Thursday, April 4, 2019

Review: Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts

Title: Finding Dorothy
Author: Elizabeth Letts
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publish Date: February 12, 2019
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "Maud Gage Baum, widow of the author of the book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, met Judy Garland, the young actress playing the role of Dorothy on the set of The Wizard of Oz in 1939. At the time, Maud was seventy-eight and Judy was sixteen. In spite of their age difference, Maud immediately connected to Judy--especially when Maud heard her sing "Over the Rainbow," a song whose yearning brought to mind the tough years in South Dakota when Maud and her husband struggled to make a living--until Frank Baum's book became a national sensation.

This wonderfully evocative two-stranded story recreates Maud's youth as the rebellious daughter of a leading suffragette, and the prairie years of Maud and Frank's early days when they lived among the people--especially young Dorothy--who would inspire Frank's masterpiece. Woven into this past story is one set in 1939, describing the high-pressured days on The Wizard of Oz film set where Judy is being badgered by the director, producer, and her ambitious stage mother to lose weight, bind her breasts, and laugh, cry, and act terrified on command. As Maud had promised to protect the original Dorothy back in Aberdeen, she now takes on the job of protecting young Judy."

My Two Cents:

"Finding Dorothy" is the story of Maud Gage Baum, wife of L. Frank Baum who was the author of "The Wizard of Oz." It's the late 1930s and Baum's master work is being made into a highly billed movie that stars Judy Garland. Maud wants to make sure that her husband's work is translated to screen perfectly and so she goes to Hollywood where she isn't welcomed at first. She makes a place for herself when she entrenches herself into taking care of Judy Garland, who reminds Maud of the real Dorothy that "The Wizard of Oz" was based off of.

One thing that I absolutely love about historical fiction is how it can take on some of the small unknowns in history. I love both "The Wizard of Oz" movie and the books but I realize that I knew little about the background of either until reading this book. I really liked seeing what Maud and Frank's lives were like back in South Dakota and about the inspiration behind the book that captured and continues to capture so many imaginations. I loved reading about the sort of friendship that develops between Maud and Judy. We get to see Judy at a pivotal time in her young career. 

The writing of this book was very good. I loved all of the historical detail that the author was able to weave into the book. Maud and Judy especially jump off of the page but all of the other characters are quite vivid as well. I really liked how the author was able to take something so familiar to so many people and shed more light on it. This was a true treat to read!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the review. Both author and book were not known to me so I really enjoyed the update.


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