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This is the book that started it all! The basis for the smash hit Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, Gregory Maguire's breathtaking New York Times bestseller Wicked views the land of Oz, its inhabitants, its Wizard, and the Emerald City, through a darker and greener (not rosier) lens. Brilliantly inventive, Wicked offers us a radical new evaluation of one of the most feared and hated characters in all of literature: the much maligned Wicked Witch of the West who, as Maguire tells us, wasn’t nearly as Wicked as we imagined.
About the Author
Gregory Maguire is the New York Times bestselling author of Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister; Lost; Mirror Mirror; and the Wicked Years, a series that includes Wicked, Son of a Witch, A Lion Among Men, and Out of Oz. Now a beloved classic, Wicked is the basis for a blockbuster Tony Award–winning Broadway musical. Maguire has lectured on art, literature, and culture both at home and abroad. He lives with his family near Boston, Massachusetts.
Date of Birth:June 9, 1954
Place of Birth:Albany, New York
Education:B.A., SUNY at Albany, 1976; M.A., Simmons College, 1978; Ph.D., Tufts University, 1990
Read an Excerpt
Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West
The Root of Evil
From the crumpled bed the wife said, "I think today's the day. Look how low I've gone."
"Today? That would be like you, perverse and inconvenient," said her husband, teasing her, standing at the doorway and looking outward, over the lake, the fields, the forested slopes beyond. He could just make out the chimneys of Rush Margins, breakfast fires smoking. "The worst possible moment for my ministry. Naturally."
The wife yawned. "There's not a lot of choice involved. From what I hear. Your body gets this big and it takes over—if you can't accommodate it, sweetheart, you just get out of its way. It's on a track of its own and nothing stops it now." She pushed herself up, trying to see over the rise of her belly. "I feel like a hostage to myself. Or to the baby."
"Exert some self-control." He came to her side and helped her sit up. "Think of it as a spiritual exercise. Custody of the senses. Bodily as well as ethical continence."
"Self-control?" She laughed, inching toward the edge of the bed. "I have no self left. I'm only a host for the parasite. Where's my self, anyway? Where'd I leave that tired old thing?"
"Think of me." His tone had changed; he meant this.
"Frex"—she headed him off—"when the volcano's ready there's no priest in the world can pray it quiet."
"What will my fellow ministers think?"
"They'll get together and say, 'Brother Frexspar, did you allow your wife to deliver your first child when you had a community problem to solve? How inconsiderate of you;it shows a lack of authority. You're fired from the position.'" She was ribbing him now, for there was no one to fire him. The nearest bishop was too distant to pay attention to the particulars of a unionist cleric in the hinterland.
"It's just such terrible timing."
"I do think you bear half the blame for the timing," she said. "I mean, after all, Frex."
"That's how the thinking goes, but I wonder,"
"You wonder?" She laughed, her head going far back. The line from her ear to the hollow below her throat reminded Frex of an elegant silver ladle. Even in morning disarray, with a belly like a scow, she was majestically good-looking. Her hair had the bright lacquered look of wet fallen oak leaves in sunlight. He blamed her for being born to privilege and admired her efforts to overcome it—and all the while he loved her, too.
"You mean you wonder if you're the father"—she grabbed the bedstead; Frex took hold of her other arm and hauled her half-upright—"or do you question the fatherliness of men in general?" She stood, mammoth, an ambulatory island. Moving out the door at a slug's pace, she laughed at such an idea. He could hear her laughing from the outhouse even as he began to dress for the day's battle.
Frex combed his beard and oiled his scalp. He fastened a clasp of bone and rawhide at the nape of his neck, to keep the hair out of his face, because his expressions today had to be readable from a distance: There could be no fuzziness to his meaning. He applied some coal dust to darken his eyebrows, a smear of red wax on his flat cheeks. He shaded his lips, A handsome priest attracted more penitents than a homely one.
In the kitchen yard Melena floated gently, not with the normal gravity of pregnancy but as if inflated, a huge balloon trailing its strings through the dirt. She carried a skillet in one hand and a few eggs and the whiskery tips of autumn chives in the other. She sang to herself, but only in short phrases. Frex wasn't meant to hear her.
