Quercus Books April 4th 2019 Paperback 9th January 2020
Every story has its inspiration…
Hollywood, 1938: As soon as she learns that M-G-M is adapting her late husband’s masterpiece, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, for the screen, Maud Gage Baum sets about trying to visit the set. Nineteen years after Frank’s passing, Maud is the only person who can help producers stay true to the spirit of the book – because she’s the only one left who knows its secrets…
But the moment she hears Judy Garland rehearsing the first notes of ‘Over the Rainbow’ Maud recognizes the yearning that defined her own life story, from her rebellious youth as a suffragette’s daughter to her coming of age as one of the first women in the Ivy League, from her blossoming romance with Frank to the hardscrabble prairie years that inspired his famous work. With the young actress under pressure from the studio as well as her ambitious stage mother, Maud resolves to protect her – the way she tried so hard to protect the real Dorothy.
This richly imaging novel 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.
Published today in hardback, Finding Dorothy is a truly magnificent piece of historical fiction, capturing the magic of the classic book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and the subsequent film. 2019 is the 80th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz film, the 50th anniversary of Judy Garland’s death and the 100th anniversary of author L. Frank Baum’s death. Later this year the film Judy staring Renee Zellweger will be released so it’s probably fair to say we can anticipate renewed focus on the actress and the story of Oz this year.
Finding Dorothy is set in 1938, L Frank Baum is deceased, The Wizard of Oz is in production and Judy Garland at 16 is the talented star of the film. Maud Baum makes her way to the set, the story of Oz is integral to her life with Frank and she wants to ensure that M-G-M do it justice. She meets Judy Garland and takes the child actor under her wing, recognising her vulnerabilities as a young girl on set. The story of Judy Garland is well known but nevertheless, reliving aspects of this through Maud’s eyes is very sad.
Told across two time periods, the ‘now’ – Hollywood 1938 and The Wizard of Oz production set, and the ‘then’ which is the story of Maud, her childhood, her forward thinking mother and her love with Frank.
The story of Maud in itself is fascinating, her mother was an early suffragette fighting tirelessly for the rights of women and this is a theme which runs through the story, shaping Maud’s thinking. Frank, a man Maud falls deeply in love with is a theatre man, a creative type who struggles to settle professionally, a storyteller with a magnificent imagination and we can see the familiar story of Oz emerge through Frank and Maud’s life together and some of the inspiration for the story.
This is historical fiction and obviously there are aspects of the story of Frank and Maud which cannot be known, however the author notes that most of the story is based on known historical fact. That said, for me this book did exactly what historical fiction should due – it made me want to learn more, read more, see more – and I cannot wait now for the Judy biopic due in September. I loved this book and will be recommending it widely!
Thank you to Ella at Quercus for providing me with a copy of this book for the Social Media Blast last year and for agreeing for me to host a giveaway on my Instagram page. Head on over there now to see how you can win a copy.
About the Author
Elizabeth Letts is the No.1 New York Times bestselling author of the Eighty-Dollar Champion and The Perfect Horse, which won the 2017 PEN Center USA Literary Award for research nonfiction, as well as two previous novels, Quality of Care and Family Planning. A former certified nurse -midwife she also served in the Peace Corps in Morocco. She lives in Southern California and Northern Michigan.