Headline Review sent me this book to read and I accepted, even though it was the fourth book in the series and I hadn’t read the other three. I haven’t even seen the musical Wicked, which was based on the first book of the series. But I like the music: isn’t that enough? I’ve even sung the opening number, One Short Day, trying desperately hard not to continue with the words, ‘in the haemorrhoid city‘. Emerald, must sing emerald!
This was also going to be a doubly difficult task as I can’t say I’m a particular fan of the fantasy genre. However I merrily waded in, back to front and completely out of my comfort zone.
Much to my surprise, this was an extraordinarily good read. It’s clever, inventive, very witty and although it did take me quite a long time to read it (all 580 pages of it) I kept with it to a satisfying end. I was grateful that the author took me by the hand and provided a synopsis of the first three books, some useful family trees and a comprehensive map of Oz at the beginning of the book. However, there was much flipping back and forth in bed at night which drove my husband quite mad.
In Out of Oz dear old Dorothy of Kansas returns to the story. I won’t spoil the surprise but I thought the way the author brought her back to the proceedings was pure genius. The once peaceful and prosperous Land of Oz is bubbling with social unrest. We see Lady Glinda (the good witch) under house arrest, the cowardly lion (Brrr) is on the run from the law and although the wicked witch, Elphaba, has passed into legend, her boy Liir and his wife are in exile.
Although the tale is fantastical, with talking animals and oodles of magic, the themes are universal: love, compassion, war, loss and fear. The enjoyment for the reader comes from the author’s wonderful way with words. They are fresh, frothy, seemingly nonsensical but always just right: “Well, stuff him with a rippled rutabaga”
I suppose now I know how it all ends I could just move onto something else but I’m tempted to try the other three just to soak up more of Maguire’s talent. But should I read backwards: the third, second then first or just follow the yellow brick road and see where it goes?
Out of Oz, by Gregory Maguire, is available in hardback from Headline Review at £18.99