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The Merriweather girls at good old Rockhill (edition 2012)

by Lizette M. Edholm

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131723,089 (3.75)1
Member:nsh11
Title:The Merriweather girls at good old Rockhill
Authors:Lizette M. Edholm
Info:RareBooksClub.com (2012), Paperback, 50 pages
Collections:Your library, To read
Rating:*****
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The Merriweather girls at good old Rockhill, by Lizette M. Edholm

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As a young reader, I could never work up much enthusiasm for that "classic" (and ubiquitous) girl's series, Nancy Drew. I suppose I felt that once you'd read one, you'd read them all, and the writing itself just wasn't interesting enough to compensate for the formulaic nature of the books. Imagine my surprise when I discovered, a few years back, that the versions with which I was familiar were actually revised and condensed editions put out in the 1950s; and that the original books - first published in the 1930s - were longer, more individual, and much better written! They also, unfortunately, contained many social and political ideas that were outdated, and sometimes downright offensive.

Despite that fact, the slower narrative pace, the wonderful period details, and the quaint vocabulary - characters frequently have "chums," and drive "roadsters" or "touring cars" - make for a charming reading experience. Even the antiquated social ideas, while quite disconcerting at times, offer a fascinating glimpse into the mores and mindset of many of the people of that period. I devoured these "original" Nancy Drew titles, reprinted by Applewood Books, and found myself developing an interest in some of the other girls' series of the early twentieth century. I am always happy to discover a "new" series, particularly one I have never heard of before, and was therefore quite pleased when this title came through work.

The Merriweather Girls at Good Old Rock Hill is the final installment of a four-book series published in 1932. Like many such books, it provides a brief summary of the other titles in the first few pages, so the reader need have no fear of beginning at the end, as it were. It follows the adventures of five close friends (four originally) who attend the same boarding school, and together make up a private club they call the "Merriweather Girls." The girls all came from wealth and privelege, and have the sort of adventures that the average American girl of 1932 could only dream of: boarding school in an old castle, aviation lessons, shopping trips in New York City, etc. There are, of course, the necessary tensions and mysteries, the life-threatening final crisis (involving an airplane, naturally), and the expected happy resolution.

While the writing here is somewhat uneven, with a tendency to jump quite suddenly from the conclusion of one scene into the description of the next; and the "mystery" is blatantly obvious in its solution, I did find myself enjoying the book. The strict adherence to the idea of honor, particularly on the part of Bet Baxter, was refreshing to see, although I think some modern readers might be surprised at how scrupulously the characters define honesty. The book had a curious mixture of progressive and conservative tendencies, as it concerns the status of women. On the one hand, the author seems to have a "can-do" attitude about girls, asserting that they can do many of the things that boys do: driving, flying, etc. On the other hand, she also seems to adhere to the Victorian notion of female "goodness," in which girls should be endlessly forgiving, almost angelic in nature.

Finally, I was particularly struck by two things while reading about the Merriweather Girls and their many adventures. The first was Bet Baxter's reflection that if she "were one of those sweet, kindly souls you read about in books, I'd ask that girl to spend the vacation with me, and then the unpleasant jealousy or whatever it is, would suddenly clear up"(114). Naturally, Bet ends up doing just that. But the passage in question reminded me strongly of many short stories written by the wonderful Canadian author, L.M. Montgomery, in which the plot resolution comes as the result of just such a holiday invitation. The reference, whether or not it was to Montgomery specifically, made me smile. Second, I had to laugh when the characters refer to the abnormally large size 7 shoes of one of their number! And you thought we had body-image problems these days...! ( )
1 vote AbigailAdams26 | Jun 28, 2013 |
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The fourth volume of the series sees the Merriweather Girls attending exclusive boarding school Rockhill, where they have many adventures.
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