Friday, April 11, 2014

Beverly Gray Books - Historical and Descriptive Blurb

Series books started to be all the rage in the 1930's, and not only for girls (The Hardy Boys Series targeted young boys, and there were already a few British series appealing to this audience). But in the USA, girls' series exploded in popularity which continues to this day. Most popular: Nancy Drew books. However, series which appeal to both boys and girls command a much larger share of the market now (specifically Harry Potter. Other fantasy series).

But there was something peculiarly cozy about having series for girls. They emphasized emotional bonds and conflicts, not shooting and sports. Most of them centered around mysteries/mystery solving, like Nancy Drew, like the Dana Girls, like Cherry Ames, and although incidents that were violent sometimes drove the plots, they were all explained and solved in the end, with the ability of the heroine/female protagonist key.

However...there was one series that drew me like no other. I speak of the Beverly Gray books, bequeathed to me by my mom, bought for her at a stationery and book stores about three blocks away from where she lived in the Pelham Parkway section of the Bronx, during the 1930's, running into the first year or so of the 1940's.

Beverly Gray and her friends met in their first year of college. That drew me, to begin with - I wanted to go to college. Their college was in a suburb of Boston, and they all seemed to live in New York or in its suburbs. All common ground, since I lived in a suburb of NY (Long Island at the time) and liked the idea of going to college in the Boston area. I liked the way they talked, although people who knew more assured me that college girls never talked like that.

But what drew me even more than the setting were the situations in which they found themselves and the places they visited. They went on a world cruise on a yacht with some of their man friends.. They visited Europe and Asia and even the South Pacific. And Beverly herself met one of the most interesting villains I have ever read about - the evil, suave, Count Alexis de Franchiny. Whose brother, it turns out, was a pirate - a tall, tanned, dark haired but also verbally adept pirate. And I was at the age where such interesting villainous men were meat and drink to me. (I still appreciate them, although my taste in villains has changed slightly. Just slightly.) They were both after a map left to the yachters by a dying man in a Limehouse, London tavern. See?  So much more sophisticated than your average series for 8-12 year old girls!

I got through all my mom's books in the series, but by the time I was ready for more, I had also outgrown the Beverly Gray books and had moved onto adult novels, not to mention Lord of the Rings, which I read in Social Studies Class by hiding it in the inside of one of the 1920's desks ubiquitous in my Junior High built during the 1920's.

Girls' series books did a wonderful job of presenting worlds in which girls could lose themselves when pre-adolescent and early adolescent anguish occurred. The Beverly Gray books went one step further; they helped girls to dream of other places, other countries, other worlds, not only to lose themselves, but place and people that danced on the edge of realizable future journeys.

And some wonderful villains.

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