Friday Hoyden: Elphaba

A mile above Oz, the Witch balanced on the wind’s forward edge, as if she were a green fleck of the land itself, flung up and sent wheeling away by the turbulent air.

wicked-musical.pngThat is the opening sentence of the novel Wicked: The Life And Times Of The Wicked Witch Of The West. That sentence already makes me extremely happy that I bought this book today, prompted by a Hoydenizen mentioning in email that she’s planning to take a trip to Melbourne shortly to see the musical.

From that sentence I can already tell that the author (Gregory Maguire) loves playing with and savouring the words that he uses, that he likes to allude to things that the reader probably already knows without sledgehammering them, and that his descriptions are vivid and concise. Win, Win, Win.

This book has such a strong reputation, I’m fairly sure that I won’t feel that the subsequent narrative lets down that opening sentence. I’m very much looking forward to getting to know Elphaba.

What other books have Hoydenizens read that grabbed them from the opening sentence and held on right to the end?

Categories: arts & entertainment

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12 replies

  1. Imagine a ruin so strange it must never have happened.

    The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver.
    I devoured it, stayed up late at night reading, woke early to read some more and finished it in a weekend. My husband, bless him, poured me coffee and wine at appropriate times, fed the children, and left me to it. It was a borrowed copy, and when I had at last steeled myself to give it back, I rushed out and bought my own copy.
    Deborahs last blog post..Singing our song

  2. Ooh I loved Wicked. I haven’t read the sequel Son of a Witch because I’m afraid it couldn’t live up to the 1st one.
    Instantly hooked books are Beloved by Toni Morrison and The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter.
    Had to read Beloved in 1 go, and I’m always looking for Carter influences in contemporary fantasy now. [re: the vampire romance trend, using fairy tale monsters as sex & marriage metaphors]

  3. Lady Franklin’s Revenge, which tells you so much about me. It’s a non-fiction book about the wife of John Franklin and her efforts to rewrite history to make her husband a hero. Well, allegedly – as far as I’m concerned it about her travelling AROUND THE WORLD! Lurve!
    When I wasn’t reading it, I was talking about how awesome it was.
    Re: Wicked – sincerely, the Musical & the book only have names and places in common. It’s like the musical is an AU fanfic of the book where they drastically change some of the personalities so that their OTP can totes happen omg squee.
    I loved the musical. But don’t go to it after reading the book expecting it to be the book, you know?
    Annas last blog post..Happy birthday to MEEEEEEE!

  4. Love, love, loooooooved Wicked – the book and the musical. Anna is right in that they are not the same at all, but they’re still both awesome.
    I read Son of a Witch and was disappointed because Elphaba is absent. And I had identified so strongly with her in Wicked that her absence in the sequel destroyed my emotional connection to the book. It was still a decent story, and Maguire can surely write, but it wasn’t the same.
    Loved The Poisonwood Bible, too. Kingsolver can turn a phrase like nobody’s business.

  5. Son of a Witch definitely does not live up to Wicked. It’s still a decent book, but its prose doesn’t have that wonderfully sharp edge that you get in the former novel. And (as the Hoydenizen tigtog refers to in the main post), I am already aware of the differences between the book and the musical, and I’m very interested to see how the latter changes the significance of the former. I suspect that I’m going to love the first half (and the depiction of the relationship between Elphaba and Galinda), while my expectations of the second half is very much in line with the “squee, OTP!” assessment.
    As for opening lines, all I’ve been able to think of so far (please forgive me for this) is the first sentence of C. S. Lewis’s Voyage of the Dawn Treader:

    There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.

    That’s not to say that I agree in any way with the anti-progressive speel that follows that line, nor do I think mocking a person’s name is a particularly nice thing to do (been on the receiving end too many times for that). And I don’t really think that Lewis has anything close to the talent of the other writers mentioned here– but as an opening line it’s something that makes you sit up and keep reading.

  6. Also, having said that regarding the musical version of Wicked, I strongly suspect that I’ll come away from it with Elphaba/Glinda as my OTP. 😛

  7. Elphaba/Glinda isn’t subtext, it’s TOTALLY TEXT. *nodnod* I know, because of my learnings.

  8. Not so much a first sentence but I was grabbed by the opening two paragraphs of Helen DeWitt’s The Last Samurai in which the methodist minister addresses these fatal words to his 15 year old son, an atheist and Darwinist who has just won a scholarship to Harvard: “It’s only fair to give the other side a chance.” Spine-tingling.

  9. I just finished Wicked. I liked it, but didn’t love it. I had some problems with the pace, but I don’t what to head into spoiler territory.
    The first book that comes to mind that fits the brief, though, is Hitchhikers. “Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.”

  10. It’s not tricksy or affected, and it sets the scene beautifully:
    “Moominmamma was sitting on the front steps in the sun, rigging a model bark schooner.”
    I’m still lost in the Moominworld, and I don’t want to come out.

  11. Any first sentence in any Christopher Brookmyre novel. The man is a genius.

  12. It was a bright, cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

    I picked up a bound copy of Orwell’s working manuscript for the last draft of 1984 a few years back, and was thrilled to be able to watch him edit that sentence on the page.
    In the typescript, it read “It was a cold, blowy day in early April, and a million radios were striking thirteen.” Mmm — that’s good editing.

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