You may be surprised to learn that I had never read a single Nancy Drew book until last week. As much as I read as a child and teenager, Nancy Drew never crossed my bookshelf. The idea for this blog came to me while reading The Hidden Staircase so I think this is as good a place to start.
The reason why I started reading Nancy Drew was inspired by a literary journal I am subscribed to called Clues: A Journal of Detection. In the current Volume 36, Number 1 there are two articles about Nancy Drew. Before reading the first article titled “Taking The Hidden Staircase to the Murder Castle…” I wanted to understand the context. Although The Hidden Staircase is the second book in the series, I decided to start there. Next, I went back to book one The Secret of the Old Clock as the other article discusses the first five books and how the 1930’s editions were rewritten and modified in the mid-twentieth century (In fact I did not know until reading the second book, then the second article in the volume “Nancy Drew. Sexual Deviancy, and Re-Writes in Twentieth Century America.” )
(This post will not get all scholarly – don’t worry.)
Stumbling upon Nancy Drew through a literary journal was a happy accident. (In fact, finding that literary journal was a happy accident in itself, while searching “Poirot” in Google as one does…)
What I enjoy most about these books is they make me feel like a little girl. I think that is the appeal of Nancy Drew for many of her readers. They are super short – about 180-200 pages – and are so enjoyable! I used to be the kind of reader who thought she had to read a certain type of book and a certain number of pages in order to quality as a “Reader” with a capital R. But over the last several months – after falling into a major reading slump – I decided I was going to read what I truly felt like reading at any given moment.
Aside from how fun and smart the character of Nancy is, one of the most interesting parts for me in terms of the story telling was the writer’s use of meals to show the passage of time. I’m not sure if these were in the original books, but the meals Nancy had – especially in The Hidden Staircase – were quite elaborate. Often, the writer would say “After breakfast.. ” or Nancy would say they would explore something “after luncheon.” The description of the meals made me want to be pals with Nancy! And even wish meals today were as elaborate and formal.
One thing I enjoy about my favorite detectives are their level of class: Poirot, for example, has a method for dress and dining. Nancy, too, has a level of class that is comforting. In the first two books I appreciate how kind she is to everyone and although obviously financially comfortable, she does not look down on those who are not and is sure to keep the Tophams in check (Poirot has this characteristic as well, but there will be more than enough posts reserved for the Greatest Detective in the World!).
Curled up in my reading chair with these two books made me feel comforted and peaceful. I think for most people reading is a way to find a sense of comfort, peace, or escape even if the subject matter is not as relaxing as Nancy Drew. I plan to go through the entire series up to the 1980’s. There are lots of books written beyond the 1980’s and one of them is about a mysterious e-mail… Not sure I can get on board with that, but we’ll see.