Wednesday, June 29, 2022

31. The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

I have for a long time had this vague memory about a book we read in late elementary school that involved a bunch of heirs coming to a mansion for a will reading and having it be a gigantic puzzle.  I stumbled upon The Westing Game at S.W. Welch and thought it might be it so I picked it up to read to my daughter.  It was an interesting book and an interesting read. She is 9 and I think that some of the book was a bit hard for her to get, more on the way that it was written than the content.  When it came to the actual puzzle, she was much more perceptive and retentive to the details then I was.  However, the narrative jumps from scene to scene without being explicit about it and there is a lot of narrative conveyed by things that are unsaid or in indirect ways, so she had some trouble figuring out what was going on.  I'm not sure if objectively that is bad or good but reading it aloud to a 9 year old made me aware of how indirect the language was and it was somewhat annoying.

The situation and the characters are all quite interesting and engaging.  It is a nice capture of a certain American progressive mentality that was in many ways more mainstream back in the 70s and 80s where labour was not demonized and there was a simplistic but positive acceptance of the concept of diversity.  It also has a nice confidence about the behaviour and thinking of the young characters.  The protagonist ultimately is the youngest, the financially savvy but socially neglected 12 year old girl.  My biggest issue was that the mystery didn't really resolve itself for me in a satisfying way.  It was all just so oblique and the clues so arbitrary that by the time it was revealed, I was kind of lost as to why any of it was being done.  The dead guy was supposedly getting revenge for the death of his daughter by suicide, but in the end there was no revenge and no real explanation of what the point of the complex puzzle will was.  Maybe I just missed it.

Still not sure if this was the book I was looking for.  It may be that I am conflating more than one book and this was part of it.  Let me know if any of you can remember a young adult book from the 70s and 80s about a group of people who come to a mansion for a will that is a puzzle.

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