Sunday, April 18, 2010

Book Review: Wicked by Gregory Maguire

Wicked, by Gregory Maguire, is the book that caused me to abandon my commitment to read 52 books in 2010. I've been reading it since February, and only just finished reading the novel tonight, April 18th, 2010.

Wicked is the story of the Wizard of Oz, as told from the point of view of the Wicked Witch of the West. Like the original novel by Frank L. Baum, Wicked is an allegory and is laced through with political story lines.

This novel allows us to see the Witch from a different perspective, and those who are accustomed to seeing her only through Dorothy's lenses may be surprised, whether pleasantly or unpleasantly, by what they discover of the villain of the classic novel.

I have to confess that at first I didn't particularly enjoy Wicked. While the story started out very strong, I found quite early on that I struggled to get through more than ten, or maybe twenty, pages at a time. I was reading and re-reading sentences in an effort to put the book into context with The Wizard of Oz (The Frank L. Baum classic) and indeed with itself (Wicked).

Maguire is wordy, and in my opinion unnecessarily so. Some pieces of plot appear to be unrelated to the rest of the story as a whole, and there were many times that I found myself flipping back and forth from one chapter to a previous chapter to find out what I "missed" only to discover that I had missed nothing and that the failure was instead on the part of the author.

Indeed, as I mentioned in a previous post, Maguire uses many words to say little, while in the mean time failing to give us an accurate accounting of how friendships have formed. For some readers, it seems that this gives the appearance of the characters being "flat." While I disagree with the "flat" sentiment, I was frustrated and found the book unmanageable until I decided upon one thing: Maguire had to have intended for his readers to use their imaginations to fill in the blanks (no! the gaping holes!) that he had left in the narrative.

Please understand that if you can't make it through the first fifty pages of this book, you aren't alone: many of us who have done so have read on at great personal risk of wasting our much-coveted reading time. Failure to enjoy Wicked has nothing to do with your intelligence or your experience as a reader: it comes down to personal taste in books. Some of us have an ability to push through a book to the end and others prefer to move on to juicier reads. There were times, in this case, when I wished that I was the latter type of person.

Personally, I recommend this book. I say that in spite of the fact that I would once have rated this book a single star and labeled it "abandoned." I say that because the three stars I am giving this novel are the average of the one star it started at and the five stars where it concluded.

If you can finish this book in spite of the ramblings and the allusions to pedophilia, I believe that you will agree with me. I finished glad that I had taken the time to read the book, with speculation about whether or not I will make the effort to read Son of a Witch, book 2 of The Wicked Years.

Thank you to everyone who recommended that I see it through. I'm glad I did!


  1. i really liked your statement about the enjoyment of books being about personal taste not intelligence or experience - i couldn't agree more. i've got this book on my shelf to read and i'm wanting to read it soon. i'm glad i read your review, it's a bit of forewarning of what to expect which will probably make it easier. and if, like you did, i'm finding it tedious i'll know there's a good ending to push on through towards!

  2. It's definitely worth pushing through to get to the end, but you have to be very patient with the book in order to get to that point!

    Please be sure to come back after you've read it and leave a link to your review.

    BTW, for some reason your info isn't showing up under "followers." I can't click you under followers and see your blogger profile. I thought that was really odd. Got you now though!