Long ago, before Harry Potter appeared on the scene, and even before the Babysitters Club made their first appearance, young girls read about the adventures of some remarkable girl sleuths. While there were a whole host of girl sleuths, the most popular two were Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden. I read, and reread, both of these series, but my favorite, hands down, was Trixie Belden.
I spent many a summer tucked in our back porch, reading about Trixie and Nancy’s adventures. It’s completely appropriate, that the highlight of my reading summer has been the discovery of yet another girl sleuth. My recent glom of Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce series (okay, not sure if it counts as a glom since so far there are only two books), has me thinking a lot more about these original girl sleuths, and comparing them to Flavia.
Make no mistake, while the Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden series were written for children, the Flavia de Luce series is for adults. Although different, Nancy and Trixie’s lives were presented as fairly wonderful. While Flavia does have fun, her life is far from ideal. Nancy had a perfect, supportive father, and Trixie had a wonderful loving mother and father. In contrast, Flavia has a remote father, who she believes may have committed murder.
Nancy is always perfectly groomed and dressed. In contrast, Trixie gets grubby, and runs around in jeans, and has no desire to be girly. Although 16 (or 18, depending on the book), Nancy is very mature. Trixie acts like a young teen, and I think this is why I preferred her to Nancy. I admired Nancy, but thought Trixie had more fun. And honestly, I thought Trixie’s “boyfriend” Jim was much more interesting than Nancy’s Ned.
In personality, Flavia comes closer to Trixie, in that she definitely gets dirty and grubby from time to time. But as much as I love Trixie, even I can admit that Flavia, with her knowledge of chemistry, is much brighter than Trixie ever was. But Flavia also has a bratty edge that neither Trixie nor Nancy had. And Flavia delights in using her knowledge of chemistry to play some fairly horrible tricks on her sisters, tricks neither Nancy nor Trixie would ever dream of doing.
The mysteries which Trixie and Nancy solve are very different from those faced by Flavia. Trixie dealt with such things as a hidden diamond (The Gatehouse Mystery) and the search for a missing new friend (The Red Trailer Mystery). Nancy solved a wide variety of mysteries, including missing valuables such as a clock and will (The Secret of the Old Clock). But at their heart, Nancy and Trixie’s mysteries were always rather innocent, almost adventures. I never worried that Trixie or Nancy was in real danger. In contrast, Flavia deals with genuine murders. I truly feared for her safety at several points in The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. Flavia also faces such grown-up problems as post-traumatic stress disorder (although not labeled as such), a distant father, and sisters who seem to hate her.
Flavia is closer to the family gardener than to any of her family. Flavia doesn’t appear to have any friends, and I’m really not certain if she attends school. Nancy had her loyal friends George and Bess, while Trixie has the entire Bob-Whites club as her friends.
I’m looking forward to reading many more mysteries featuring Flavia de Luce. While I’m curious about what she might be like as an adult, I really hope that the author keeps her young. While Trixie and Nancy were the girl sleuths of my childhood, Flavia is definitely the girl sleuth for my adult years.
I’d love to hear from any of you who read the Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew series. If you did, which was your favorite?
– LinnieGayl AAR