So What Are You Reading?

Reviews of Books.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Aunt Jane's Nieces in the Red Cross

Aunt Jane's Nieces in the Red Cross, by L. Frank Baum writing as Edith Van Dyne

Aunt Jane's Nieces in the Red Cross, first published in 1915, is the 10th and final volume of this series written by L. Frank Baum under the pseudonym of Edith Van Dyne. In this volume Uncle John and his two nieces Beth and Patsy are at home in New York when they are visited by two of their California friends A. Jones and Maud Stanton. Jones has just sailed his ship through the new Panama Canal and Maud is preparing to go to Europe to become a nurse to help wounded troops in World War I. Beth and Patsy want to help Maud and soon wealthy Uncle John and Mr. Jones, who is called Ajo, have converted Ajo's vessel into a hospital ship, hired a surgeon and outfitted two ambulances.

This is the most daring plot of the series, which usually has the cousins solving minor mysteries as they engage in some new project like running an election campaign or a newspaper, or vacationing in Italy, California, or upstate New York. Baum plunges his characters into the battle zone on the border of France and Belgium, and has them dodging shells as they scoop up wounded soldiers to treat on their boat. The book explores the true horrors of war in a book written for teenage girls at a time when women didn't yet have the right to vote.

Written before US involvement in the war, the book portrays the problems of a neutral hospital ship on the front line of battle. Both sides are suspicious of their intentions and they have a hard time staying impartial. The ship leaves abruptly after only three months, feeling that they are unable to fulfill their mission. The book portrays well the feelings of US citizens watching the European war. They want to help but are stymied on all sides by their neutrality. Baum revised the book after the US entered the war in 1917, rewriting the ending to show the group actively supporting the Allies and staying much longer.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Aunt Jane's Nieces Out West

Aunt Jane's Nieces Out West by L. Frank Baum writing as Edith Van Dyne
Aunt Jane's Nieces Out West is the 9th of a 10 volume series about Louise, Beth and Patsy, three cousins who meet in their teens through a visit to their Aunt Jane and become fast friends. They also meet their rich uncle John Merrick who realizes these three girls will one day inherit his financial empire and takes an interest in their upbringing. Written by L. Frank Baum, author of the Wizard of Oz series for young children, this series was marketed to teen age girls and written under the pseudonym Edith Van Dyne. Part informational and part detective novel, each volume of the series has the three young women exploring a new subject or place and finding a mystery there to solve with uncle John's help. It is sort of a Charlie's Angels for young girls at the beginning of the 20th century. In this volume Uncle John and the nieces spend the winter in Hollywood learning about the infant moving picture industry. This is a topic that Baum knew well since he had moved to Hollywood, and was just starting the Oz Film Manufacturing Company the same year this book was published. The informational content of the book is how Hollywood worked in its earliest years. They settle into a hotel in Hollywood and Louise's husband Arthur knows three of the guests: Maude and Flo Stanton and their aunt Jane, who are working for a moving picture company. The girls are actresses and their aunt is a script reader.
On an afternoon at the beach, Maude sees a drowning man and dives in to his rescue. Patsy and Arthur grab a boat and row out after her, pulling them out of the water. Uncle John drives the unconscious man to the hospital, where they learn he will recover. The next day the man shows up at the hotel to thank them. He is a man of mystery who seems to be extremely wealthy and, when the cousins decide to start a moving picture theater just for children, he offers to finance their endeavors. However he may not be who he seems to be and the mystery surrounding him continues to build. Finding out the truth about the stranger becomes the mystery part of the book. This is a pleasant novel that will appeal to Baum fans and people interested in early Hollywood.