Sunday, 14 December 2014

Review: The Marvelous Land of Oz

The Marvelous Land of Oz
The Marvelous Land of Oz by L. Frank Baum

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Come for the whimsy, stay for the commentary on gender roles and expectations and the ethics of power. Or possibly vice versa.

The book is more than a century old, and of course Baum's views on these issues are not what a contemporary author would put across, but they were radical for their time. It's not an "ideas novel" in which the author shoves his ideology at you, though; it's a whimsical story for children that happens to have an overlay of social and political commentary from an unusual perspective.

As a children's story, it's at times a bit lacking in character agency and rather full of deus ex machina, but I forgave those as genre tropes and went along for the ride. I particularly liked the Woggle-Bug, who just about has to have been based on a real person (or more than one); his high opinion of his own education and his persistent punning are very recognisable as a type you will meet frequently on the Internet or in person. These days, he would probably be some sort of gamer, quite likely tabletop.

I'm reasonably sure that Baum is being ironic about Glinda "the Good"; she's actually a high-handed tyrant who happens to be beautiful and hence, carrying that signifier of goodness, gets away with it. But maybe I'm just too influenced by having seen Wicked.

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