This week I listened to the Audible Book, Wicked: Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (Wicked Years), a fan-fiction of the original Kansas fantasy, The wizard of Oz by L.Frank Baum. It was written by Gregory Maguire and copyrighted 1996 by Harper-Collins. The book is read by John McDonough, who gives it a folksy sort of narrative. As a member of Audible, I was offered the book for $4.95, which I thought was a great price.
Heralded as an instant classic of fantasy literature, Maguire has written a wonderfully imaginative retelling of The Wizard of Oz told from the Wicked Witch's point of view. More than just a fairy tale for adults,Wicked is a meditation on the nature of good and evil.
Elphaba is born with green skin, a precocious mind, and a talent for magic. An outcast throughout her childhood in Munchkinland, she finally begins to feel as though she fits in when she enters the University in the Emerald City. While she hones her skills, she discovers that Oz isn't the Utopia it seems. She sets out to protect its unwanted creatures, becoming known as the Wicked Witch along the way.
Narrator John McDonough draws you in to Maguire's magical world of witches and talking animals, making it possible to believe in a land somewhere over the rainbow.
This novel is not a book with which to while away the miles on the long drive to Disney Land with the kiddies. It contains adult language and content including violent imagery and sexual situations. Munchkinland is a dirty place. The people have issues with infidelity, drunkenness and drug abuse, along with rabid fundamentalism and political upheaval.
The protagonist of the book, Elphaba Thropp is a green-skinned girl who later becomes known as the Wicked Witch of the West. She is given this nickname because of her sister Nessa's nickname (the Wicked Witch of the East, who was so named by her political opponents) and NOT for any wicked deeds. She is an animal rights activist.
After a rugged childhood, she attends college at Shiz, where she meets Galinda, the social climbing ‘good’ witch, who is her roommate, and with whom she becomes close friends. She teaches Galinda how to think independently. She also meets Fiyero Tigelaar, the prince of the Arjiki tribe in the Vinkus. She later has an affair with Fiyero while she is involved in the resistance movement against the Wizard of Oz. This leads to Fiyero’s apparent murder by the Gale Force, the Wizard's secret police though the body is never found. His murder causes her to abandon her revolutionary ideals.
This is a tale of anarchy, political intrigue and human failings on a grand scale. The characters are well drawn, and Oz is vivid in all its tattered glory. McDonough’s narrative is perfect, taking you into the twisted world and making you believe it could really exist.
This Land of Oz is amazing and wonderful, but is not a place I would ever want to find myself.