ABC Wednesday – E is for …

184709… Enid Blyton

I seem to be going back to my childhood with my ABC Wednesday posts, but I make no apologies for writing about Enid Blyton, whose books gave me so much pleasure as a child going right back to her Noddy and the Magic Faraway Tree books. I also had a few of the little magazines she wrote called Sunny Stories. I could never decide which of her books I liked the most:

  • The Naughtiest Girl series
  • The Famous Five
  • The Secret Seven
  • Malory Towers
  • The St Clares books
  • The Five Find-Outers
  • The Adventure series

I thought they were all marvellous.

Later when I worked in a library I discovered that not everyone thought like me and that some libraries banned her books – not the one I worked in though! The Wikipedia article on Enid Blyton also relates how her work was also banned by the BBC, criticising her work as being ‘stilted and longwinded’. I have to say at the time I was reading them I certainly didn’t  find them so. Other criticisms are that the books are formulaic, xenophobic and ‘reflected negative stereotypes regarding gender, race, and class.’ Her books are very much of their time – she was born in 1897, died in 1968, her books dating from the 1920s, most of the series dating from the 1940s, when lives and attitudes were very different from those of today. I never noticed any class, racial or sexist prejudices when I read her books. I haven’t read her books for many years but I dare say I could very well do so now.

She wrote about children whose lives were very different from mine and that was one reason I liked them. I loved the fact that her books took me to magical places, places of adventure where children could solve mysteries, thwart criminals, be independent of adults and have great fun, a world of mysterious castles and islands, exploring secret passages and hidden chambers and finding buried treasure.

There are a number of websites with information about Enid Blyton – the Enid Blyton Society and Enid to name but two. By all accounts her life was not always a happy one – as the 2009 TV film about her portrayed. Enid with Helena Bonham Carter as Enid, shows her as a mother who ignored her own daughters, an arrogant, selfish and insecure woman. Sometimes it’s not a good thing to know too much about an author’s personal life. I’d rather just enjoy her books.

I don’t have a photo of the real Green Hedges in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire the house where Enid Blyton lived for many years, but the Bekonscot Model Village in Beaconsfield includes a model of the house complete with Noddy in his little car parked at the front.

Enid Blyton's House in Bekonscot Model Village
Noddy at Bekonscot

Weekly Geeks – Reading from the Decades

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.

Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake

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.