I’ve been nuts about books for as far back as I remember. And mystery has always been my favorite genre.
My love of mysteries began with the famous girl detective, Nancy Drew. She tooled around in her blue roadster, having grand adventures all over the world, with all the freedom of an adult. Only occasionally did she need to check in with her dad, renowned lawyer Carson Drew. She had a boyfriend who was IN COLLEGE! (Though now I wonder why on earth the Nancy I read about didn’t go to college herself…). She had two sidekicks, Bess and George, who backed her up in her dangerous exploits. Two cousins who also, apparently, had no aspirations beyond high school and who were allowed to roam the nation at will. Nancy and her pals were this young girl’s dream.
Nancy (and Carolyn Keene) taught me some interesting vocabulary:
- sleuth – Wow, how cool it must be to have a title like “sleuth!”
- intrigued – Nancy was constantly intrigued by mysterious clues
- chafe – Any time Nancy came upon someone who who was passed out (a common occurrence), she chafed their wrists. Probably not a Red Cross-approved technique. I imagine rather than actually being therapeutic it just pissed off the chafe-ee so much they woke up.
- Titian-haired – In the earlier volumes, Nancy’s hair is described as being Titian. With no Google to back me up all those years ago, I had to ask around to find out what on earth this term meant. And thus learned about an Italian painter who tended toward models with red-gold hair.
My mom was not a Nancy fan. She argued, quite reasonably, that Nancy Drew is not literature. The early mysteries were riddled with ugly stereotypes of women and minorities. Mom preferred for me to read Laura Ingalls Wilder and Louisa May Alcott. Which I did, over and over and over again. I loved both authors.
But there was something about Nancy that intrigued me. Every time I could get to a bookstore I’d search for the latest in the series. Each of the books had a listing on the back of every story, in order. My friends and I swapped so we could come closer to reading the entire series.
Nancy’s look has been updated over the years. Nowadays she doesn’t tramp through the woods wearing heels and a blue suit, carrying a demure purse. She’s a lot more practical now in jeans and tennies. I’m guessing she drives something other than a roadster these days, too. That’s all to the good – much more inviting for the modern young lady. (Here I have to mention, though, that of our three kids neither of the girls read any of the books. Our son read quite a few, however. He loved the mystery aspect.Thank goodness he also read a lot of really good literature.) I did manage to get all three of them interested in Nancy, though, through the awesome computer games by Her Interactive. Best way ever to spend a slow, rainy Saturday – playing “Curse of Blackmoor Manor.”
One thing I’ve always appreciated about the girl sleuth, even in her more old-fashioned incarnations, is that she’s a model of daring and independence. That has to be a good thing.
Long live Nancy Drew!