Harper Collins Publishers 1995
If I had to describe this book in one word, it would be this: Trippy.
I had so many conflicting feelings about it. And before you ask, no, I haven’t seen the play. Nor have I read The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum.
I picked up this book because I think it’s interesting to see things from the villain’s point of view. I’m not actually sure what I was expecting when I started reading this, but it certainly wasn’t what I got.
There were times when I couldn’t figure out whether or not I liked this book. It left me feeling both frustrated and enchanted at the same time.
Nutshell blurb: The story follows the life of Elphaba, aka The Wicked Witch of the West, from her birth up until the point where Dorothy flings a bucket of water onto her.
So here are the things that I didn’t really like about it.
The first thing I didn’t like is that the beginning of the book is from the pov of her parents before our protagonist is born. And then we move on to her years as a toddler. I find this to be an exceptionally tedious device. I want to jump right in with the main character. I don’t mind a little bit of back story. She was born green and had pointy teeth. Her first word was “horrors”. That’s all very interesting, but I need to feel that a story is going somewhere. We spend almost a fifth of the book with her parents.
The second thing I didn’t like was that I didn’t feel much of a connection with any of the characters until really late in the story when I finally got a sense of who Elphaba really was. There were a few times when I questioned whether or not I wanted to finish reading it and a few times when I almost put it down.
The third thing I didn’t like is kind of an extension of the first. Remember when I said that I need to feel that a story is going somewhere? Once we reached the halfway point, I had some serious questions as to where the story was going. I don’t like it when stories are predictable, but I feel like there needs to be some goal that the main character is trying to reach. It was very frustrating to have no sense of what Elphaba was trying to accomplish at certain points in the book.
Now on to things that I liked about it.
It was an incredibly complex world with a lot of political intrigue. I mention this not because I’m particularly interested in political intrigue, but because the assumption might be that as this story is based on a well-loved children’s story, it might be light on the details. However, this world is vast and interesting with characters that aren’t fully good or fully evil.
Another thing I liked was that Elphaba really became human to me in the latter part of the book. She wasn’t evil, but she had a very strong sense of justice which made her do things that were evil. You could totally see why she did them though. She had a good heart but continually failed at things that she tried to accomplish which made it easy to relate to her. But then sometimes her motives were unknown and downright creepy. I mean, what would possess someone to sew wings onto monkeys?
One thing I’d like to point out is that it would be easy to think that it’s a YA book, but I think that it’s most certainly adult material as it’s got a bit of sex and a hint of bestiality in it. (Yes, it really does.) From what I’ve read of the reviews, a lot of people bought this book because they saw the play first. These are the people who seemed to be most disappointed with it.
I think that you’re going to have to make your own minds up about this one, my friends. I ended up giving it 3 out of 5 stars on Goodreads just because it has baffled me so much. I waffle back and forth as to whether or not I liked it. I’ve been thinking about it ever since I finished it, so I’m leaning towards liking it. It’s not one I’ll read again, however.
Have you read this book? I would love to know what you thought about it.