So What Are You Reading?

Reviews of Books.

Sunday, June 05, 2011


Aunt Jane's Nieces in Society by Edith Van Dyne (L. Frank Baum)

Aunt Jane's Nieces in Society is the 5th in a series of 10 novels written by L. Frank Baum under the pseudonym Edith Van Dyne. The series is about 3 nieces of their rich uncle John: Louise, Beth and Patsy who met in the 1st novel of the series when they were invited to visit their dying Aunt Jane so she could decide which of them, who she had neglected all their lives, she would leave her fortune to. After her death, the nieces are cared for by their rich uncle John Merrick who, having retired from industry, takes them on various adventures which are detailed in the books of the series.

In this the 5th volume of the series, published 100 years ago in 1910, Baum contrasts the simple goodness of the nieces to the pretentiousness and artificial values of high society. Louise's social climbing mother asks John to see if he can use his connections to get the three nieces introduced to New York's fashionable society. John loans money to a prominent socialite and asks his help. This man's daughter Diana sees this as an opportunity to gain influence with the rich financier and takes the three girls under her wing. All goes well and the girls are accepted at their debut and a charity ball. However Diana's cousin Charles Mershone, a socialite sociopath and one of the darkest characters Baum ever created, is smitten by Louise. When Diana takes a shine to Louise's suitor Arthur, she plots with Charles to separate the naive Louise from her fiancé.

Baum creates a good adventure with a delightful new character while shining a light on the artifice of society. Today's reader will find interesting the limitations the three nieces had to work within as young women in the early 20th century.

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