Monday, October 17, 2016

61 Books: #55

The project: to read 61 books, of whatever sort—short, long; literature, schlock; prose, poetry: you name it—before December 4, 2016.

The first ten books can be seen here. The second ten are here. Nos. 21–54 are below this post.

55. Ellen Raskin, The Westing Game (1978) (10/17/16)
Sixteen variously unrelated people are invited, first, to move into the newly constructed Sunset Towers apartment building—which faces east and has no towers—on the shore of Lake Michigan and then to attend the reading of the will of a certain Mr. Westing, who lived up the hill in an imposing mansion. He calls them all his "heirs," though none of them understands why. At the reading, he further introduces a game (Mr. Westing loved games): he divides the sixteen up into eight teams of two and gives them all sets of clues, random words. "It is not what you have," the will suggests, "it's what you don't have that counts." And off they go, each relying on their own and their partner's expertise,  wits, and conjectures in hopes of winning the $200 million inheritance.

It's a kids' book: it won the Newbery Medal in 1979. It's clever, and quite silly. It's also like a cartoon: most of the characters are strictly two-dimensional, and it's slapstick in the frenzy of the action, with scenes careening now right, now left. In the end, the various clues—involving "America the Beautiful" and chess, fireworks and the cardinal directions, a limp and disguises—add up pretty well, and everyone involved finds their own measure of success and happiness.

The winningest character is thirteen-year-old Turtle, aka Tabitha-Ruth, aka Alice. She kicks people in the shin, protecting her personal space (and creating quite a few limps); she suffers from being in the shadow of her lovely older sister, Angela; she's a whiz at the stock market. And it is she, in the end, who solves the ultimate puzzle—and never tells a soul.

No comments:

Post a Comment