His sober gown buttoned tight to the collar, his sandals strapped on over leggings, Frex took from its hiding place—beneath a chest of drawers—the report sent to him from his fellow minister over in the village of Three Dead Trees. He hid the brown pages within his sash. He had been keeping them from his wife, afraid that she would want to come along—to see the fun, if it was amusing, or to suffer the thrill of it if it was terrifying.
As Frex breathed deeply, readying his lungs for a day of oratory, Melena dangled a wooden spoon in the skillet and stirred the eggs. The tinkle of cowbells sounded across the lake. She did not listen; or she listened but to something else, to something inside her. It was sound without melody—like dream music, remembered for its effect but not for its harmonic distresses and recoveries. She imagined it was the child inside her, humming for happiness. She knew he would be a singing child.
Melena heard Frex inside, beginning to extemporize, warming up, calling forth the rolling phrases of his argument, convincing himself again of his righteousness.
How did that proverb go, the one that Nanny singsonged to her, years ago, in the nursery?
Born in the morning,
Woe without warning;
Woeful and wild;
Born in the evening,
Woe ends in grieving.
Night baby borning
Same as the morning.
But she remembered this as a joke, fondly. Woe is the natural end of life, yet we go on having babies.
No, said Nanny, an echo in Melena's mind (and editorializing as usual): No, no, you pretty little pampered hussy. We don't go on having babies, that's quite apparent. We only have babies when we're young enough not to know how grim life turns out. Once we really get the full measure of it—we're slow learners, we women—we dry up in disgust and sensibly halt production.
But men don't dry up, Melena objected; they can father to the death.
Ah, we're slow learners, Nanny countered. But they can't learn at all.
"Breakfast," said Melena, spooning eggs onto a wooden plate. Her son would not be as dull as most men. She would raise him up to defy the onward progress of woe.
"It is a time of crisis for our society," recited Frex. For a man who condemned worldly pleasures he ate with elegance. She loved to watch the arabesque of fingers and two forks. She suspected that beneath his righteous asceticism he possessed a hidden longing for the easy life.
"Every day is a great crisis for our society." She was being flip, answering him in the terms men use. Dear thick thing, he didn't hear the irony in her voice.
"We stand at a crossroads. Idolatry looms. Traditional values in jeopardy. Truth under siege and virtue abandoned."Wicked LP
Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. Copyright © by Gregory Maguire. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Table of Contents
Prologue: On the Yellow Brick Road 1
The Root of Evil 9
The Clock of the Time Dragon 18
The Birth of a Witch 24
Maladies and Remedies 36
The Quadling Glassblower 53
Geographies of the Seen and the Unseen 64
Child's Play 76
Darkness Abroad 89
The Charmed Circle 229
City of Emeralds 315
In the Vinkus
The Voyage Out 397
The Jasper Gates of Kiamo Ko 432
The Murder and Its Afterlife 585
What People are Saying About This
Gregory Maguire's donnes in Wicked are from Baum's land of Oz; but everything here has been recut to sparkle fresh and new, with illuminations shining in unexpected directions. Funny and serious, pulsing with imaginative energy, encompassing political thriller and moral reflection, this is truly a fabulous novel.
(Jill Paton Walsh, author of Knowledge of Angels)
Here is a story that is at once a page-turner and a powerful stimulus to thought.
(John Rowe Townsend, author of The Islanders)
Starting with the Wizard of Oz material, Gregory Maguire has added greater depth and different facets, creating something altogether different and unique. A magnificent work, a genuine tour de force.
(Lloyd Alexander, author of The Chronicles of Prydain)
I fell quickly and totally under the spell of this remarkable, wry, and fully realized story. Maguire's adult fable examines some of literature's major themes: moral ambiguity, the nature of evil, the bittersweet dividends of power, the high costs of love. Elphaba the Wicked Witch of the West is as scary as ever, but this time in a different way: She's undeniably human, She's us.
(Wally Lamb, author of She's Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True
This book is a glorious frolic, a feast of language, a study of good and evil, and a massive history of the fabulous land of Oz.
