Thursday, March 15, 2012

Aunt Jane's Nieces At Work

Now on to Aunt Jane's Nieces At Work. As you can see, this one has some cover damage. Likely some moisture getting to it. The cover is also slightly warped, so if I had shelf space for all these books, it'd be pushing the next book to the side.

I had been informed that this must be a first edition, because of the blue on the pastedown image. However, this can't be the case. The book was first published in 1909, and this page in the front of my copy lists all the current titles:
What do all these authors have in common?
Yeah, all the way through Aunt Jane's Nieces and Uncle John, which was the book for 1911.

Furthermore, I can definitely identify this as a 1911 printing thanks to this inscription:
 Well, Felix, you definitely had a nice taste in books to give as gifts! Though whatever their name is (Minnie? Trinnie? Frinnie?) might not have treated it well. (Or they may have. Never know how many times it could have changed hands in 100 years.)

So, on to the story!

Kenneth Forbes (the heir of Aunt Jane's estate) needs help! After noting some advertising painted on rocks, fences, and barns, Kenneth is disgusted and offers to work with the farmers to get rid of them. However, this is more than he can handle, and he soon becomes an object of ridicule, mainly thanks to district representative Erastus Hopkins. However, it is an election year, so Silas Watson suggests that Kenneth runs against Hopkins, who quickly makes the young Forbes look like a misguided fool. So, the nieces and Uncle John hurry to Elmhurst to help him—with their well-polished speech and kindly actions—win the campaign!

I was surprised that Baum wrote a story that dealt directly with American politics. He'd done a few in other countries and in Oz (think of the political upheaval in the first two Oz books), but he didn't seem too keen on writing about American politics. This is an exception, and—so far as I know—the only story he wrote that did so. (He wrote some pieces and poems about politics.)

It's also clear here how Baum sided politically. Hopkins is a disagreeable man who stoops to spies, ridicule and slander, and even false votes to win. He also owns some mortgages, expecting the people who owe him money to vote for him for fear of foreclosure. And he's a Democrat.

Kenneth, running on the Republican ticket, responds softly to his criticism, gets research done, and helps to make the lives of the people in the district better before he is elected.

One such example is the case of Will Rogers and his daughter Lucy. No, not the cowboy and movie star Will Rogers, it's an old man in this book. Lucy was falsely accused of stealing a diamond ring and was told she must either return the ring or pay for it, or be tried. Her boyfriend Tom forged a check to pay for the ring and was thrown in jail. Lucy ran away from home and hadn't been seen since. And the missing ring? The owner found it in a vase.

Kenneth, when told about the trouble by Will, bails Tom and employs him as his secretary. However, Tom and the nieces spot a new girl working at Elmhurst who Tom says looks identically like Lucy. However, when he talks to her, she doesn't know him, and there is no air of dishonesty to her at all. If this is a double, where's Lucy? And if this is Lucy, what is going on?

Everything is wrapped up at the end of the book, and we may assume that happy endings are had by all.

I did wonder how the election would play out. Even though Kenneth, Silas Watson, Uncle John and the nieces manage to intercept many schemes by Hopkins, there was always the chance that Hopkins could still win honestly. Was that what happened? I'm not spoiling it.

I enjoyed this one, too, even though the nieces' actions aren't front and center, they are still very essential to the plot as it unfolds.

However, I decided I needed to keep myself in some Thompson for that presentation at Winkies, so after I finished this one, I picked up The Wish Express. Not a long one... Want to hear about it?


Eric said...

Good detective work on the probable publication date, but I wouldn't put as much stock in the inscription date. Just because it's dated 1911 doesn't mean it was published that year. It could have been languishing on a shelf somewhere for a couple of years, or the giver may have bought it used. The advertisement is a much bigger indicator, as I'm sure you know.

Jared said...

The inscription just tells us that it can't be after 1911. If by Christmas you're still writing last year's date by habit, you're doing pretty badly.