Friday Book Whimsy: Finding Dorothy

When I was a little girl growing up in Nebraska, every year around Thanksgiving, one of the television stations would present The Wizard of Oz. Our whole family watched that movie, likely with varying degrees of enthusiasm. As for me, I was in wonderment throughout the film. When the movie went from the dreary black and white of Kansas to the technicolor splendor of Oz, well, I knew I wasn’t in Nebraska anymore.

I never got around to reading L. Frank Baum’s book because the movie provided all of the excitement that I needed to take the journey to Oz along with Dorothy and her friends. Perhaps it’s one of the books I should read before I die. But, so many books, so little time. Sigh.

I enjoyed reading Elizabeth Lett’s historical novel about the making of The Wizard of Oz, some years following Baum’s death. The only person left who remembers the wonderment and excitement and magic of the book when it was first written is Baum’s 77-year-old widow, Maud Gage Baum. Once she learns that this movie is to be made, she takes it upon herself to make sure that MGM captures the whimsy that her husband envisioned.

She maneuvers her way into the MGM studio just in time to hear the young actress selected to play Dorothy sing the iconic Over the Rainbow. She realizes that the character of Dorothy is in good hands. But what concerns her more is whether Judy Garland is in good hands.

The book looks back at Maud’s own life. She is the daughter of a well-known suffragette whose upbringing is very different from that of other Victorian-aged young women. Plenty of time is spent talking about her relationship with her husband, who never could quite find his niche in life until he used his vivid imagination to write one of the most well-known books of all time.

The author seems to take great liberties with the historical part of the book, especially when it comes to the period of time during the making of the movie. It is true, however, that Maud Baum spent some time with Judy Garland while the movie was being made…..

Judy Garland looking at the book with Maud Baum at MGM studios during the making of the movie.

Nonetheless, I found Finding Dorothy entirely enjoyable and interesting. Garland was a very talented woman who lived a very tragic life. Finding Dorothy gives the reader some insight into Garland’s sad journey.

I recommend the book very highly.

Here is a link to the book.