(Jane Langton, author of The Diamond in the Window)
Reading Group Guide
Our Book Club Recommendation
It's hard to pin down the aspect of Gregory Maguire's Wicked that is likely to fascinate book clubs the most. Is it the detail with which the author reimagines L. Frank Baum's fantasy world of Oz? The care with which Maguire takes the classic work and uses it to explore modern issues like justice and equal rights, superficial notions of beauty and ugliness, ecological concerns and domestic violence? Or, perhaps, is it the sheer delight in watching an immensely gifted writer take a set of familiar characters and imbue them with an entirely new life.
Of course, it is the Wicked Witch of the West herself who dominates this time around: Elphaba, as she is called, is now the complicated centerpiece of a story that once seemed to belong to the relatively simple Dorothy. Brilliant, troubled, passionate, and powerful, Elphaba stands in marked contrast to the girl from Kansas, who, on the whole, takes a backseat to the natives of Oz in this version. Maguire's method with Elphaba's tale is to unpack the simple idea of a "wicked witch" and ask the question, How do you get to be "wicked"? The novel offers the possibility that what from one perspective is a simple case of villainy could be, from another point of view, a life that doesn't resolve into a simple set of "good" or "bad" actions. Book clubs will be particularly interested in following how, as a heroine, Elphaba is a strong, deeply modern woman, whose intelligence is both her great strength and a curse almost as powerful as her more fantastic features, emerald skin and monstrous teeth.
Beyond the issues of moral character raised by Elphaba's story, Wicked provides readers with a host of delights, some of which echo the original Oz books and some of which are completely original. Reading groups will find that Maguire's language, and particularly his facility for making the world of Oz both contemporary yet fairy talelike, provides fertile grounds for conversation about just where the difference between the "fantastic" and the "realistic" can be drawn, a skill which may invite comparisons to writers like Gabriel García Márquez and Salman Rushdie.
Reading groups will perhaps find their greatest pleasure in discussing what Maguire has taken from the original book, and how he has altered or mutated Baum's world. Book clubs may even be interested in comparing the famed film version of The Wizard of Oz with the novel, to see what the author has borrowed from that source. In this sense Wicked is far more than a cleverly twisted tale about good and evil witches, Munchkin society, and talking animals -- it is a book that shows how a children's story can become a larger myth for an entire society. Maguire invites us to think about how and why we read fantasy, what we take from it as children, and what we can see in it as adults. Wicked may be "updating" L. Frank Baum's original work, but it also reveals how the original remains so captivating to generations of readers, young and old. Bill Tipper
Reading Group Materials from the Publisher
When Dorothy triumphed over the Wicked Witch of the West in L. Frank Baum's classic tale, we heard only her side of the story. But what about her arch-nemesis, the mysterious witch? Where did she come from? How did she become so wicked? And what is the true nature of evil?Gregory Maguire creates a fantasy world so rich and vivid that we will never look at Oz the same way again. Wicked is about a land where animals talk and strive to be treated like first-class citizens, Munchkinlanders seek the comfort of middle-class stability and the Tin Man becomes a victim of domestic violence. And then there is the little green-skinned girl named Elphaba, who will grow up to be the infamous Wicked Witch of the West, a smart, prickly and misunderstood creature who challenges all our preconceived notions about the nature of good and evil. Questions for Discussion
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Dont worry people! This is the full book but the only difference is that it has some additional content!
I saw the Broadway show in February and it was absolutely incredible. Clearly I needed to read the book that this masterpiece was drawn from. A play can only tell a small part of a story so the book had to be amazing. Amazing is a word I would use to describe the book, certainly: Amazingly boring. Amazingly bad. Amazingly pretentious. I couldn't tell you what the plot was for this book. Every time it seems like the author is going to give us a real plot, he whisks you away to some point in the future. Be prepared to be left hanging. A lot. I was constantly waiting to find out more about things that happened in the book. What was the group that Elphie was part of? What did Madam Morrible really do to Glinda, Elphie, and Nessa? Things just happen because we're told they happen. Glinda and Elphie are friends, why? Not relevant. You just have to accept that they are. The gratuitous sex scenes all seemed out of place as well. Why did the author choose to write them? Was it to shock the reader? They added nothing to the story. I suppose since I would argue there was no real story, that it would be impossible to add to it. The author also had an obsession with urination. I guess the denizens of Oz have bladder control issues. This disjointed, plotless, lifeless excuse for a novel was all buried under flowery language. I'm an avid reader and I have no trouble with big words. But as boring as Wicked was, the writing style just made it even more painful to get through. It was a painful trip from beginning to end. Go see the musical. They took the idea of what this story wanted to be and made it something exciting and fun. There's a payoff at the end of the musical. There's none at the end of Wicked, other than the fact you don't have to read it any longer.
