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.

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