My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I’m going to be deliberately provocative here and begin with the assertion that this might be one of the best school stories out there.
At first glance, this is a strange assertion to make: The O’Sullivan Twins is the second novel in a series, and it’s not often that the second in the series is the one that stands out above the rest. It’s usually the first, or the last, but those middle novels rarely get the praise. They’re caught, somehow, in a space of bridging from one part of the story to the next, and rarely get positioned as stories within their own rights as opposed to textual conjunctions.
And, yet, once we move past that question of position, of context, then we have to consider the book itself and even that proves somewhat complicated. There are new girls; one that’s a family relation of the O’Sullivan twins and almost too near to the ‘girls we’ve just met’ to be considered as a ‘girl we’re yet to know’; a Girl With A Past, a girl who is lovely, and there is an elaborate midnight feast involving the best possible moment involving sausages I have perhaps to read in this genre.
A ridiculous, wonderful amalgam, and it’s wonderful because Blyton makes it work. She writes this novel with a fixed determination upon enjoyment and pace and readability. A complex author, yes, but one who could write story when she wanted to and this is amongst her best. It’s well told, brilliant stuff, and it hits moments which are both deeply thrilling and rampantly moving, often in the same paragraph. Blyton could write, she could write well, and this is a book that makes you long to go to St Clare’s. It’s a book which presents femininity, girlhood, as a thing with a thousand different faces and there’s something rather exhilarating about reading it and recognising the permissive state of such a construct. Girls can be good, bad, complicated, nasty. These girls can and will be anything they want to be and Blyton will move heaven and earth to allow that happen.