As an avid fan of Wizard of Oz I was always told that "Wicked" would be a great follow up and new take on Oz. I became a fan of the musical adaptation of the book but was told they are greatly different. This fueled me wanting to read the book. It wasn't till recently that I finally did. The book is very well done. The book took the tale classic tale, showing before and how Elphie became the "wicked witch". Elphie's tale makes you wonder was she really wicked and evil or just a girl who's life took turns giving people other ideas about her? I can't wait to read the follow up books to the "Wicked" series but i bet they will be just as great as this one. All and all wicked is just a great read and should defiantly be added to your collection.
Have you ever read a popular book and wondered why it was so popular? That's exactly how I felt as I worked my way through WICKED. Actually, that's not entirely true. I know why it's a New York Times Bestseller. Part of it has to do with the reason I picked the book up in the first place. I expected a light, fairy tale-like story. It's based on a children's book. There's a Broadway musical about it. Sounds like it should be fun, right? Uh, not quite. I get the feeling, though, that a lot of people thought as I did and bought WICKED looking for an easy-to-read lead-up to THE WIZARD OF OZ. I wonder how many of them finished reading the book when they figured out the truth?
Although to be fair, WICKED doubtless also owes some of its popularity to the fact that it's a well-written, literary novel that can be appreciated by well-read, literary-type people. Unfortunately, I'm really not one of those. Giving me a piece of deep, meaningful literature is like giving a copy of Hemingway's THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA to a manatee. In other words, I was disappointed. My disappointment was partly in the book for not fulfilling my expectations, and partly in myself for not being able to appreciate a quality literary effort.
In case you've been living in a hollowed out tree for the last couple of years and haven't heard about the play, WICKED is the story of the Wicked Witch of the West and how she became the Wicked Witch of the West. The book delves far deeper into the witch's life and times than any musical could in only two hours, however. In the book version of WICKED, readers are introduced to the witch, whose real name is Elphaba, when she is first born. She's green and has dangerous, pointy teeth. Needless to say, she's not too popular with the other children. Even her parents aren't too sure about her.
As the story progresses, we see Elphaba at college. She falls in with a number of fellow students, some of whom are more and others less accepting of the strange green girl. It's not just her skin color that's different, though. Elphaba thinks and acts differently than other people. And she has this aversion to water.... Well, we all know how that turns out for her.
The book is an interesting departure from the Oz books, including such details as why the Cowardly Lion is able to talk, and the fact that everyone in Oz thought Dorothy's dog, Toto, was the most irritating thing to ever draw breath. I wish, however, that I could have liked some of the characters. No one was particularly likeable, as far as I was concerned. Even Elphaba, who readers should have had some sympathy for, seemed odd to me, and I never understood her motivation for anything she did. In other words, I could have gotten over the fact that she was green, but it really bothered me that she didn't act normal. Also, a word of warning: Even though these are essentially fairy tale characters, this book treats them like adults, complete with sex, swearing, and the occasional murder. Younger readers should steer clear, and older readers should be aware of what's in store here.
In general, I recommend this book for OLDER readers who are huge fans of the Oz books or the Wicked play and want to go deeper. According to my husband, who is capable of appreciating fine literature, it also has literary merit. But for those of us who want to keep our memories of the Oz stories as sweet as the old Judy Garland film was, those readers might want to be careful around WICKED.
I am going to see the play so I thought I would read the book first. It seems like such a great concept, but terrible in execution. The book veers between vulgar and boring. I only give one star to books I can't even finish, which is rare. Hope the play is much better than this.
I was obssessed with The Wizard of Oz as a kid and now as an adult I am so in love with this series. It's so exciting to have the opportunity to experience the lives of so many wonderful characters from multiple points of view. I do need to point out an error another reviewer made. Genie_M said something about this upcoming third book. Out of Oz will be the fourth (and sadly, final) book in the series. First was Wicked, then Son of a Witch, then A Lion Among Men. Make sure you read them ALL!
