First of all – Merry Christmas! I hope you all managed to have a good Christmas despite everything that is going on in the world around us!
Over the Christmas period, I finished one of my Challenge 2020 books! This one is from the category ‘A book released in the year I was born.’ Now I had quite the choice of books when I was researching: from The Golden Compass (I’ve already read it so I think that would be cheating); The Lost World; Independence Day and Braveheart to name a few, but my choice for this category was Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West.
“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.
Now many of you know of Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz right? Well this is the story for the Wicked Witch of the West, otherwise known as Elphaba.
“All souls are hostages to their human envelopes, but souls must decay and suffer at such indignity, don’t you agree?”
Oz is a place where struggles they have there are similar to those we may recognise in our world today. Animals that can talk, striving to be accepted and treated like first-class citizens, Munchkinlanders who seek comfort in their social status and rather that stay as stable as possible.
We follow Elphaba’s story from when she is born to her last day. Born with green skin and razor sharp shark teeth, Elphaba was an unusual baby to what her Quadling parents were expecting.
“But even with these effects of light and atmosphere, the midwives couldn’t deny what they saw. Beneath the spit of the mother’s fluids the infant glistened a scandalous shade of pale emerald.”
An outcast and with an allergy to water, Elphaba’s life wasn’t made any easier when her beautiful and overly religious sister Nessarose was born without arms and she was in charge of her care.
“No one knows the colour of a soul.”
When Elphaba was shipped off to school, her new roommate Glinda (who will become the good witch), can’t stand her and doesn’t want anything to do with her. Her skin colour and her dress sense are just two reasons why Glinda doesn’t warm to her…initially.
“Such silly things, children – and so embarrassing – because they keep changing themselves out of shame, out of a need to be loved or something. While animals are born who they are, accept it and that is that. They live with greater peace than people do.”
Throughout their school years Glinda begins to tolerate her roomie and when their lecturer is murdered, they become bonded in their grief and unite to travel to Oz in search of the Wizard to help them…unfortunately, what they discovered in the Emerald City made Elphaba decide that school was not for her and instead set her on a new and separate mission.
“Or is it just that the world unwraps itself to you, again and again, as soon as you are ready to see it anew?”
Despite everything, we grow to like Elphaba throughout the book. She is witty and smart, she has a sarcastic humour and cares for all living creatures. We see her fall in love and bear a child, we also see her lose her lover.
“This is why you shouldn’t fall in love, it blinds you. Love is wicked distraction.”
We understand her and we pity her which makes her demise all the more tragic.
“One never learns how how the witch became wicked, or whether that was the right choice for her – is it ever the right choice? Does the devil ever struggle to be good again, or if so is he not a devil? It is at the very least a question of definitions.”
This book is magical and honest and even in the mystical realms of Oz, Maguire still seems to prove that no matter what, life happens. Jealousy, resentment and hurt happens. There isn’t always a simple solution to life’s quandaries. This fantastical world isn’t intended to be pretty or perfect. He somehow managed to turn to make this world more realistic than many care to imagine and every page is filled with characteristics that we all hate to admit about ourselves.
There are some questions that remain unanswered in the book which frustrated me as a reader: Why is Elphaba green? Why is Elphaba allergic to water?
We still see familiar faces in this book – we meet Dorothy, the infamous ruby red slippers, the tin man, the scarecrow, the lion and Toto. We also see the flying monkey’s which were her accomplices.
“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.”
The real bad guy of this story isn’t the Wicked Witch. It’s easy for us to say there’s a distinct line between good and evil. Easier than admitting that sometimes the lines overlap.
“And of the Witch? In the life of a Witch, there is no after, in the ever after of a Witch, there is no happily; in the story of a Witch, there is no afterword. Of that part that is beyond the life story, beyond the story of the life, there is – alas, or perhaps thank mercy – no telling.”
This book is also a famous broadway musical known as Wicked. I haven’t seen it but have wanted too for years and this book has made me want to watch it even more! Have any of you watched the musical? What did you think? Did you like it?
You can find it on Amazon in hardback, paperback and kindle editions.
Until next time,
Stay safe and keep reading,