Item description for Aunt Jane's Nieces by Robert A. Baum Edith Van Dyne...
Aunt Jane's Nieces by Robert A. Baum Edith Van Dyne
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 8.7" Width: 6.22" Height: 0.91" Weight: 0.97 lbs.
Release Date Mar 31, 2003
Publisher International Wizard of Oz Club
ISBN 193076409X ISBN13 9781930764095
Availability 64 units. Availability accurate as of Oct 24, 2016 06:08.
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A Masterpiece Jul 2, 2003
What began as a pseudonymous attempt to ape Louisa May Alcott became an ingenious reworking of the ideas of Shakespeare's _King Lear_ to fit Baum's personal views. The book is the first in a series of ten, but is a very strong standalone novel. In it we are introduced to Beth DeGraf, 15, the bright daughter of a poor Ohio music teacher, Patsy Doyle, 16, a fiercely independent hairdresser, and Louise Merrick, a flighty near-17-year-old living on life insurance that has her on the lookout for a husband--both of whom are in New York City. Each is alerted that their aunt, Jane Merrick, is dying, and that she wants to meet each niece and see if she is worthy of her fortune. Beth and Louise are each determined to make Jane like them, while Patsy refuses, despite her station, to accept any charity, until Jane sends furhter pleas.
The nieces meet each other for the first time at Jane's mansion, Elmhurst, not expecting to find another. They are informed that the estate will go to whomever Jane likes best. Louise and Beth become enemies for a time being, which makes Jane gravitate toward Patsy, who reminds her of herself. She was given the mansion as the dying wish of her fiancé, on the provision that she care for his family, which consists of a 16-year-old nephew, Kenneth Forbes, who is the ward of attorney Silas Watson. Jane finds Kenneth contemptibly stupid, since he is an artist afraid of girls.
Not only that, but Jane's brother John, who supposedly made money canning in the Pacific Northwest, comes back in tattered clothing and a filthy white tie, and she expects he has come to drain her as well, since none of the family ever did like her.
Patsy attempts to make contact with Kenneth several times, but he has an escape route across the roof and down a tree, and Patsy seriously injures herself chasing after him. This is a major turning point in the relationships of all the characters, who are nowhere near as simplisticly defined or predictable as I suggested in my first paragraph. Strong, real, and heartfelt, with Baum's vivd style transporting you to Elmhurst and its colorful staff (Donald, Misery, Susan, Oscar, and the rest) as easily as he does to Oz. It has plenty of plot twists to keep you guessing, too.
It's no wonder the series was so popular as to spawn nine sequels (in which the characters grew and changed, married, got jobs, and had families) that spread beyond focused the teenage girl readership to boys and adults. Back in print after an absence of nearly seventy years, this book deserves to be revered, and mentioned within the same breath as comparble books of the period like Frances Hodgson Burnett's _The Secret Garden_. That Baum was a strong supporter of women's rights gives this book a startlingly contemporary feel, as if written in the present about the past, despite its distinctively Baumian rhythms and 1906 narrative language and pacing.
I am currently at work on an operatic adaptation, which shows how deeply this work sung to me. I give it my highest possible recommendation to you, too. If your daughters enjoy books about life in the early-20th century, this is an absolute must-read for them. And read it yourself, too, you may be as charmed as I was by the three cousins, their Uncle John, and their dying aunt who wasn't so much mean as an independent, intellect-driven free spirit in a time when that was much more frowned upon.