This week’s Weekly Geeks is about examining a book (or books) which were published in your birth decade. Tell us about a book that came out in the decade you were born which you either loved or hated. Is it relevant to today? Is it a classic, or could it be? Give us a mini-review, or start a discussion about the book or books.
The first author I thought of who had written books in the 1940s was Enid Blyton and one of the books she published in 1946, my birth year is The First Term at Malory Towers. The Malory Towers books (she published 6 between 1946 and 1951) were amongst my favourite Enid Blyton books.
I read all of them avidly! The lives of these girls at boarding school were so different from mine. It sounded wonderful, by the sea, at a school that looked like a castle with towers built on the cliffs in Cornwall.
This is boarding school fiction written well before J K Rowling was born. I loved all the books about Darrell Rivers’ adventures at Malory Towers from the age of twelve, when she first went there. It’s been years since I read them but I still remember wishing I could go to a school like that. There is more information on this book and other Enid Blyton books at The Enid Blyton Society. I had started to write this post and stopped to watch Country Tracks and amazingly part of the programme was about Dorset where Enid Blyton once lived. Even though she located Malory Towers in Cornwall she was actually describing the landscape of Dorset. Ben Fogle was looking at places connected to Enid including the swimming pool cut out of the rocks that features in Malory Towers. The real pool was dug out of the rocks in the 1930s when a headmaster wanted to stop his boys from jumping into the sea from the rocks.
I no longer have my copy, but I do have two of the series – In the Fifth at Malory Towers and Last Term at Malory Towers, in which Darrell is the headgirl of the whole school. I’m tempted to read them again, but maybe I won’t enjoy them as much now as I did before and I’ll find them terribly dated.
The next book I first read when I was in my teens and it is Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake, the first in his Gormenghast series. I found this book in the library, attracted to it by the unusual title. I thought it was brilliantly fantastic and read all three of the series. A few years ago I bought all three books.
This is from the back cover of Titus Groan:
Titus Groan, heir to Lord Sepulchrave, has just been born. A Groan of the strict lineage, Titus is seventy-seventh, he will inherit the miles of rambling stone and mortar that form Gormenghast Castle, and its surrounding kingdom. His world will be predetermined by complex ritual, the origins of which are lost in time; it will be peopled by the dark characters who inhabit the half-lit corridors. Lord Sepulchrave, a figment of melancholy, and his red-haired Countess; Swelter the chef and his bony enemy, Flay; Prunesqallor, castle physician, and his etiolated sister, Irma, and Steerpike, the Machiavellian youth.
This is a strange world and I loved it. I think it has stood the test of time, mainly because it is timeless, set in its own world. And, of course, I’m keen to read them again too.
My third choice is one I read only this year – The Hollow by Agatha Christie. I think this is one of the best Christie books. It is a country-house mystery with plenty of characters who could be the murderer and it kept me guessing, almost to the end. I wrote about it in February. This is also a book I’d love to re-read.
7 thoughts on “Weekly Geeks – Reading from the Decades”
Margaret – So many people got started reading with Enid Blyton, didn’t they? And I’m also glad you mentioned The Hollow. I happen to be quite fond of that book…
I read the Enid Blyton boarding school stories too! They were in my school library, as well as some others whose author I don’t remember. I loved them. When my kids started reading, all I could find in the library system were Blyton’s other series. I started wondering whether I’d mixed up the author. Thanks for the titles! I just put the first one on hold at the library, though there is only one copy, and there are 3 holds ahead of mine.
Lilian, there were also the St Clare books and The Naughtiest Girl in School books – I loved all those. In fact I loved all her books as a child.
The only Enid Blyton books that I really got into were the Famous Five books. I didn’t get around to reading any of her school books which is odd because I adored the 1920’s school stories that had belonged to my mum and read some of them over and over again (although I had no desire to go to boarding school whatsoever!)
Looking at a list of books published in the 1950’s (I was born in 1959), I found a lot of my all time favourites: Charlotte’s Web for instance which I read and re-read and adored and was thrilled that my kids loved too; the Narnia books, my copies of which are so fragile now that I had to buy new ones when my daughters wanted to read them; Lord of the Rings and the magical Once and Future King; Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals – I re-read a scene involving a matchbox which didn’t contain matches a few weeks ago and laughed just as much as when I first read it aged 11.
Are they still as readable now as when they were written – absolutely!
I devoured almost everything by Enid Blyton. The St Clare and Mallory Tower Series were my favorites. I used to fantasize about such schools.
The Hollow is a great AC book. But then I couldn’t resist anything by her.
Here is my Weekly Geeks post!
I loved Mallory Towers and St Clare’s and I desperately wanted to go to Mallory Towers (it was the seawater swimming pool that won me over, even though I am a poor swimmer). I may have to buy the entire series again and read it one weekend.
Also read the Gormenghast Trilogy; found it utterly bizarre but it is one of those things that has stayed with me. I don’t know that I would read it again.
How amazing that we must be within months of each other in age Margaret. No wonder we have similar tastes
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