It's all about...popular girls...rec rooms...summers at the lake...dates with wealthy, thrill-crazy antiques...small town political corruption...and finding your true path in life. The Paris Hat considers the sometimes frothy, sometimes serious world of novels for teenage girls from the 1950s and 60s.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Summer on Nantucket

Title: Six on Easy Street
Author: Betty Cavanna
Publisher: Westminster Press, 1954
Setting: Nantucket
Provenance: formerly the property of Chillicothe High School, Chillicothe, Missouri
Fun: running a boarding house, a French exchange student; finding an old diary
Quote: The house on Easy Street was square, and its shingles were weathered to a soft, dove-colored gray. The door was not in the middle, being flanked by a single window on one side and two on the other. The chimney too was a little off center, but the widow's walk, overlooking the harbor, was planted midway on the backbone of the steep-pitched roof.

Unlike some of Cavanna's other books, Six on Easy Street focuses on an entire family. The Sanfords, academics, have inherited a house in Nantucket and intend to open it to boarders for the summer, hoping to increase the family income. What follows is an exploration, by the entire family, of Nantucket: the whaling museum, bicycle rides, beach parties. There are guests to serve, including penny-pinching old ladies who don't tip, and boys, including a homely French exchange student and a cute grocery delivery boy.

The main female character, 16 year old Deborah, resents Nantucket, since it keeps her from Craig, her hometown boyfriend, who has invited her to visit him at his summer place. Deborah does have Carol, her best friend, on Nantucket with her, however. Carol's parents are divorced, and (as divorced parents always are in this era) wealthy and inattentive. The girls have contrasting views of their own families, and what they want out of life: Deborah thinks Carol's father's friends are grand and exciting, and Carol thinks that Deborah's parents have interesting dinner conversations.

Six on Easy Street is mostly fun. All the kids have adventures, including Johnny, the show-off younger brother, who runs away to find his cat. The history of Nantucket -- including the fate of the Essex -- is mixed in easily with the plot. In the end, Deborah, who has saved all summer to be able to go to Craig, gives the money to her family to pay the medical bills after her brother has a sailing accident, and is rewarded when Craig makes a surprise. Good thing she didn't fall in love with the homely French exchange student.

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