Recently I have fallen under the wicked spell of Gregory Maguire's Wicked: Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, to the point where I was feeling lost when I'd finished the book. It was so lucid and imaginative that I literally felt like I was there in the strange land of Oz by Elphaba's side!
Whilst I couldn't even begin to describe the synopsis (so much happens, and in places it is completely different from the musical), I can just say that it follows the life of Elphaba as she grows up, goes to Shiz academy, meets Glinda and all her other friends, and leaves school because of political troubles in Oz. She tries hard to get social justice for Animals after the death of Professor Dillamond, and becomes something of a terrorist as she grows up and rebels against the all-powerful Wizard. Elphaba seems to not have a place she can call home in Oz, and wanders from place to place, even becoming like a nun at one point, until her unfortunate death from the sweet, clueless, and rather dumb Dorothy. These are just the bare outlines, as there are so many characters that we get to learn about and love, and so many lands and provinces of Oz that are lushly described, that it is hard for me to pinpoint and describe my love for just one of them! All I can say is that the genre is fantasy for adults, and it completely warps the story of the Wizard of Oz, perhaps for the better.
I liked the way all aspects of relationships were considered in Wicked, rather than just straight-forward, straight relationships. I was pleasantly surprised that there were rather a lot of gay, lesbian and bisexual characters, as most of the books I have read mostly overlook LGBT people, whereas Wicked had all sorts of relationships - as they say, it takes all sorts to make a world (especially a world as fantastic and strange as Oz)! The relationship between Frex, Melena and Turtle Heart was especially interesting, and I also liked to believe that there was a hint of something between Elphaba and Glinda, even if Fiyero was the love of Elphaba's life.
The mentions of fashions in this book was glorious, especially Glinda in her bright frills and bustles. I'd quite like to make some costume designs based on some of the descriptions in this story.
Another thing I admired was how complex the world of religion and politics was in Oz. My head was spinning, it was so complicated, though I do mean this in the best way possible.
I loved the character of Elphaba even more than I did in the musical, and perhaps liked Glinda a little less than I did in the musical - funny how these things change. Elphaba is snarky and ultra confident despite her unusual skin colour, and I just love her wit and courage, as well as the fact that she was also capable of love for family and friends - usually characters of her description are seen as cold and unfeeling, yet I got quite a lot of vibes of passion and warmth from her, even towards people that she sees as annoying or inferior.
Glinda is snobby and mean at first towards her roommate Elphaba, but they soon become great friends. She is seen as kind and gentle, but rather superficial and selfish, especially towards the end of the novel. This made me like her a little less, though she still remains one of my favourites.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and can hardly wait to read the rest of the series at some point! My New Year's resolution is to read more this year.