by: L. Frank Baum
I listened to Anne Hathaway’s reading of this book – Audible is doing a celebrity reading series. I really loved her rendition. I will say some of the voices of the minor characters were a little on the weird side but other than that, it was fantastic. There were delightfully subtle inflections that really made her reading pop. Plus her voice is just pleasant to listen to and her ability to emote and create a scene is, of course, superb. I loved the voices she did for the scarecrow and the tinman – had I not known better, I would’ve thought a man was reading those parts. And she manages to emphasize the humorous bits with just the right inflection. If you want a version to play for the kids that the adults will enjoy, I will gladly endorse this one. (It’s a short 3+ hours, so perfect for a longish road trip.)
The story itself is really quite good. It’s simple and goes quickly, without ever being overwhelming or confusing. The novel version differs significantly from the movie versions – the movie version doesn’t significantly change much, but it does leave out quite a bit. I like the book more – though I normally do – for its expanded adventures and because I like the depiction of Dorothy better. It is a children’s book, written well but simplistically, with little elaboration or in-depth analysis of any situation. It makes getting lost in the story quite easy.
The story itself is compelling and fun. Nothing is too serious, though I imagine kids will find their pulses racing at certain points. Plus, Hathaway does an excellent job of making a scene seem full to bursting with excitement. I like that Dorothy is able to enjoy herself and her adventures while still wanting to go home. And, of course, reading it as adult made me realize that the scarecrow had brains, the tinman had brains, and the lion had courage all along. Baum does a really wonderful job of endowing his characters with their desired characteristics without ever having to state that they exist. And I think it’s true that people are often blind to their best traits, so it’s amusing to see in a book.
Dorothy is sweet and adventurous, polite and brave. She’s not a super-strong character, but she doesn’t need to be. Being polite and courteous to others can often be strength in and of itself; plus, she takes on the Wicked Witch of the West with such bravery and aplomb. She’s extremely homesick but doesn’t let that control her or stop her from enjoying this new world of Oz. The pacing is excellent, the scenery and people of Oz unique and compelling – cute and funny. (Much more than the movie could show!)
If you’ve got children or you want to revisit childhood again, I would recommend this book. If you’ve no patience for children’s books, or if you like stories that provoke deep thoughts or delve into complex subjects, then, alas!, this may not be the book for you.