I've just, JUST finished Wicked by Gregory Maguire. Thank God I'm done with it, I'm now going to flush it down the toilet. Drown bad book drown!
It's a complete crime, really. The book has such an excellent premise, a writer's dream of an idea: To tell the life story of the Wicked Witch of the West. Was she born bad? What was she like as child, a teenager? Why is she green? What did her parents do when she was born? Was she bullied as a kid? Did she always have magic, or did she have to learn it? Did she ever find love? What ultimately made her so evil?
Well, according to this, Elphaba Thropp (The WWW), wasn't evil, she was misunderstood. She was straightforward, painfully honest and more than a bit prickly. She didn't let people get too close, well duh - she was called a monster for most of her life so she wouldn't exactly be the trusting sort, now would she? I found I really did want to like her. She was sparky, political and passionate in her beliefs. A bit of a conspiracy theorist but enlightened. She fought for Animal rights and then became something of an underground rebel in a fight to bring down the Wizard who was becoming the despot of Oz.
Although we all know how the story ends, the thing that really annoyed me was that poor old Elphie failed in everything she put her hand to. The darling just couldn't catch a break. Friends belittled her, Her favorite teacher - a Goat is murdered, she ends up being a pretty bad assassin seeing as the person she's trying to kill was already dead when she got around to finding them but decided to bash their head in anyways for good measure. The man she falls in love with is married, and then he's murdered in her apartment. She tries to confess to his widow and beg forgiveness and the woman won't listen, but decides to keep Elphie and her bastard son at their castle. Her sister is loved more by her dad...oh dear it just goes on! Then when Dorothy arrives, she sends her 90something Nanny to set the table and invite them in for dinner - a very civilized meal "So, I hear you've come to kill me, how very unfriendly. More cheese? Now, about those shoes..." before being melted on the spot and having her broom stolen.
The characters have a very Charles Dickens inspired ignorance and cruelty, but with no comeuppance to satisfy the moral reader. There's a lot of political intrigue that could've been good if not left dangling limply for several chapters while being bored to death with description of marshlands, drought and mountains. I did not care about the geology, I wanted more about the people, the characters and something a bit more fleshed out than "They were ignorant and didn't know any better." There's a bunch of warble about Oz religions as well, and *yawn* *sigh* it's just tedious. I have no clue if Maguire was wanting to make a political statement, a religious statement or was he just trying to create a decent work of fiction. In any case he failed on all three.
The thing that seriously ticked me off is how this book is the equivalent of a bad lover. It starts great, good rhythm and momentum, but then it kind of gets full of itself and wanders off the point. It comes back and, okay here we go, this is going to get good again, and, oh...no. It's not. Next chapter? New scenery? Why don't we just skip ahead to the meat of it shall we? Here we go again, that's good, getting better and almost there...oh no...he's describing lame ass scenery to me again! and what happened to the plot? What the hell are you doing? Why are you fiddling over there when the good stuff is obviously over here?? By the last quarter of the book I was thinking "Just finish already and let me go and do something useful instead - I'm bored!" It's unforgivable in a lover, and in an author.
For the first time in my life, I'm not so mad at a book for being bad that I give up on books for ages. Instead I have to begin reading something else right away to get the very bad taste out of my mouth, and q-tip clean its stench from my memory.
Elphaba, you deserved so much better.
Smart Bitches Day is a Monday contribution, and is hosted by the Beautiful and Spring Fresh Beth. She lists the rules for SBD on her site, so if you have something to contribute, just leave her a comment and she'll link you in with the rest of us bitchy bitches. Although as rule #2 states "Step 2: Write it. It can be ill-tempered or gushing with praise or somewhere in between. The only ABSOLUTE requirement* is that you are thoroughly honest. Kindness is not discouraged, but if ever you must make the choice between politesse and honesty, SBD requires you to ditch your nice-girl side and get down and dirty with the truth.
*Foul language is not a requirement, though it is strongly encouraged and soundly enjoyed.
I know lots more of you read, so have a try, we'll all love you more for it.