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Nancy Drew

from The Nancy Drew Mysteries

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By Suzie

A photo of Suzie Cunliffe dressed as a detective

I jumped at the chance to think about fictional characters that inspired my childhood – the ones who lifted me away from my everyday and joined me at playtime. I was a kid with my nose always stuck in a book – and teen super sleuth Nancy Drew was my favourite excuse to keep the torch on under the bedcovers.

But why?

Now aged 35, it was time to do my own sleuthing; to revisit the stories and scrutinize my own memories and discover just what it was about Nancy Drew that captured my imagination. I was thorough in my investigations. I even got out the torch under the duvet to recreate my old reading haunt. My husband was slightly perplexed.

I deduce that my love for Nancy began because she is a girl who is smart, independent and knows her own mind. There weren’t too many feisty fictional leading ladies around in my childhood reading matter, and finding one with the same strawberry blonde hair as mine would have certainly been a hook.

Nancy has languished at the back of my mind for many years now and it’s wonderful to find her again – to delve deep into stories that later led me on to books by Agatha Christie and Dick Francis. Mysteries were certainly my childhood yarn of choice. And I liked the old ones.

Contemporary accounts were never for me. As a child I watched films like Grease and Summer Holiday and dreamed of petticoats and bobby socks. I have always assumed that the belief that I was born in the wrong decade stemmed from the ideals of the silver screen, and singing along to the music of the fifties and sixties, played from the tape deck in my Dad’sToyota Corolla as we drove around the lanes of Lancashire. I now believe they were also fuelled by Nancy Drew, who was originally created in 1930 and displayed a love of nostalgia even in the 2007 Warner Brothers film.

I still love delving into the past – I sat on the heritage board when I lived in Blackpool, and I am currently following through three ideas for novels, all of which are historical.

Nancy wasn’t a character solely focused on finding romance. Her first love is good old-fashioned adventure, and her desire to help other people and fierce determination to succeed shine through. Even her ‘goodie two shoes’ nature would have impressed me as a child. First to have her hand up to answer the teachers’ questions at school? That was me.

Not cool.

But I didn’t care.

I began to recognise other qualities I aspired to as a child although I cannot be sure which came first: reading Nancy Drew, or simply recognising elements of myself in Carolyn Keene’s teenage detective. I have always sought to solve problems, using careful consideration of the facts; I don’t tend to follow the crowd; I’m pragmatic; and I like to be the first to find a solution. I still admire Nancy’s quick thinking – and her classic convertible and love of cake are also worthy of note.

By far the best thing about Nancy, though, is that she is sure of herself and her abilities. Here was a role model to aspire to –  young woman who was not afraid to be smart, self reliant and adventurous.

Thank you, Nancy Drew.

The 26 writing group has worked with The Story Museum as part of its 26 Characters exhibition. The group have produced a collection of poems, and couldn’t resist being part of the gallery of favourite characters.

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