So What Are You Reading?

Reviews of Books.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Aunt Jane's Nieces on the Ranch

Aunt Jane's Nieces on the Ranch
by L. Frank Baum (writing as Edith Van Dyne)

This is the eight volume of a ten volume series that follows three cousins who are the only heirs to a rich industrialist Uncle John Merrick. He takes an interest in their upbringing so that they can be prepared to inherit his vast fortunes. In this volume, Louise, the oldest has married Arthur Weldon and they have moved to El Cajon, an orange and olive farm outside Escondido California that once belonged to a miserly SeƱor Cristoval who left a large farm, a ranch house and no heirs. The birth of their daughter Jane, named after the aunt who brought the cousins together and gives her name to the series, provides the impetus for Uncle John to take Beth and Patsy, the other two nieces, and Patsy's father Major Doyle on a visit to Louise and Arthur's ranch.
Hearing that baby Jane is being cared for by a Mexican girl, Uncle John is determined to bring a proper nurse from the East Coast to take care of the infant. Patsy suggests that he hire Mildred Travers, a young nurse she has met, who seems ideal and excited about the prospect of going to the Weldon's ranch. Trouble and mystery start when the party arrives at the ranch and Inez, the Mexican nurse, meets and distrusts Mildred. Mildred seems to know the ranch house from her youth but no one in the area remembers her. While Arthur and his friends are in Escondido for lunch, both nurses and baby Jane disappear, setting up the mystery to be solved.
Uncle John's classism and racial attitudes, while common at the time, are distasteful to the modern reader, but are offset by the ultimate good nature of Baum's characters. One interesting feature of this book is its treatment of turn of the century lace smuggling across the Mexican border.


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