Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Enid


Did anybody see the programme Enid this week, a biopic of Enid Blyton starring Helena Bonham Carter? It was on BBC4, and is still available as 'watch again' for UK residents. Apparently it got the third highest ever audience for BBC4. I've watched the first half, and it's rather good (though I've already spotted a mistake - the Famous Five are mentioned in 1939, when in fact she didn't start writing the series until 1942). The programme is on quite similar lines to the excellent 1992 biopic with Maureen Lipman, which (whisper it) is available on YouTube. Both, I think, are heavily influenced by Barbara Stoney's 1974 book Enid Blyton: The Biography, which I read years ago, and by which I was impressed.

None of these paint Enid as saintly, by any means - I think the fairy-like goodness of her author-persona means biographers (whether in book or on screen) relish the points of departure, but even so, Blyton seems to have been a far from ideal wife and mother. Not to be read/watched by those who want to keep an untarnished vision of the author, but fascinating if you can cope with it.

Whatever her character, I will cherish her as the author who introduced me to a love of reading. I know there have been bans over the years, but they are ridiculous - as book banning almost always is. Her output is extraordinary - 753 titles, according to Wikipedia, which have sold over 600 million copies altogether. And in fact, the Famous Five books continue to sell a million copies a year - the numbers are frankly astonishing. And yet, why are there no films? As far as I can tell, well-loved series like The Secret Seven, St. Clare's, Malory Towers, and The Naughtiest Girl in the School haven't even been adapted for television. Is there something in them that makes them addictive reading, but wouldn't work on screen? Surely not - I loved the Famous Five series on television... well, I'd be intrigued to find out why. But in the absence of these, at least we can watch works about Enid Blyton's life - perhaps while that takes the spotlight, the BBC and others are reluctant to show the happier side of her life. But I, for one, would love to watch both.

17 comments:

  1. I haven't seen Enid, but it sounds so interesting. I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for Blyton, even though I only ever read the Famous Five series.

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  2. Imogen's version has won out over Gillian's, hence the 'monster' Enid we see on screen.

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  3. I missed it but intend watching it today. Apparently another faux pas is that Enid is wearing some Cath Kidston dresses!

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  4. The bad mother and wife bit I'd heard about before. But wasn't she also an awful daughter and sister ... Altogether flawed, selfish, or driven ... whichever interpretation you choose to put upon it.

    Fabulous program though. I am really looking forward to the rest of the series now.

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  5. I saw it but I was a bit disappointed. I've read the Stoney biog (it's now out in an updated version), and I felt that I would have enjoyed a documentary about Enid with interviews with her daughters more. Am just not sure that I am a biopic fan. But as you say it is interesting to find out about the person who is such a contrast to what one might imagine her to be.

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  6. In which case, Verity, watch the Maureen Lipman version - either on iPlayer or YouTube - which is more of a documentary, and includes the words of the daughters (though at least one of them is played by an actress, if I recall correctly)

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  7. I'm going to watch this tonight on iplayer. Can't wait.

    I was interested to read on the ever reliable wikipedia that Enid Blyton's daughters are estranged - is this because they have different versions of what their mother was like?

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  8. I haven't seen this either but I have wonderful memories of reading the Famous Five books though I only read a few. I really wish I had read more Blyton!

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  9. I didnt catch it, but I can watch it on iplayer I think. Enid Blyton made me LOVE reading. She did dound a fascinating charachter.

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  10. I haven't seen it, but in the Times review they pointed out a mistake. Some text featuring George and Timmy was read out, supposedly from The Secret Island - which isn't a FF book. The idea was that the text was awful, though it seemed to me like the kind of thing I would have gobbled up as a kid.
    Anyway, I got a question right on Eggheads yesterday based on a fact about ventriloguism that I first read in the Five Find-outers.

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  11. I am planning on having a good old watch of this over the weekend or tomorrow night and shall let you know what I think after have had a gander. Shall also check out the other one on the site we do not mention!

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  12. I haven't watched Enid, but I join you in my love and appreciation for her. As a child, I devoured her books, the Five Find Outers were like my best buddies. I also liked the Famous Five, but the Five Find Outers were my soul mates. So many memories...

    Nevine

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  13. I loved Enid Blyton's books as a child - Famous Five, Mallory Towers, Five Findouters, Secret of.. etc etc. The only ones I never took to were the Secret Seven. And like you Simon that's where my book addiction started - I NEEDED to have my own copy!

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  14. A Childhood at Green Hedges by Imogen Smallwood is worth seeking out. I read this memoir by the youngest daughter, Imogen many years ago, so the content of Bbc 4 programme did not come as a surprise. I did think Helen B-C looked very chic in some of those hats!

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  15. I watched it and wish I hadn't!! She was a kind of God to me as a kid, lol.

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  16. HI you have a lovely blog. I am with you on Enid. She made me become the obsessive reader I am today. I spent many happy afternoons in a sometimes difficult childhood immersed in Mallory Towers etc. In fact I truly believe that I have read every book she wrote! So what if she wasn't perfect. We expect too much from people, frankly . She was only human. xoxo

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  17. In my new book on Enid Blyton, I look at Enid Blyton's environmental agenda that was far more progressive for her day and some of her themes on the issue seem to have been appropriated by Al Gore. On insight and in retrospect, probably, they should have awarded Enid Blyton a Nobel prize for her insightfulness in pointing out some of environmentlal pollutants like coal, coke and oil way back in 1947in books such as Five On Kirrin Island Again as well as her profound love of the natural environment as depicted in her Nature lover's series. I discuss many of these aspects in my new book on the writer, titled, The Famous Five: A Personal Anecdotage (www.bbotw.com).

    Stephen Isabirye

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