Monday, November 28, 2011

What I Read This Weekend

What I Read This Weekend . . .

Out of Oz: The Final Volume in the Wicked Years by Gregory Maguire -- Fantasy

This volume purports to be the final volume of the series that began with Wicked. When the book opens, Dorothy Gale, now 16, is traveling to San Francisco with Auntie Em and Uncle Henry. They hope the trip out of Kansas will put all thoughts of Oz out of her head and make her suitable for marriage. With Toto riding along too, Dorothy compares all the sights to Oz, whether better or not as thrilling. On the morning of April 18, 1906, Dorothy and Toto too are in an elevator car when the car began to shake to quake . . . Back in Oz, Munchinland has seceded from Oz and the two factions are deep in a fierce war. Commander Cherrystone, now General, and his forces take over Lady Glinda's home, leaving her with a skeleton crew. With her are Puggles the butler, Murthy her companion and Rain, the little broom girl. General Cherrystone wagers Glinda that he can teach Rain to read and if he's successful Glinda will learn to cook. When Glinda realizes Gen. Cherrystone wants Rain to read for his own purposes, she learns that the little girl is a valuable spy. They discover a terrible secret about the army and when a Clock of the Time Dragon appears, the boss leaves a certain book with Glinda. She understands the significance of the Grimmerie but doesn't know how to use it. Finally, she and Rain discover a way to halt the army's plans, but it is no longer safe for Rain or the Grimmerie to stay with Glinda so she sends them off with the crew of the Clock of the Time Dragon. Rain joins up with Brr the Lion, his human wife Ilianora (aka Nor from Wicked), the dwarf known as Mr. Boss and later his wife Little Daffy on a long journey through Oz to find a safe place to hide. Rain goes along for the journey, not realizing what is happening outside her little family in the forest. She has an affinity for animals and acquires a rice otter along the way. She has few memories of her early life and no idea how important she really is. The journey is long and dangerous and at last the little family meet up with Liir and Candle and Rain learns the secret of her birth. Sullen and resentful, she wants little to do with events outside the country home where she lives, but the Army of Oz is mighty and their arms reach wide. It's time for the family to leave and to separate once again. A rumor around Munchinland says Dorothy is back in Oz and about to be tried for the double murder of the Wicked Witches. The Lion feels it's time to finally redeem himself for his part in the story by defending Dorothy while Rain is sent off to boarding school to keep safe. At school Rain learns enough to think for herself. She befriends and falls in love with, an orphan boy, a vagabond running from dangerous enemies. To continue on will spoil the plot. The rest of the book deals with Dorothy's trial and summing up the war and tying up loose ends. Most of the book is exposition, devoted to beautiful descriptions of the world of Oz and thought provoking questions. It's slow going but I couldn't put it down because I wanted to know what was going to happen. The story gets a bit bogged down in the middle and the plot seems to be going nowhere. When the denouement begins, it seems to be going nowhere and finishes with a grand summary of events, some teenage ahem "Butter and Eggs" ahem, revelation of secrets and then a spectacularly failure of an ending that could have been the beginning of another book. There seems to be some messages concerning war, parenthood, sexuality, gender issues, destiny, nationalism and national identity but they're harder to figure out than the message in Wicked.

 I really really wanted to like Rain but she's a tough character. She's very ambiguous, part Elphaba but mostly Liir. I related to her affinity with animals but I kept waiting for that to come to more and it never did. She was a victim of circumstances and was acted upon for most of the novel. Rain seems to want to be a victim of circumstances rather than do anything to change her situation. By the time she takes action at the very end, it could be an entirely new novel which I did not like. She's kind of an anti-hero.

I really liked the beautiful prose, especially the descriptions of Oz. I also liked the inside jokes and references to The Wizard of Oz movie, Gone With the Wind, Charlotte's Web and A Little Princess. The full color maps on the endpapers are beautiful and a much needed timeline and summary of previous events is included.

If you've made it this far in my review, I recommend just reading the book and letting me know what you think. I have mixed feelings about it and I wish I had time to reread the series again and analyze it a bit more, but I don't.

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