Book review: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Of course, it’s all but impossible to read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz today without seeing Judy Garland and co. (although I wonder whether that will be true for my children? The fragmentation of TV means there is no longer any communal sense to TV watching, so the old mass gathering around the box at Christmas, when we could be fairly certain that everyone would see the same things, has passed. So it is possible to grow up and not see films like this, or The Great Escape and The Sound of Music).

Reading the book also serves to show what a wonderful job the set designers did when transferring the story to the screen. What lifts L. Frank Baum’s tale above other Victorian children’s stories is the exuberance of its imagination, from Dorothy’s travelling companions, through Munchkins and Quadlings, to Winged Monkeys and people made out of bone china. And it’s what continues to make the book eminently readable. I do wonder what it was like to read the book when the great twist – that the great wizard is, in fact, a humbug – came as a surprise rather than part of one’s cultural baggage. I suspect that this or the next generation might be able to tell us.


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