Saturday, August 31, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Nancy Drew Mystery Stories The Clue in the Diary

Back in June I posted my first review of a Nancy Drew book. (You can read about it here.) My review compared the original, unabridged version of The Clue of the Tapping heels with the much more widely recognized--and abridged--version, the one with the familiar yellow cover.

I was pretty intrigued with the differences between the two books--which I felt went far beyond what was strictly necessary to update the story. But I was even more intrigued to discover that ALL of the familiar yellow cover Nancy Drews are abridged versions of the original stories. Being a collector, I vowed to keep searching for more unabridged versions of the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories.

And well...

Here it is:
I was thrilled with my find. Having already read the Yellow Cover version of the book, I couldn't wait to dive in. What changes would I find? Would there be entirely new subplots and characters that had been removed from the Yellow Cover version, as was the case with the original Clue of the Tapping Heels? Would I come across any uncomfortably racist remarks? Anything was possible.
(That's the Yellow Cover version)
I'll give you a summary of the plot in a moment, but first the numbers:
The Original Version of The Clue in the Diary has 202 pages and 25 chapters
The Yellow Cover version of The Clue in the Diary has 174 pages and 20 chapters--so it's 28 pages and 5 chapters shorter.
The story starts out with Nancy and her friends Bess and George enjoying a picnic after a long day at a carnival. They're tired but happy, because it's been a fun day. At the carnival they met a poor woman with an adorable daughter named Honey who they befriended. They intend to keep in touch with them.
On the drive home Nancy and the gang come across a fabulous mansion on fire. They stop to help (though what kind of assistance they could possibly lend escapes me) and learn the mansion belongs to a wealthy but unscrupulous man named Felix Raybolt ("Foxy Felix") and his wife. Fortunately, the couple isn't at home, though Nancy does see an unidentified man fleeing the scene. She fails to stop him, but recovers a diary he dropped in his haste to leave.

Both versions of the book begin this way. In fact, as I read further into the Original Version I was struck by just how closely it resembled the Yellow Cover book. I had had a decidedly different experience with The Clue of the Tapping Heels. The two versions of that book diverged greatly right from the get-go. I decided to do a close comparison of the first fifty pages of both books, just to see what I could see.
In the first 50 pages of the Original Version Nancy and the gang go to a carnival, meet Honey and her mom, stumble upon a fire, find the fateful diary, have a fender bender, meet Ned Nickerson and come to learn that "Foxy" Felix Raybolt made his fortune by swindling investors--and that poor Honey's dad was likely one such victim.
The same goes for the Yellow Cover book.
So how do the first 50 pages of the two books differ? As it turns out, in mostly aesthetic ways. For example, in the Yellow Cover version of the story, George Fayne, friend to Nancy Drew and cousin to Bess Marvin, was described as slim and short-haired. It's also said that she "enjoyed her boy's name." The Original Version of the book described George this way:
She gloried in her athletic prowess, scoffed at anything feminine, and went to great lengths to explain to strangers that George was really her name and not a nickname.
George had cropped her straight hair as short as the style would permit, and combed and brushed it as infrequently as possible.

(an artist's rendition of George from the Nancy Drew computer games)
As an aside can I just say that George is a woefully underused character in the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories? I always found her to be a delightfully subversive character for the time. Imagine a young woman named--of all things--George in the 1930s loudly and boisterously eschewing all things feminine? I LOVE THIS.

Anyhow, back to the comparison. Do you see what I mean about the differences being merely aesthetic? It almost begs the question: why change anything at all?
And how about this?
At the scene of the fire, Nancy's car is hit by a careless driver. Ned Nickerson, ever the helpful young man, accompanied the gang to a mechanic and stuck around long enough to be sure that they'd be able to get back home safely. Just before the girls depart, Ned says:
In the Original Version:
"You girls haven't seen the last of me," the young man called gaily after them. "I know the road to River Heights and you musn't be surprised if  I follow it one of these days!"
In the Yellow Cover book:
"You girls haven't seen the last of me," the young man called gaily after them. "I know the road to River Heights. Don't be surprised if I follow it one of these days!"
The first passage contains 35 words, the second 33. Clearly that selection wasn't edited for length. So, then, what was it edited for? Style? The Original Version of the book was published in 1932. The Yellow Cover came out in 1962. I don't think grammar conventions had changed in those thirty years to such an extent that the term "musn't was deemed to antiquated. Or had it? It's still recognizable today.
But there was one other change in the first 50 pages of the novel that I can only conclude was done to make Nancy Drew look better. Or at least, look less like an over-privileged lawyer's daughter.
The diary that the young sleuth recovered from the scene of the fire was written mostly in Swedish. Nancy discovered this late one night in bed when she tried in vain to read it. But how, do you ask, was Nancy able to identify the particular language that it was written in? Well that depends on which version of the book you're reading!
In the Original Version Nancy recognized the language because she used to have a Swedish maid.
"I wish  now that I had kept that Swedish maid. She couldn't cook but she might have been able to read this for me."
In the Yellow Cover book Nancy knew the foreign language was Swedish because she had an old Swedish friend.
"I'll have to find someone who can read Swedish," she said to herself. "If only Karen were here!" But Nancy's former schoolmate had returned to her native country with her family. I love Nancy Drew but even I have to admit that the flippant statement she made in the Original Version came across very bratty. Spoiled bratty.
Ahem. Well. In either event, both versions of The Clue in the Diary finished well. Nancy and the gang successfully proved that Honey's father hadn't set fire to the Raybolt mansion and Foxy Felix was convinced it was in his best interest to pay the impoverished inventor for the patent he stole from him. Best of all Ned and Nancy hit it off!

(I think this scene happens in a later book!)


  1. Way less changes but weirder ones overall. This is intersting look at books written by the same writer but different time periods.

    1. Thank you! I'm sooooo enjoying my travel back through the Nancy Drew universe!