Clever idea for a novel, but so slow I don't know how I finished it. I agree with other reviewers that there were really odd and almost lewd sexual scenes that had absolutlely nothing to do with this story. I found myself shaking my head in wonder, asking "What was that about?" over and over again. I really wanted to like this book but I just hated it. I would never be enticed to pick up another book by McGuire.
Not worth your time or money. We were going to see the musical Wicked and bought the book on CD in preparation. We listened to it on a road trip and found it very boring, extremely wordy and vulgar. There were several parts of the book that were so very disgusting and disturbing that we had to forward through. And there were so many parts of the book where the author chose to be so very unnecessarily vulgar that it left you wondering about his character. Don't waste your time or money on the book. If you are at all curious about it's contents - go see the Musical which makes better sense and is a delight.
Frank Baum's original tales of Oz were charming in their innocence as a naive farmgirl triumphed over evil through simple means. Wicked strips Oz of all of its delight by recreating Oz as a realm full of moral depravity. The opening scene in the book includes a reference to an adulterous menage a trois between a farmer, his neighbor, and her daughter. Gregory Maguire then goes into detail about a mother who whores about when her husband is absent. Meanwhile, Maguire ridicules organized religious belief systems by creating a ministerial character who secretly seeks homosexual liaisons, including with his wife's adulterous lover. Maguire consistently forgoes continuing plot lines and characters so he can return to the turpitude in which he revels. The second part of the book climaxes in a bestial orgy wherein one of the male characters is sexually bound to a tiger that is simultaneously ravishing a woman. There are no redeeming points to this book, as the writing is sluggish and the plot merely meanders through a series of sexual escapades. This book is not suitable for children. Only adults with a penchant for depravity would enjoy this grossly iniquitous read. By writing this book, Maguire has stolen everything laudable from Frank Baum's original masterpiece and rendered it as filth fit only to be discarded in the nearest cesspool.
Wicked is my favorite book and has been for years! I love the whole series and can not wait for the fourth book next month. I also love Maguire's style of writing but I have found when reccomending this book that people eaither love it or hate it. I think this has to do alot with his style rather then the story. Oh and go see the musical if you get the chance! :)
i was excited to read this and was not disappointed. Great read!
I must start this review by saying that it is certainly not a book you can take lightly. It takes some serious effort to stick with it, particularly once you get about half way through and the more light-hearted experiences of Elphaba, the wicked witch, at Shiz fade into her darker, secretive experiences at the Emerald City. It chronicles the life of the Wicked Witch of the West (named "Elphaba" by Maguire), the green-skinned villainess of THE WIZARD OF OZ, from her birth and early childhood, to her days at university where she met Glinda (then called "Galinda"), until her encounter with the girl Dorothy. What turned the Witch against the "Wonderful Wizard" whom everyone else seems to adore? Why does she prefer flying monkeys and other beasts to the company of people? Why is she green? Maguire offers insights rather than answers into all of these questions, and more. Another impressive aspect of WICKED is that it actually does manage to stay quite true to Baum's original children's novel (the Witch has her wolves, her bees, and of course, her winged monkeys, she sends them after Dorothy and her companions and watches them be destroyed) and the different people of Oz (Quadlings, Munchkinlanders, etc.) are cleverly and inventively worked into the story as realistic nationalities with their own problems and conflicts. The world of Oz has never seemed so lush and immersing and real. With Elphaba, Maguire has written one of the few truly excellent female heroines in modern fiction. After spending a semester in college reading short stories for English class that all featured weak, whiny, dependant women, Elphaba was a welcome relief. The Witch, under Maguire's talented writing, finally becomes fully fleshed out, three-dimensional, with good points and negative traits, and endearing quirks, and a charisma and passion that make her a joy to read about. I have recommended this novel to several friends, who have all enjoyed it. I truly cannot recommend WICKED enough. It has heart, it has brains, and it has courage. It is magnificent.
