Getting back into the routine of blogging has proven a little harder than I thought it would be. The good news is that after my summer hiatus I am back in the swing of reading again. On my last trip to Dublin a couple of weeks ago, I finished Wicked.
Having seen the musical I had a completely different expectation for the book. Half way through I was thinking this is so great and rich and deep and of course there is no way a musical could possibly come close to representing it. It kind of stopped there for me. I have to admit that I had to work to get through the rest of it.
At first I was intrigued with the idea of taking a well loved story like The Wizard of Oz (yet another book/movie thing…but I digress) and creating a world around a character that is a big, big part of the mythology, but isn’t treated with any depth in the original story. This is the first book I’ve read by Maguire but looking at his portfolio, this is obviously his shtick.
One of the ways this book falls down, in my humble opinion, is that he is trying to do WAY too much. The first half is lovely. He quietly deftly paints a picture of the history of the Wicked Witch of the West, gives her a name (Elphaba), gives her a disability (she’s green) and gives her a dysfunctional family. Then he takes us through her development and gives insight into her emotional turmoil. However, there came a point when there were too many things going on. There are a number of characters to try and keep track of. Maguire is also set on providing a level of realism into the geo-political and economic situation of OZ and Munchkinland. This is part of the book’s failing. It just gets muddy and rather than take the opportunity to do one or two deep allegories, he ends up only achieving a superficial depiction.
In the end, I was glad I read it but it was tough slogging. There came a point when I stopped caring, was disappointed in the ending and started to think that I actually preferred the fun, perky, shallow and neat treatment of the book as a Broadway musical. I don’t think Maguire will become my next author obsession.
By Gregory Maguire