Five Fall into Adventure by Enid Blyton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
There’s a little part in this where Julian, after detailing the current predicament that the Famous Five have gotten themselves into, remarks, “…This is all very stupid and melodramatic” and it’s kind of the highlight of the entire book for me. It’s a breaking of the fourth wall, a moment where Blyton throws all of her stubborn fire at the critics and goes ‘well, yes, it is kind of melodramatic but it’s what happened and besides I’m writing this and not you’ and I love it. The Famous Five are such iconic figures, even to those who maybe have never read any of the original books, that Julian’s wry little comment sings of wall-breaking and authorial intervention, and it’s great. Give me more of this Blyton, more of this author and her stubbornly determined narratives that barely pause for breath.
The ninth of her Famous Five adventures, this is a fairly standard sort of affair. Something happens, something else happens, somebody pops up, shenanigans, shenanigans, everything’s fine and we’re back at home in time for tea. And oh the food in this book! It’s great, and a reminder of Blyton’s childish eye for detail. Note that I don’t use childish in the pejorative manner, but rather as a recognition of Blyton’s eye for perspective. She got children. She understood them. And, for a book first published in the 1950s, she knew what made them tick. Food. Fun. Friends.
This isn’t high literature, and that’s a debate that, in a way, I’m bored of when it comes to Blyton. What I find interesting and exciting about her work is how it is so fiercely determined to make sure the reader has a good time. These are books that will be read even when the reader isn’t sure that they want to do such a thing and they’re still remarkably accessible even to present-day readers, what with her use of syntax and bluntly direct prose. It’s not pretty, but it is remarkable and so very, very, brilliantly readable. I suspect that it’s long past time to bring Blyton in out of the cold, and let her be remarked upon as one of the canonical lights of children’s literature.
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My thanks to Nikesh Shukla for the tweet that unknowingly prompted this pleasant and super nerdly distraction from my thesis …
- The Famous Five are Julian, Dick, Anne, George and Timmy the Dog. 4 humans and 1 dog. For the purposes of this post, we’ll discount Timmy (as much as it pains me) and thus work with 4 individuals.
- With their respectively privileged circumstances, let’s say everyone has a fairly high life expectancy where they all hit seventy eight or so and thus meet approximately 80,000 people each.
- (There are other numbers around, but this is based on each of them interacting with 3 new people a day. Which is a big and ambitious number, but I imagine, something that socially thrusting and somewhat irritating Blytonian characters are more than capable of. “Here’s your paper Miss.” “DID I TELL YOU ABOUT THAT TIME ON KIRRIN ISLAND?”)
- 80,000 people x 4 gobby souls = 320,000 individuals met in total.
- The books were published between 1942 and 1962.
- UK’s population in 1942 = 48 million (ish)
- UK’s population in 1962 = 55 million (ish)
- So let’s, roughly, say an average population of 52 million (yes, roughly, I know, shut up, this is the most maths I’ve done in years…).
- And that through their life the Famous Five meet approximately 320,000 people
- We can therefore conclude that the Famous Five are Famous for almost 1% of the population of the UK.
- So not very famous.
(Thank you to the lovely @yayeahyeah for helping me check my maths! I am no mathematician … can you tell?!)
I’ve been reading a lot of Enid Blyton recently. From her gloriously mad autobiography through to the Famous Five, her mark on children’s literature remains arguably unsurpassed. And when I was on holiday in France recently, I was startled and then greatly pleased to see rows and rows of freshly issued Blyton books in the supermarkets.
I’ve been reading a lot of very excellent articles recently on the nature of women characters. Zoe Marriott is very interesting on the topic. In a post titled “REAL GIRLS, FAKE GIRLS, EVERYBODY HATES GIRLS”, she talks about the nature of female characters in children’s literature and the reaction to them in comparison to the male characters. It’s a heartfelt, passionate read and one worth dwelling on.
It seems to have been a bit of a week for passionate oratory. In “I hate strong female characters”, Sophia McDougall talks about how male characters such as Sherlock Holmes get to be “brilliant, solitary, abrasive, Bohemian, whimsical, brave, sad, manipulative, neurotic, vain, untidy, fastidious, artistic, courteous, rude, a polymath genius. Female characters get to be Strong.”
And all that leads me to think about Anne.
TVTropes defines her as The Chick and the official website refers to her as being “a little bit absent minded but loves to look after the other members of the Famous Five especially if it involves making them a delicious picnic!”.
Want to know the truth?
It’s all lies.