Wicked is one of those books that stays with you for a long time. To be fair, I read this book a few years ago, but it is still one of my all time favs and I love sharing it with people who may have not given it a try yet.
The thing with Gregory Maguire is that he loves to take fairytales or fables and highlight a character that is not traditionally the "hero" of the story. In this case, this is the story of the "Wicked Witch of the West" and how she came to be so "wicked". Believe it or not you will learn to love and even feel empathy for Elphaba the wicked witch, and understand why she was such a twisted and disturbed individual. You will also get to know Dorothy, and her travel companions in a totally new way, as well as a whole host of wild and weird creatures that inhabit the world of Oz. And a strange place it is. At times you feel slightly disturbed and unsettled while reading, and other times you laugh out loud. As in this, my favourite scene from the whole entire novel.
The set-up: Elphaba was born not only green but with an enormous set of razor sharp teeth to which she would set upon innocent bystanders from time to time. Concerned that she was creating an anti-social child, her mother Melena and Nanny decide to put Elphaba in a playgroup of sorts. And here is what happens:
"No throwing, Elphie dear," called Nanny.
"I'm only saying what I hear. They say at night that Quadlings fall asleep and their souls climb out through their mouths and go abroad."
"Stupid people say a lot of stupid things," Melena was curt and too loud. "I have never seen his soul climb out of his mouth while he was sleeping, and I've had plenty of opportu-"
"Darling, no rocks," shrilled Nanny. "None of the other children have rocks."
"Now they do," observed Gawnette.
"He is the most sensitive person I've ever met," said Melena.
"Sensitive isn't much use to a fishwife," said Gawnette. "How about to a minister and a minister's wife?"
"Now there's blood, how vexing," said Nanny. "Children, let Elphie up so I can wipe that cut. And I didn't bring a rag, Gawnette?"
"Bleeding is good for them, makes them less hungry," said Gawnette.
"I rate sensitive a good sight higher than stupid," said Melena, seething.
"No biting," said Gawnette to one of the little boys, and then, seeing Elphaba open her mouth to retaliate, raised herself to her feet, bad hip or no, and screamed,"no biting, for the love of mercy!"
"Aren't children divine?" said Nanny.
The world that Gregory Maguire paints is vivid, unique and not at all like you probably have envisioned Oz. But you will never forget it, mark my words. I loved this book. Probably because it was so fresh and new and different. The words that Maquire uses are astonishing as are the names of his characters. I have the second book now "Son of a Witch", which I am now reading and will review when I'm done. There is also a third in the trilogy called "A Lion Among Men" which follows the cowardly lions story.