Monday, August 16, 2010
The Kiddo and Trixie Belden have now been officially introduced. After my rocky start with Nancy Drew, I was a little afraid of whether the Girl Shamus would hold up to the test of time.
I loved Trixie growing up ... I identified with her hatred of all things to do with housework, her difficulties in math and the fact that she blurts out the first thought that comes to her mind. I thought it was cool how the Beldens and Jim Frayne and Honey Wheeler (and gorgeous Di with the violet eyes) all got to go on super interesting trips and solve mysteries. (Psst ... I also had a huge crush on Brian, the would-be doctor). My parents bought me almost every one of the Trixie Belden books for Christmas one year, and I read them all.
So I didn't want this re-reading of Trixie to be a letdown. And I desperately hoped that the Kiddo loved her as much as I did when I was a kid.
That being the case, I girded my loins and started reading THE SECRET OF THE MANSION aloud to the Kiddo. And I was surprised ... by a lot of things.
1) Trixie seemed a little more bratty to me at first ... but I figure that's just the mother in me coming out. The writer quickly worked to make her redeemable.
2) The pace of the story is lightning fast. While I remembered the big plot points (learning how to ride a horse, finding Jim, Bobby getting bitten by a copperhead), I didn't remember it happening in a two-day timespan.
3) For all of her moaning and groaning about housework, Trixie sure doesn't have to do a lot of it ... and apparently the Beldens shipped their laundry out to be washed (remember the big laundry truck that nearly flattens Honey on her first bike ride?)
BUT ... Surprise #4 more than offsets 1 through 3: Trixie is a very real, very human character, and the book is as interesting to me as when I read it the first time. I actually think I prefer her to that paragon of virtue Nancy Drew (the shame of it!). Plus, it's interesting that in 1948, a girl who was fearless and daring when it came to spiders, snakes and the like could be presented in a favorable light.
The Kiddo is very caught up in the mystery, pulled out only to ask questions like, "Mommy, what are dungarees?" and "Do they have to wear helmets when THEY ride a bike or horses?"
Reading old books does require quite a bit of annotation -- that dungarees are the same as jeans, that girls used to wear dresses a lot more than they do now, that a riding habit isn't the same as a nun's habit. But I like the fact that Trixie is still relevant today -- probably even more so than other girl detective heroines, and that her exploits (at least in the first mystery) are in line with what a parent would actually let her get away with. Score!