The Witch Who Flew in from the West
Wicked: distressing, mischievous, evil, mean, depraved, immoral…
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (The Wicked Years #1) by Gregory Maguire
When I picked up the book at the library, I was excited. Having been the inspiration for a musical, I was expecting it to be quirky, saucy, funny, clever. I thought it would give a story of how the Witch from the West became Wicked. There was always this niggling thought at the back of my mind, “mmnngh! Don’t know whether I will relate to a book that excuses Wickedness due to life’s hard hits.”
But that idea of a musical loomed large in my mind and I decided to give it a try.
I found it quite Tolkeinesque in its descriptiveness and slow, meandering narration. I believe that is what kept me going. I kept expecting the adventure to start. In Lord of The Rings so much happens it is hard to keep track of everything. I soon realised I had done Tolkein a grave injustice by comparing Maguire’s style to his.
NOTHING EVER HAPPENS IN THIS BOOK!
We have a green baby girl whose first word is “horrors”. She grows into a green teenager who is extremely clever, intelligent and in spite of being an outcast because of her skin colour, extremely kind and loving. She grows into a green woman while the reader waits, and waits and WAITS for her to do SOMETHING.
She never does anything, achieve anything, or really learn anything. Growth never occurs. She always is what she always was. Strong, fiercely independent, well read, with a brave and realistic though sometimes incredibly naïve outlook to life, she makes a few half hearted attempts at political activism, and most of the time just seems to wait around for something to happen. Why Wicked? There is not a single wicked bone in her body! Neither is she mischievous. She is so earnest in all her dealings, it is surprising that she does not project prudish. No one who knows her ends up believing her to be wicked. They mostly love her. So, it all remains a bit of a mystery.
Losing himself in myriads of descriptive passages and relating in minute detail what the Witch feels, Gregory Maguire never surfaces long enough to actually make a hero of his protagonist. He never commits the solecism of making his protagonist Wicked due to horrible life circumstances, he shows her capable of rising above every petty evil thrown at her, but neither does he ever take her on an heroic journey.
There are those who will tell you this is a book with political references, socio-philosophical lessons. There are those who will discuss long and hard about how this book is a political satire. As you can tell, I am not one of them. Please do read it if you are an academic who likes reading obscure references. You may also want to read it if you are incredibly clever in finding meaning in everything.
The others may just want to watch the musical, which I am told, is a hoot!
PS:Another one of those rare books I did not finish. I read up on what happens at the end, and stopped a few chapters short.