So What Are You Reading?

Reviews of Books.

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.

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