So What Are You Reading?

Reviews of Books.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Aunt Jane's Nieces on Vacation


Aunt Jane's Nieces on Vacation by L. Frank Baum writing as Edith Van Dyne

Aunt Jane's Nieces on Vacation is the seventh of a ten volume series written under the pseudonym Edith Van Dyne by L. Frank Baum. The series chronicles the adventures of three young women who are all nieces to John Merrick, a rich childless industrialist. Uncle John takes an interest in their upbringing because they will be the heirs to his vast fortune, and the books chronicle his adventures with them.

In On Vacation, the three nieces, Louise, Elizabeth and Patsy, return for the summer to Uncle John's farm in the upstate New York village of Millville where they decide on a whim to start a newspaper. Rich Uncle John buys them all the equipment they will need, setting up a modern newspaper print shop in an empty building, and the three nieces learn what it is like to put out a daily paper.

The description of an early 20th century newspaper from set up to production makes this an interesting story. Add in some local intrigue with a new paper plant, immigrant workers and a local politician. Season with a talented Bohemian female artist and a mysterious vagabond with amnesia. Stir well with Baum's talent for positive prose, and you have a delightful tale for a young woman of 100 years ago.

While we today may marvel at Baum's depictions of the locals, foreign workers and the members of polite society, these archaic portrayals are useful in getting a view of social structure and perceptions in 1912 just before the start of World War I.

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