Wicked by Gregory Maguire (ISBN 0060745908)
I will never be able to watch The Wizard of Oz the same way again. It was the first movie I ever watched as a child, captivated from start to finish. And now the wicked witch of the west just doesn't have the evil cachet that she used to have. She is, in fact, a rather heart-wrenching character.
I thought the storyline of this book was quite well done. The author spent time to really think through his interpretation so that it would dovetail perfectly with the original movie, making it that much more "believable." The fact that he also explores the psychology of the wicked witch and the sociological dynamics of their cultures just makes it all the more fascinating. And less like science fiction - the characters act in very familiar ways, similar even to our own society, just with the added fantastical element. The themes threading through the book are those of discrimination, tyranny, protest, and loss.
I was, however, disappointed by the execution of this storyline. It took me a very long time to finish this book. I really had no drive to pick it up and read it, unless I just didn't have anything else to do at the moment. I can't quite pinpoint the reason, but Gregory Maguire's books are very difficult to really escape into. I also read his Snow White (using the Italian Borgia family), and felt the same way about that book. I'm not hopping up and down to read his next one, and have in fact had Son of a Witch (ISBN 0060747226) on my shelf for months and not been tempted to pick it up.