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.