Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts Review

Title: Finding Dorothy
Author: Elizabeth Letts
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

                I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

                The Wizard of Oz is a facet of Americana, a gem in film, and I haven’t met a single person who doesn’t know of Dorothy Gale and her glittering ruby slippers. But I’m slightly embarrassed to say that I didn’t know much about the man behind Oz, the books or the movie, until now. This sparkling, beautiful gem of a novel captured my heart and bewitched my imagination, wrung my heart out until it was empty, then full again. It was like this book pulled back the curtain on one of Old Hollywood’s most beloved film, seen through the eyes of L. Frank Baum’s fierce, strong widow, Maud. One of the reasons that I love historical fiction so much, as a genre, is that it puts a fictional perspective on real events, and this book delivered in spades. I can’t wait to read more from Elizabeth Letts!

                Finding Dorothy tells the story of Maud Gage-Baum, the unsinkable widow of the visionary, Lyman Frank Baum, and her fierce determination to see her late husband’s vision brought to life. It begins in Hollywood, in 1939, with Maud meeting Judy Garland at 16; Maud was 76 when she met the starlet for the first time. But to say that this book is wholly about the movie production of The Wizard of Oz would be to do this whole book a disservice. Frank Baum’s legacy is but a small part of this book, for the focus of it is Maud. From her girlhood, to college, to her marriage to Frank, the book moves back and forth between 1939 and moments from Maud’s own past. I was immediately spellbound by the gorgeous prose, and my heart was stolen by Maud, her husband, and children, as well as other members of her family. I love how this book did justice to one of America’s best loved films, and how it also tied in the creator’s history. But Maud was, unapologetically, the star of this book, and I loved every moment of it. And that ending! It had me bawling like a baby, in the best kind of way. This book is like one of the best kinds of wish fulfillment; I loved the way that it talked about Old Hollywood and Judy Garland! One of my favorite parts of the novel was the way that it emphasized that iconic song ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’; that, for me, is what I remember Judy Garland most for. Honestly, I adored this book, and I loved the way that Letts researched every single detail. Finding Dorothy is about so much more than the magical land of Oz. It is just as much about the real people who helped inspire it, and come into being.

     I absolutely adored this book; it was a sweet reminder of how much I love historical fiction, and why. It was thoroughly researched and well written, and I adored the way that it put the spotlight on the woman behind the innovator and inventor, Lyman Frank Baum. I also really liked the way that his and Maud’s personalities complemented each other:  Maud with her feet firmly planted on the ground and in reality, ready to ground Frank whenever possible, and Frank constantly dreaming of a brighter future, of dreams that eventually culminated into the bestseller The Wizard of Oz. I also enjoyed the cast of characters that framed our lovely couple: Maud’s mother, Matilda, her sister Julia and her brother T.C., and her darling niece, Magdalena. And that ending! It was so perfect, and had me in joyous tears when I finished it last night. A beautiful, wonderful book as sparkling and promising as The Emerald City itself! The bottom line: Rich with historical detail and gorgeous prose, I loved Finding Dorothy! I can’t wait to read more of Elizabeth Lett’s work! Next on deck: Circe by Madeleine Miller! 

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