Thursday, March 18, 2010

Girl Sleuth by Melanie Rehak

Since I'm reviewing Not a Girl Detective, it seemed like a good idea to dig up my old review of Girl Sleuth by Melanie Rahak (and mine is still the lone review there. Come on, it's a good book!) and repost it here, with maybe one or two comments added.

Girl Sleuth is, as the title says, a history of the Nancy Drew series. It focuses primarily on the 2 women who did most of the writing for the first several books--Harriet Adams and Mildred Wirt.

If you're like me, after learning that Carolyn Keene didn't exist (and being terribly disappointed by this; I can't remember finding out there was no Santa Claus; I can remember learning there was no Carolyn Keene and being very unhappy), you learned that Nancy had two "mothers"; the "good" mother was Mildred Wirt, who wrote an independent, confident heroine; the "bad" mother was Harriet Adams who rewrote the books to domesticate Nancy Drew.

It is, of course, far more complicated than that. Mildred Wirt was a splendidly independent woman herself, and she had a lot to do with the creation of the Nancy we all know and love. Harriet Adams, however, was also quite independent: She was, after all, running the Stratmeyer Syndicate in a time when women just didn't head companies.

Making these matters clear is one of Rehak's strengths. She's also clearly a dedicated and careful researcher and--more rare--someone who can write prose you want to read.

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