Evie Braithwaite's Reviews > Finding Dorothy

Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review

it was amazing
bookshelves: historical-fiction, arc, fiction

Full review can be found on my blog!

A richly imagined novel that tells the story behind The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the book that inspired the iconic film, through the eyes of author L. Frank Baum's intrepid wife, Maud--from the family's hardscrabble days in South Dakota to the Hollywood film set where she first meets Judy Garland.

Elizabeth Letts re-imagines the magical story behind The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. We emerge into the hustle and bustle of a 1930’s Hollywood film set where a young Judy Garland is badgered and pressured by those around her. The narrative then switches to the late 1800’s following Maud’s upbringing as the rebellious daughter of a leading suffragette, and the prairie years of her and Frank's early days when they lived among the people who would inspire his masterpiece.

What a magical story. I was fascinated by Oz’s backstory, it’s creation, the origin. Maud’s mother, Matilda, taught her daughter to treasure education, her independence and to follow her footsteps fighting for women’s rights. Maud conforms to her mother’s wishes until she meets Frank, a travelling theatre man. Their love story is enchanting. Despite her mother’s disapproval who regards his work as impractical, the young couple’s feelings for one another blossom. Ignoring her mother’s rebuke, they are soon married and embark on a turbulent journey. Frank’s relentless, whimsical imagination ensures that their life always sparkles with magic, his hope for a better life shining bright like Oz’s Emerald City.

The couple traipse in and out of various jobs; from working as a travelling salesman to opening a fantastical children’s toy store. It’s not until he created the masterpiece that is The Wonderful Wizard of Oz that the Baum family earn the success they yearned for. It was a national sensation.

Fast-forward to 1939 Hollywood, widowed Maud befriends Judy Garland. She feels an instant connection to the young actress upon hearing her sing “Over the Rainbow”. Listening to the lyrics, she recalls the tough years in South Dakota when Maud and her husband struggled to make a living. We then watch the formidable Maud take on the job of protecting young Judy and ensuring the film stays true to her husband’s creation. The director and her own mother dictate that Judy takes diet pills, smokes dozens of cigarettes a day to tame her hunger and even slap her when she couldn’t suppress her giggles on set. I was ashamed upon learning how much her mother encouraged this maltreatment. This maltreatment which lead Garland to an unfortunate life of drugs and addiction.

There is no denying that Letts’ story is meticulously researched, and her storytelling swept me away to Hollywood and the late 1800s. Yes, this is a work of fiction, but her story is based on historically true events. Learning about the hardships Frank faced before his national success made the story even more enthralling. I admire how Maud never fails to see the silver-lining and how she has faith in her husband no matter how absurd his whimsical ideas are.

Finding Dorothy was a charming book which all fans of the movie will enjoy. Letts has created a beautiful tribute to the man behind the masterpiece, the man who invented a wonderland where children could escape to. This novel is sprinkled with fascinating stories and insights into the lives of the Baum family and those on the set of the iconic film. I know the magic of its pages will stay with me long after having read this.

Thanks to Quercus Books for sending me a hardback copy in exchange for an honest review!
15 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Finding Dorothy.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

March 15, 2019 – Shelved
March 15, 2019 – Shelved as: to-read
April 11, 2019 – Started Reading
April 12, 2019 –
page 104
April 15, 2019 – Shelved as: historical-fiction
April 15, 2019 – Shelved as: arc
April 15, 2019 – Shelved as: fiction
April 15, 2019 – Finished Reading

No comments have been added yet.