Out of Oz
Years have gone by and the once peaceful and prosperous Land of Oz is knotted with social unrest. The Wicked Witch has long passed into legend, her boy Liir and his wife are in exile, and their daughter Rain in hiding. Even Galinda Upland is under house arrest and the Cowardly Lion on the run from the law. Then there is the matter of Dorothy, and the rumours of her return. The Emerald City mounts an invasion of Munchkinland and chaos reigns. Rain must come of age; it is up to her to take up her broom – and her legacy – in an Oz wracked by war.
Out of Oz is the final book in Gregory Maguire’s fantasy quadrilogy that builds on L. Frank Baum’s classic children’s tale, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Although this is the last book in a series of four novels, don’t be put off from reading this if you haven’t read the first three books. Maguire rather handily includes useful family trees, maps and a brief history of events contained within the first three books – Wicked, Son of a Witch and A Lion Among Men – so it’s easy to understand the context, setting and characters’ lineage.
The great thing about this book is that despite being based on the world and events created in Baum’s original tale, Maguire has extended and embellished it to fantastic effect. He has invented foods, contraptions, animals, customs, magic spells and words for them all – not to mention whole new storylines and settings for completely new characters. The immense creative output that has gone into the creation of Out of Oz renders the book original and innovative in it’s own right.
Aside from Maguire’s inventiveness, it’s also worth mentioning that the version of Oz he has created is one for the adults – don’t read it to the kids! Sex, politics, war, violence, corruption, injustice, complicated relationships and racial tensions punctuate the narrative, making for a much more realistic and much less peaceful Oz than the version presented to us by Baum at the close of his tale. Strangely, the inclusion of magic in this otherwise seemingly realistic world doesn’t make the narrative any less believable – a fact that is testament to Maguire’s skill as a writer.
Another thing I really love about this book is the characters. They are interesting, richly detailed and multi-faceted. Maguire’s version of Lady Glinda is fantastically funny, and much more engaging than Baum’s who just seems to be a representation of ‘good’ and not much else. Interestingly Maguire’s version of Dorothy is much the same as Baum’s. Dorothy returns to Oz – a little older but not really any wiser – and remains idealistic and focused on finding her way home. What’s more, like her character in the 1939 film, she bursts into song at every available opportunity. In comparison to the characters in Oz that Maguire has created, this fairly faithful portrayal of Baum’s Dorothy seems incredibly two-dimensional and really makes you appreciate how fantastic the characters presented to us in Out of Oz are.
I only really have one negative point about the book and that is that a couple of instances in the novel involve Rain and various other characters travelling on foot for quite a lot of time, which gets slightly tedious after a while. But hang on in there – it’s worth it! Also a warning to those of you hankering after the traditional ‘happy ending for everyone’ fairytale conclusion; not everyone skips off into the sunset in this tale. Maguire’s Oz it seems has more comparisons with our own world than Baum’s idealistic version full of positive outcomes for all.
Out of Oz is credible, inventive, funny, engaging, well written, clever, original and a fitting ending to a great epic fantasy. If you know Baum’s classic tale, reading this will feel like coming home – albeit to a home that has been given a forty-storey extension, is littered with new faces and isn’t quite as idyllic as you once remembered it. Still, you’ll love it all the same.
Thanks to Veronique at Headline for sending me this book to review.