Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The Nancy Drew Project: The Secret of the Old Clock

When I was a kid I was a huge Nancy Drew fan.  I remember anxiously searching library shelves to find mysteries I hadn't read yet and being completely outraged that my Grandmother had donated my mother's collection during one of their movies.  What I didn't know is that the version my mother read was most likely not the same version that I was read.  I learned in the last few years that the Nancy Drew series was given a "refresh" starting in 1959 and I couldn't resist trying the original version and comparing it with the newer "modern" version.

1930 Version:

Page Count:  210
First Sentence:  "It would be a shame if all the money went to the Tophams!  They will flyer than ever!"

1959 Version:

Page Count: 180
First Sentence: Nancy Drew, an attractive girl of eighteen, was driving home along a country road in her new, dark-blue convertible.

Notable Differences: 
In the original version Nancy is 16 versus 18 in the later versions. 

Nancy's friends Bess and George are nowhere to be found and are replaced by Helen Channing who is described as a long time friend of Nancy's.  

The housekeeper Hannah Gruen is still there but she is the maid not the housekeeper and it's made very clear that Nancy is in charge of running the house which includes meal planning, ordering groceries, and working with a budget.

The harrowing scene where a little girl runs into traffic which leads Nancy to meet the two elderly aunts, learn of a theft and discover the whole missing will in the first place is completely missing.  Instead Nancy is already aware of the issues regarding the will and the questions surrounding it and comes into contact with two sisters who were expecting the inheritance on her own.

Nancy herself is completely different.  Instead of being constantly nice and charitable, Nancy can be a bit blunt.  She dislikes the two Topham girls who seemed to be the beneficiaries of the will and doesn't really pull her punches.  Instead of judging a store clerk for being gossipy she is interested and quick to encourage her confidences.  And at one point she even withholds evidence from the police.  To be honest I liked the 1930s Nancy way better.

The writing style in general.  The newer version is very simplistic and has an almost lecture-y tone at times whereas the original version is faster paced and more exciting.  The lecture-y tone is gone in favor of just telling a good story.  As well there was quite a bit about daily life that I found interesting.  We see more of how Nancy runs the house as well as seeing the difficulties that two sisters she becomes friends with better explored.  

The basic plot and outcome is pretty much the same.  Nancy is intelligent and pretty much left to her own devices to solve the mystery.  

My Overall Thoughts:
I tried to read the two books 5 chapters at a time to really compare the two but the newer version was so simple and childish compared to the original version that I ended up stopping that.  I'm not really sure what version I read but considering it was off library shelves I wonder if it was a mix.   There are some that are really stuck in my head but others that have faded into nothingness.  I wonder if the ones I vividly remember were the originals.  

I really enjoyed this reread of a old favorite and am so glad I took the time to revisit the world of the Nancy Drew and River Heights.  If you're a fan of Nancy Drew I definitely recommend a revisit though maybe try and get your hands on the original version.  I don't think you'll be disappointed!


  1. I heard the same thing a while back, about the Stratemeyer Syndicate reissuing the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books with "updated" content. I've often wondered just what kind of changes they made- nice to see you comparing these. :)

    It looks like the changes were pretty substantial! Those opening lines are totally different. And Nancy DOEs sound way more interesting- what a shame they made her so saccharine for the updated. It does sound like tracking down the originals is worth it!

    1. Well I know they made some changes in the 1960s and 1970s due to the early Nancy Drew books needing some political correctness. That's putting it nicely.

  2. This is so ironic. I visited a church the other week and they were giving away books, so I did the Happy Dance when I found 7 Nancy Drew paperbacks. But they were copyrighted 1987. Ugh...(lol) I haven't had a chance to read them yet, but looks like they may be on the shelf for awhile since they're so different from the ones I remember as a kid. Great review and thanks so much! Hugs...RO

  3. Thanks for a great post. From time to time I've thought of revisiting the Nancy Drew I enjoyed so much growing up. Wish I had kept all those hardback copies I had as a girl.

  4. I read the original how interesting that they changed her age.

  5. It's interesting how varied they are in writing style, although I suppose not surprising. I grew up reading the Nancy Drew books too, which my mom had read in her younger years as well.

  6. I haven't read The Secret of the Old Clock in many, many years. Does the updated version mention Bess and George or is Nancy just on her own? The Hidden Staircase is my favorite (obviously, ;) ), I have the second 1950s version of the cover art (there are three cover art versions for most of the first 24 books). I *think* it is still the original text, but I need to check. Unfortunately, I can't as we just packed our books away to redo our floors. I am curious now to know which version I've been reading! I know I do have an updated version, I bought a new Hidden Staircase with a very modern cover a few years ago. If they are different I'll have to read both and compare. The sounds like a fun project!

  7. Oh wow, Nancy Drew. I used to love those. Although the Hardy Boys may have been my favorite :)

  8. All of my babysitting money went to buying the latest Nancy Drew book back in the day. How I loved buying those books. I'll have to see if they are still around or if my younger sisters demolished them after I'd moved on to other authors!

  9. I didn't know that about the Nancy Drew books. It sounds like there are some significant differences between the two versions. I've never read Nancy Drew, but I had a friend in school who LOVED them. I wonder what versions she was reading.

  10. How interesting about the two versions. I never read Nancy Drew, I guess it never made it to NZ in my time. But I think the earlier edition sounds a lot better.

  11. That's crazy how much was changed and some of it seemingly so random.

  12. I had no idea! Why would they even do this? I am not sure if I read any Nancy Drew books but it sounds like the version of the book would have made a huge difference.

  13. Oh, I didn't know that. The set I have is probably the updated version.

  14. Interesting. I adored Nancy Drew when I was a kid, but I had no idea I wasn't reading the original versions of the books!

  15. I can imagine they would have updated some of the schoolgirl slang, apart from anything else...

  16. Wow! I knew they had updated the books in the '50s-60s, but hadn't really picked up on how much the stories and characters had changed. I think I had a mix of older and newer versions in my childhood (late 60s to early 70s) -- some had belonged to my mom, and had the blue or blue tweed covers, while others I was given as gifts and had the early picture covers.

  17. I think I read the 1959 version a few years back - not even sure how I came to be in possession of it. There were definitely some things that I liked about it as a book for young girls but it did seem simplistic.

  18. It's strange, but I didn't read any Nancy Drew. We had The Hardy Boys and The Bobbsey Twins at our house, which I thought were my mother's but then I'm thinking that they may have been family books and someone else got the Nancy Drews. :)

  19. We had the Hardy Boys and the Bobbsey Twins books at my house, but not any Nancy Drew books. I'm thinking that maybe one of my mother's other siblings must have gotten those because it seems strange they wouldn't have had that series, too. This means I have never read any of those books. :/