Wicked is the story of The Wicked Witch of the West, that famously scary villain from The Wizard of Oz. It is a chronicle of her life from the day of her birth, through her infancy, her adolescence and her murky middle years, right up till the arrival of Dorothy Gale and her little dog Toto. But Wicked is not a children’s tale. Every happy memory you’ve ever had about Oz is stamped on, cut up and reworked into something else. The word ‘phantasmagoric’ stands out from the back cover, and I think it fits.
It is an odd book, at times strenuous to read. After a familiar prologue we are thrown into a dark, different world that is both wonderful and terrifying at the same time. The story is full of obscure theology, disturbing images and frank, surprising characters. Elphaba is the most surprising of all.
Of course, we sympathize with her. She is our heroine, albeit frumpy, sharp-edged, and green, but passionate and human nonetheless. Elphaba truly doesn’t care what people think of her. She spends most of her life in a self-imposed exile, and has that strong, righteous sense of self that makes her, as a female lead, so enigmatic.
As everything slowly begins to fit into place, and as Elphaba decays into herself, we start to see more of the Witch and less of the high-spirited, reasonable, and fiercely moral young woman she used to be.
Wicked is a fascinating book, one that takes a while to get into and even longer to fully appreciate, but definitely worth a read.