Review: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

You know, I’m not sure if I’d ever actually read this before. I think I must have because I remember the hammerhead people (and where were they in the recent Oz film?) but I certainly didn’t remember it the same way it was. Like most people, I figure I’m tainted by the iconic 1939 film because the book, while containing most of the same elements as the movie, has much more (and actually, some less).

First off, for a book which explains in it’s own introduction by Baum that it’s merely a fairy tale meant strictly for the enjoyment of children, it’s rather violent! The number of beheadings rivals that of the French Revolution and death is dealt out as easily as in a Michael Bay film (and as frequently!). It does end the same way the film does, with the silver (ruby was added for the film to make them more colorful) shoes being clicked together three times but here, Dorothy kills the Wicked Witch of the West at about the mid-way point of the book. The whole story is paced rather oddly, with each chapter kind of making up it’s own little adventure, almost as if it were a radio series with the mandate of “What will Dorothy and friends get up to this week?” The theme of appreciating what you already have are still present, but I think the film does a better job of giving the three supporting figures their desires than the book does. In the book, the Wizard really is a “humbug” who seems, regardless of his own failings, to treat the four adventurers with contempt and slight derision. Also, the idea of there being “no place like home” is high on the message list, at least for Dorothy, but only as an extension/aspect of “find your own happiness” as the rest of the gang all become rulers of various lands (which would probably make anyone happy).

This particular edition is read by Academy Award Winner Anne Hathaway… and she is wonderful! Unlike some other celebrities who have read books recently, Hathaway dives into her performance head first and never bothers to check the depth. I think she, like most of us, was also being influenced by the film as her Cowardly Lion did sound a lot like Bert Lahr but all of the characters had distinct and consistent voices. Her children are going to have the most wonderful bedtime stories…

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