Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts
Published by Quercus
The film of The Wizard of Oz, made in 1939 and which starred Judy Garland, was a magical film for me as a kid. I loved the yellow brick road, the songs, the scarecrow and the evil witch. I also enjoyed its (unofficial) 1985 sequel Return to Oz. That film terrified me more so than the first. It had rocks with faces, The Wheelers, Pumpkinhead, and a headless witch. When I read the books I felt the 1985 sequel was a lot more closer to its author L. Frank Baum original stories.
As I grew up I became interested in how the movies were made, Judy Garland and her life and in the writer of these magical books.
Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts is a fictional story of a young Maud with her mother Matilda Joselyn Gage, an advocate of women’s rights, who first and foremost wants her daughter to get her diploma before engaging with the playwright actor and creator of Oz L. Frank Baum and the then elderly Maud on the filmset of the film of The Wizard of Oz. Maud meets the actors (normally whilst on a cigarette break) and tries to ensure the film script is in keeping to her late husband’s books, whilst protecting the welfare of a young Judy Garland.
What is as engaging is what happens in the intervening years between these two points. The story is written within the framework of what we know about the life of Maud and Frank, as well as their families.
Finding Dorothy has several different women characters in various circumstances. It demonstrates the hardships during the turn of the century and the growth of industry and land in America in the late 1800s. There is a lot in the book to think about. None more so than the question of rights that women had in the eighteenth century and later on in the nineteenth century.
Were women any better off, did they have more autonomy of their choices? Are the societal, the family values and traditions pressures any different?
I felt I had fallen right into a story of another time and era that had me enthralled and emotionally invested in its characters. I whizzed through this book.