Thursday, November 30, 2023

V is for Victorine

Nesbet, Anne. V is for Victorine
November 14, 2023 by Candlewick Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

In this sequel to Daring Darleen: Star of the Screen, we find our two intrepid heroines dealing with several problems, two of which financially based. Victorine, who is living with Darleen's family, who run Matchless Photoplay, the company that produced the films starring Darleen. Only Darleen's father knows “Bella Mae Goodwin's" story, but the family have taken her in without question. Everyone at Matchless has to band together to make the Fort Lee, New Jersey studio work, but with costs up, the family is considering a move to California, where many of the studios are taking advantage of the warmer Hollywood climate. This works well because there is a search for Victorine Berryman. There is a reward offered, and Vee (as Darleen calls her) finds out that this is because the family lawyer has died and his son has deemed her grandmother's will, which dictates that money be left in a safety deposit box every month, is not sustainable. With her money cut off, moving to California to make her fortune sounds like a good idea. There are plenty of connections out West, and the girls are planning on staying with the Gish family, but the train trip out is problematic. They end up going with their uncle, who gets arrested when he is accused of stealing someone else's valise. Indeed, their uncles "treasure" (which turns out to be 3D film and glasses) is mixed up with a case containing Egyptian artifacts that were stolen from a museum. Alone in California, they emulate the plucky heroines they play on screen, and get jobs at a film studio. The studio is pleased to have Darleen, who is a bit of a star, and Vee steps in as her "responsible relative" to insure that Darleen gets good treatment. Vee is also delving into writing, reading a book about it by Louella Parsons, and this leads to some opportunities at the end of the book. There are plenty of adventures to have with film dignitaries of 1915 as they try to figure out what has happened to their uncle, to get the artifacts back to their rightful place, and to carve out a new place for Matchless Photoplay. 
Strengths: This is a good sequel that has it's own excitement, although I was glad to find out more about what happened with Victorine's circumstances. My favorite part of this was the freedom that the girls had, and the way that they could portray themselves as younger or older depending on their circumstances. Ah, for the days when shorter skirts and braids made you look younger. I would be all for the dark dress, high button shoes, and lace cap of the elderly at this time! There are so many people they run into; writers, actors, and studio helpers, some of whom were working in Hollywood at this time. There is also a Black actress, the sister of a train porter they meet, who is interesting. There is a bit of discussion about The Birth of a Nation and the problems with that. I'm not sure if young readers would know anything at all about that, but it''s good historical information to know. There's a delightful overall sense of the Perils of Pauline vibe of the films at the time that made this even more enjoyable. 
Weaknesses: I could have used a few more descriptions of clothes and food of the period, but then that's my love of period details. Interior illustrations by Brett Helquist wouldn't have gone amiss, either! 
What I really think: As fond as young readers are of movies and Hollywood stars, I'm a little surprised that there aren't more books set in Hollywood. Evans's Audrey Covington Breaks the Rules  is a good choice  for a more modern book, while Wiley's The Nerviest Girl in the World  is set around the same period as this one. Rubin's The Women Who Built Hollywood 12 Trailblazers in Front of and Behind the Camera would be great to have at one's side while reading this, to double check who was real (although there is a nice note at the end of the book). I would have loved this one when I was young, and would have gone to great lengths to locate some of the photoplays on late night television, if they ever aired! With the internet, it will be a lot easier to see actors like the Gish sisters in action! 

1 comment:

  1. My older daughter is too old for this book now, but she would have LOVED it, I bet. Sounds like a really fun series so far. Thanks for your review!