Today’s review is on Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts.
Finding Dorothy is a novel about the making of The Wizard of Oz and how Maud Baum, the widow of L. Frank Baum, befriends Judy Garland, as well as tries to ensure that the movie stays true to her late husband’s work.
The book follows a dual timeline, the first being in 1938 and 1939 during the making of the movie, and the second one takes us back to the 1880s when Maud first met Frank Baum and their married years up until he published The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. It was interesting to see how beloved elements from their lives are represented in fiction I also felt like I got to know Frank Baum really well even though the main focus is on Maud throughout the book.
It was also interesting to discover that Maud’s mother was a prominent suffragette and was good friends with Susan B. Anthony and Cady Stanton, who were frequent guests at her childhood home. Throughout the book we see how her mother puts pressure on her, especially when it comes to college, but she does eventually decide to drop out to marry Frank.
The contrast between Maud and her sister – Julia- was interesting, especially since we see Julia marry someone out of convenience and ends up being unhappy , married to a drunkard, not allowed to speak up, etc. Whereas Maud, while her family does struggle financially, she is in a loving marriage to a husband who, while fanciful, allows her to speak her mind and respects her and as a result they have a relatively happy and loving marriage.
It was also fascinating to see how Maud and Frank complement each other, especially in how Maud is more practical and Frank loves using his imagination and coming up with ways to make life more colorful.
I loved watching Maud befriend Judy Garland and try to encourage her and give her pointers on how to accurately portray the character of Dorothy Gale.
One aspect of the novel that I was kind of let down by is that there is a constant mention of Maud wanting to help Judy because she had let the other “Dorothy” down, however this isn’t fully fleshed out – at least to me it wasn’t – is the original ‘Dorothy” her niece Magdalena? And if so does she feel like she let her down because she didn’t get to live Maud and Frank? I think it is but it could have been explained a little bit more.
Overall, I really enjoyed the story and enjoyed learning more about Maud Baum and L. Frank Baum, as well as Maud’s mother, Matilda Gage, and a young Judy Garland who is faced with the pressures of stardom from both her mother and studio executives. I highly recommend this for anyone who is a fan of the Wizard of Oz, or just loves a good historical novel, especially one based on real historical figures. 4/5 Stars.
Janelle L. C.