I really enjoyed the first half of this book. The characters were interesting, and I was looking forward to learning more about the land of Oz. However, once Part 4: In the Vinkus begins everything goes downhill. The book is SLOW from this point on and, for the most part, ignores the characters you learn about in the first half except for Elphaba. Once Dorothy enters the picture it is even worse. The timeline doesn't seem to line up well. It wasn't a horrible read. I just wish the end was better.
There were very bad parts that i dont feel i will ever get out of my mind. I truly feel wicked.
This was a great book in my opinion. Gregory Maguire has a unique writing style and he took L. Frank Baum's characters and made them his own. I am 15 and I found the book to be themed for more mature audiences because of the content. It is a good book for let's say ages 15+. If you want a good adventure and book, read it.
To start with the positives, this was a wonderful idea for a novel. Unfortunately, the positives end there. Throughout the whole book, Maguire seems to be screaming, 'OH LOOK AT THE CLEVER PARALLELS TO MODERN SOCIETY! AREN'T I CLEVER?!' This impossibly boring, almost maliciously confusing novel is peppered with gratuitous sex scenes that seem to have been placed there to bring your attention back to a storyline that even the author knew was incredibly boring.
Wicked is a stunning piece of work and one of my favorites. It is structured in parts focused around our main character, Elphaba (elphie, fabala). We see the growth of Elphaba through the eyes of several people important to her life such as her mother or Galinda, her college roommate. Unlike the Musical (which is brilliant) Wicked is deeply rooted in politics and religious standings. The world plot is an oppression to Animals which have given the world of Oz its fantastical, whimsical outlook. However, Oz is faced with propaganda and changes from pagan religions to an urban mechanical technologic TIk Tok belief system as well as Lurlinism and Unionism. It is The Wizard of Oz minus the songs (there is a scene where elphaba sings in Wicked) and fluff with an added nitty gritty truth to the tale. To add, Elphaba is truly a character worth spending time understanding. Maguire has developed such a likeable character that she is now an icon, more so than the original Wicked Witch of the West. What makes her so likeable is that she is flawed and is incredibly human. She is a real person. Although not the premise of the book, she does have a sense of magical power. This isn't explored until much later in the book, but the school itself and the possibilities of Oz give an added mystical theme while straying far from Harry Potter and sorts. Elphie is a green girl who is strange and because of it she is ostracized. She isn't a bad person. In fact, she is Wicked Good. However, she is crude and witty and bold. Maguire has done an excellent job at deeming the wicked witch a good person, while arguing that she isn't happy-go-lucky save the planet because it is pretty. All in all, this is a tragic piece with big visions and very enjoyable characters. Readers are captivated by the new look at Oz and leave with a fascination.
I saw Wicked the Musical and absolutely LOVED it! I was so impressed with the story and the way it tied so well into The Wizard of OZ...and then I read the book. Right away the author hits the reader with unnecessary vulgarity which unfortunately just extends throughout the story and really doesn't make any sense to the plot. I honestly felt like I was seeing the world of OZ through the eyes of a dirty old man. If I had read this book before, I would have never seen the play which is still one of my favorites. If you are expecting an extension of the play, don't waste your time.
DO NOT let your kids 15 or younger read this. It has inappropretite scenes in this book that is not good for pleasure reading for kids.
A great story! Well written and easily read. It gives a "human" side to Elphaba. I suddenly found myself feeling for the Wicked Witch. I've always been an Oz fan and this has broadened the story for me.
It was absolutely horrible. I DON'T EVEN WANT TO FINSH IT. So as I was reading thus in class it came out extremely gross and inappropiate. I watched the play, I loved it but the book? Was plain awful.
The book is so dark and the play is AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Loved the beginning but then it got so....boring. i couldnt even finish it.
Oh my gosh so i have advice for all people thinking of getting this book well.. DONT get it if you loved the movie the wizard of oz when you were little!!!! That is what happend to me i guess i was expecting more fun with dorthy & friends wow was i wrong!!! Oh well whatever i am just shareing my wisdom so long fair well avidisay goodnight
Let's just say that after reading 50 pages, we decided this book was not worth any more of our time. Most of the sexual content is not only misplaced, it is obscene and inappropriate, especially when trying to put oneself in the Land of Oz. What a horrible and complete disappointment.