|badgerbag (badgerbag) wrote,|
@ 2008-08-13 11:10 pm UTC
SPOILERS!!! ahahahaaha like anyone cares!
It starts out with Nancy and Helen Corning (remember her?) boating at Twin Lakes. Opening paragraph:
Look at those black storm clouds!" Nancy Drew pointed out to her friend, Helen Corning, who was seated beside her in the bow of the small red motorboat.
Not bad really. Action looms! The red motorboat is sporty and cool! Nancy and Helen pass the Bechdel test in sentence 1 of the book!
Also this is much better than the Hardy Boy books which as I recall, plod along awfully even if there are often guns and motorcycles. I think Moomin actually fell asleep during Chapter 1 of the first Hardy Boys mystery.
I really enjoy the way that utterly mundane things are described to sound like utopia or heaven in Nancy Drew books. In this one, it's the attractive tennis courts of the neat, unpretentious Pinecrest Motel. A motel Nancy Drew goes to is unlike any motel you and I have ever attended. I mean, stayed at. Nancy Drew's motels are more like places you attend, though. Crisp-sweatered youths make tennis dates and attend Youth Dances. The well mannered attendants are happy to attend to any polite requests. But back to the storm. As you may very well recall, Nancy and Helen's sporty red motorboat capsizes though they were excellent boaters. Helen bangs her arms somehow so Nancy has to rescue her. A teenager, Laura Pendleton, rescues them. Her dad died long ago in a boating accident so during storms she likes to walk along the beach in the rain and I guess fantasize about saving people. She saves Nancy and Helen! Extra Bechdel points. Laura is a 16 year old Orphan who has been at boarding school and whose mom just died a few months back. She's staying in the Rich People Hotel which has some fake-native-american name to it. Not the Ahwanee, but something like.
Her guardians have never met her! They are unpleasant, and the lady has straggling hair and is rude and her dress is all muddy! They get her mom's name wrong. FOREBODING. Laura has jewels in a safe. Guardians demand jewels! Nancy is suspicious!
Some more teenagers show up to help Nancy move a fallen tree blocking her sporty teal-blue convertible's path - there is a house rather secretly and mysteriously furnished - I have already forgotten the rest of the book but it is very Baudelaire orphans with the fake, evil guardians. There is a captive who turns out to be the real guardian. The tree-moving teenagers are perfect new best friends for orphan Laura. I think some people get hit over the head. Certainly the real guardian is tied up and weak from hunger. Carson Drew steps in at some point because the thief of the bank securities is STUMPY DOWD who is either the fake guardian or his fellow conspirator. Nancy is tied up but cleverly remembers how to hold her hands so that she can slip free. Oh, meanwhile she goes around supposedly to raise money for a charity but really to investigate. Hannah Gruen the housekeeper twists her ankle so Nancy leaves a dinner party to take care of her (fulfilling all girly duties - but only in a temporary perfunctory way) Within like 3 hours Hannah is up and baking pies again on her crutches. The Drew and Gruen women just roll that way.
There are particularly good fast-moving paragraphs scattered all around... phone calls interrupted by ominous loud scuffles and crashes -
Suspicious people are always rude or aggressive, though they may fake pleasantries in an obviously fake way. They are often disheveled, or slovenly, have a squint or a suspicious manner. Good people have a sort of naturally regal bearing and wear crisp sweaters. Or if they have been mussed by spiderwebs in secret tunnels, deserted boathouses, shacks where they rescue tied-up people, and the like, there is a short scene where they tidy up and drink some hot cocoa and then feel MUCH FRESHER.
I swear! It's so weird!
The dinner that Nancy makes for Hannah struck me as a perfect example of white ethnic food. It sort of glorifies it. I believe a neighbor lady brought a chicken casserole over. Nancy quickly pops it into the oven. Then she makes a salad from crisp, pale lettuce and jewel-like tomatoes. I think they might eat these dinners on TV trays in the living room but it is all described to be perfectly GENTEEL. It is sort of how I imagine my grandma Hen and her inner narrative about the wonder of canned peas as she decanted them into the pot for overboiling. So modern and convenient! In a crisp sweater! Doilies and trays! Tall, cool, glasses of refreshing milk all around!
What the hell is a crisp sweater set? I'll never know! They're only in the Nancyverse!
The badness of the early Nancy Drew books I think are mostly about class. Hobos are definitely suspicious. There are a lot of grifter types. Shady... rootless... con men and women roaming through River Heights!
Later books get more into the racist stereotypes. The one I'm trying to read now is The Mystery of the Ivory Charm. I think there was a giant phase in the ND book formula where Nancy meets a vaguely ethnic person (Scottish... Gypsy... Hindu... Canadian... Hawaiian... like that) they should be an orphan or an old lady who needs help... Or a deserving Young Person ... they either have a mysterious valuable object such as this book's IVORY CHARM or else they are looking for one that's been in their family forever. Ned Nickerson may show up, or Bess and George, to spout a few facts about Country X. Nancy goes on a trip, eats a national or ethnic food, is given a lovely gift, learns something such as a gipsy dance or how to play the bagpipes or speak a few crucial lines of Sanskrit, and makes true friends wherever she goes. One exotic foreigner is always good, and has a large family or tribe or circus or village or Scottish Ladies' Harp-playing club, and one exotic foreigner is the bad, low class one.
I prefer the honkeyverse of River Heights sometimes and of The Bungalow Mystery with its iceberg lettuce.. Back slowly away from that dark man who is about to give you a secret elephant charm... you are about to take a trip to racistville... return slowly and with dignity to your own land of River Heights, where your dad, Carson Drew, a prominent lawyer, will help you help the neat, faded widow lady who smells of lavender and writes a check to your Youth Fund, to sell the family land while discovering its hidden treasure so that River Heights can finally have the perfect golf course and the old lady get rich.. Get in your honkeyverse and stay there! Celebrate its iceberg lettuce and its crisp, pleasant soda crackers as you boldly catch a bank thief for Chief McGinnis!
Nancy is so resourceful. She always has a flashlight on her. "Fortunately, Nancy always carried an overnight case in her car trunk. It contained pajamas and robe, two changes of clothing, toilet articles, and, this time of year, a bathing suit, as well as her crisp, polished, secret triple-bladed dagger with blood groove." Oh wait.
ONward to read another. The Ivory Charm one is making me barf. I think it is a later edition heavily edited. As if they tried to take out the racist bits in this 1974 edition, but forgot some of them, so the plot doesn't make sense anymore. Oh nancy back away from the elephant, the ivory charm, the surly man who claims to be the boy's father but isn't, and the boy with the long eyelashes with the regal bearing who speaks such poetic hindi according to River Height's most learned professor and one of its prominent citizens, and his strange tales of the man who was not his father and the secret his mother told him on her deathbed... The broken English is not helping... I fear we may see Nancy put a new Rajah on a throne in a tiny and oddly named State in India...
I do love the names of the places in Nancy Drew. Pine Crest. River Heights. Beach Cliff.