdamper | Aug 13, 2014 |
I read this book before it really became famous and I loved it!.... I always wonder why the witch got to be what she was and I really agreed with the story that Gregory Maguire came up with. Everything for me made sense and at some point it made me love this story more thant the Wizard of Oz. Overall it was really entertaining at some points it made me feel sad bu this was one of those books that I actually remember what it was about. ( )
  angie.arciba | Aug 9, 2014 |
I like Maguire's premise--exploring literary characters whose depths have not yet been sufficiently plumbed--a fine literary tradition. And there's much I enjoyed in reading the life story of Oz's Wicked Witch of the West. For example, his explanation of Elfaba's (the woman's/witch's name) difficult relationship with water is very clever; it is also a good example of how Maguire's story characterizes the original Oz story as a legend that includes much embellishment of "real" people and events--while Maguire is supposedly giving us the straight story.

However, the book, after all, is somewhat unsatisfying. But I'm going to have to read it again to determine exactly why I feel that way. ( )
  Jujunna | Jul 25, 2014 |
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I will say it wasn't much like The Wizard of Oz at all, and ,although I've never seen the show, I don't think it's much like the Broadway production at all. I only have the soundtrack to go by however, so I may be wrong in that sense.

I really loved the character of Elphaba. She was spunky and had attitude, but at the same time, she was reserved and bookish. She was slightly more submissive than I wanted her to be at times, but it was mostly in regard to her sister in addition to times when she was around her father. You could almost say she had middle child syndrome, although she was the oldest of the 3 siblings. One thing that irked me though, was her sudden character change towards the end. She became manic, in a way and didn't think things through the way she had earlier in the story. I never would have imagined Elphie to be like that from the way she was characterized earlier in the story.

The supporting characters didn't do much more than that. I wanted more from them. They disappeared from the story without much though and were reintroduced in much the same way, almost as shadows of their former selves. Also, Shell, Elphaba's baby brother, was mentioned through out, but we never really got much from him. The family dynamic between the two sisters and the father was well explored and documented, but what of Shell? There were times when Liir, Elphie's son, was like that too.

Overall though, it was a fantastic book that I would highly recommend to Oz lovers everywhere. ( )
  cebellol | Jul 22, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 496 (next | show all)
Although Mr. Maguire demonstrates a knack for conjuring up bizarre adventures for Elphie and introducing her to an eccentric cast of creatures (though nowhere near as enchanting as the many creatures Baum invented in his multiple sequels to "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz"), his insistence on politicizing Oz and injecting it with a heavy dose of moral relativism turns a wonderfully spontaneous world of fantasy into a lugubrious allegorical realm, in which everything and everyone is labeled with a topical name tag.
With a husky voice and a gentle, dramatic manner that will call to mind the image of a patient grandfather reading to an excited gaggle of children, McDonough leisurely narrates this fantastical tale of good and evil, of choice and responsibility. In Maguire's Oz, Elphaba, better known as the Wicked Witch of the West, is not wicked; nor is she a formally schooled witch. Instead, she's an insecure, unfortunately green Munchkinlander who's willing to take radical steps to unseat the tyrannical Wizard of Oz. Using an appropriately brusque voice for the always blunt Elphaba, McDonough relates her tumultuous childhood (spent with an alcoholic mother and a minister father) and eye-opening school years (when she befriends her roommate, Glinda). McDonough's pacing remains frustratingly slow even after the plot picks up, and Elphaba's protracted ruminations on the nature of evil will have some listeners longing for an abridgement. Still, McDonough's excellent portrayals of Elphaba's outspoken, gravel-voiced nanny and Glinda's snobbish friends make this excursion to Oz worthwhile
added by kthomp25 | editPublisher's Weekly

» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Gregory Maguireprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Avirom, JoelCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Smith, DouglasIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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'Tis very strange Men should be so fond of being thought wickeder than they are. -Daniel Defoe, A System of Magick
In historical events great men--so called--are but the labels that serve to give a name to an event, and like labels, they have the last possible connection with the event itself. Every action of theirs, that seems to them an act of their own free will, is in an historical sense not free at all, but in bondage to the whole course of previous history, and predestined from all eternity. -Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoi, War and Peace
"Well," Said the head, "I will give you your answer. You have no right to expect me to send you back to Kansas unless you do something for me in return. In this country everyone must pay for everything he gets. If you wish me to use my magic power to send you home again you must do something for me first. Help me and I will help you." "What must I do?" asked the girl. "Kill the wicked Witch of the West," answered Oz. -L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
This book is for Betty Levin and for all those who
taught me to love and fear goodness.
First words
A mile above Oz, the Witch balanced on the wind's forward edge, as if she were a green fleck of the land itself, flung up and sent wheeling away by the turbulent air.
"Maybe the definition of home is the place where you are never forgiven, so you may always belong there, bound by guilt. And maybe the cost of belonging is worth it."
"Ah, we're slow learners, Nanny countered. But they can't learn at all" (p.12).
"You're not so bold at all," said Elphaba, "you're about as bold as tea made from used leaves" (p.129)
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (3)

Book description
Elphaba, born with emerald green skin, comes of age in the land of Oz, rooming with debutante Glinda at the university, and following a path in life that earns her the label of Wicked.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0061350966, Mass Market Paperback)

When Dorothy triumphed over the Wicked Witch of the West in L. Frank Baum's classic tale, we heard only her side of the story. But what about her arch-nemesis, the mysterious witch? Where did she come from? How did she become so wicked? And what is the true nature of evil?

Gregory Maguire creates a fantasy world so rich and vivid that we will never look at Oz the same way again. Wicked is about a land where animals talk and strive to be treated like first-class citizens, Munchkinlanders seek the comfort of middle-class stability and the Tin Man becomes a victim of domestic violence. And then there is the little green-skinned girl named Elphaba, who will grow up to be the infamous Wicked Witch of the West, a smart, prickly and misunderstood creature who challenges all our preconceived notions about the nature of good and evil.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:42:19 -0400)

(see all 9 descriptions)

A fable for adults on the subject of destiny and free will by a writer of children's books. It tells the story of Elphaba before she became the Wicked Witch of the West in the land of Oz. The novel traces her career as nun, nurse, pro-democracy activist and animal rights defender.… (more)

» see all 5 descriptions

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