Tuesday 2 September 2008

Jolly Hockeysticks

Oh dear, did everyone go when I was in Northern Ireland? Hope someone is still reading! Perhaps this will get you to say something... I'm afraid I'm going to take a literary nosedive, and return to that which I mentioned a few days' ago - Enid Blyton and the St. Clare's stories!

I've probably mentioned here before that I grew up on Enid Blyton, reading little else for quite a few years - it does mean I missed out on some gems of children's literature, but can always catch up now (I don't believe you can ever be too old for a good book). Those doom-mongerers who wanted Blyton banned and thought she would provide nothing but illiteracy to generations of youngters would find it hard to say I don't like books now... Blyton provides addictive, but harmless, stories which feed young imaginations and are almost limitless in their quantity.

I loved the St. Clare's series, largely because the central characters are twins. Pat and Isabel actually shun the book stereotype of being either absolutely identical or wholly opposite - though perhaps they are a little too like each other. Neither want to go to St. Clare's; within minutes of arriving they learn to be good eggs and to be true to their school and honest with their friends ya-dah-ya-dah. All enjoyable tripe. Blyton appears to have had a pathological hatred of 'tell-tales' (which always seems to me to be invented as an excuse for teachers to ignore the majority of children's squabbles) and a fervour for sport, and Janet (in the 'good egg' category) is so bluntly rude that I wanted to push her down a well - despite all these things, I've been joyously reliving my youth through these books. Any Blyton fanatics out there? Any children's books which can take you right back to your infancy - or do you avoid them on principle, in case your memories would be tarnished? I, for one, had no notion that Blyton used such a flood of exclamation marks...

Off to Somerset tomorrow, will be there for three weeks. On Friday I will hear whether or not Magdalen have granted me any funding... wish me luck!


  1. Still here but it _is_ awfully dry when you're gone so long. Good luck with the funding!!

  2. I'm still reading! I grew up on EB too, but haven't read any since I was a child. Maybe, now is the time to do so as I have got boxes of them - mainly Favourite Fives - that belonged to my sister. I loved the St Clare series, but preferred the Malory Towers books. On the otherhand I may let them remain in my mind - I recently re-read The Secret Garden (a great favourite when I was about 10) and found some of the magic had gone.

    Have a good time in Somerset and good luck for Friday!

  3. I too, as a child of the fifties, grew up with Enid Blyton until.....my school report stated that (aged nine!) 'my writing style was too much like End Blyton'. Consequently, my father, who I had never known to read a piece of fiction in his life, removed the lot. It was as if they were a really corrupting bad influence! BTW he replaced them with Gulliver's Travels and The Pickwick Papers. I was nine.....

  4. The entire logic behind my reasoning for wanting to go to boarding school was my reading St Claire'd and Mallory Towers. Thus I blame Enid Blyton for the miserable time I had at school! (N.B. No, I don't really!)

    I adored these books and always wanted to change my name to Darrell Alicia Gwyndolyn Carlotta .... there were quite a few other news thrown in there as well!

    Have a great time in Somerset!

  5. Delighted to hear you are reading EB, who I also loved as a child. Strangely enough I picked up First term at Malory Towers a few days ago and have been reading it with great delight (and a bit of horror thrown in!).

  6. My favourite Enid Blytons were the 'Adventure' series - The Island of Adventure, Valley of Adventure etc. I read several of them earlier this year and enjoyed them a lot but not in quite the same way. This time I really appreciated Blyton's beautiful descriptions of the Scottish islands (The Sea of Adventure) but wanted to beat the rude and irritable 'Dinah' around the head for her treatment of the younger Lucy-Ann. My other criticism was that Blyton seemed to like to make boys more interesting. She gave them hobbies such as bird watching and a love of animals. I'm sure this reflects the age she was writing in but I found it grated on me a bit.

    I don't think Enid Blyton will ever be banished. I grew up on her, my two daughters did and now my eight year old granddaughter loves her books but does read other things too. I actually think it's quite important that she does in this day age as we don't want her getting the idea that boys are somehow *better* and have more fun.

  7. I spent many years of my childhood on an exclusive Enid Blyton diet too! And the St Clare's series was one of her best.

    Good luck for the funding! I've got my fingers crossed.

  8. I was a Malory Towers girl in spite of the odious Gwendolen Mary Lacey. I still remember the trauma when I got to around 2/3 through the last in that series and realised that the book had been bound incorrectly and it was the first chapters again!

    I don't think that there was any series of hers that I did not read as a child and I'm glad that this generation of children can enjoy her too. Might have to go into the attic and dig a few out...

    Fingers crossed for Friday.

  9. Nothing to apologize for loving Enid - I grew up on her too - loved the "Adventure" books, especially the Valley of Adventure, and those series of "mystery" books with Fatty and the Scottie dog, and then there was another series with titles that all started with "R" - The Rub-a-dub Mystery" I think was one of them, "The Rat-a-Tat Mystery" - had a character called Snubby, was it? With a monkey? And the Favourite Five of course.
    For the school stories, I loved "The Naughtiest Girl" series and Mallory Towers.
    Blyton is nearly impossible to find now in Canada - all the children's stores snub her, the big box stores won't carry her, except for the odd Noddy book. I think it's unfortunate - she really made me the bookworm I am today.

  10. Definitely still reading! I've just been lazy about commenting...and blogging myself. :)

  11. Count me in! I grew up with Enid Blyton books too and seldom read other children's books.

    My first EB book was Billy-Bob Tales. My sister, who's also another Blyton fanatic, gave it to me. After that, she bought me more and more EB books.

    I've read St. Clare's, Malory Towers, Five Find-Outers, the Barney series, Naughtiest Girl in School, Adventures of the Wishing-Chair, etc.

    The ones I haven't read yet are The Secret Seven and Famous Five. Well, I plan to get my hands on as many EB books as possible and read them all! If possible, all the books she ever wrote! :D

  12. Another Malory Towers girl here! And of course the Famous Five, the Adventure series, the Secret series, the Naughtiest Girl, the Find-Outers, the R series, Mr Galliano's Circus.... I could go on and on and on! My all-time EB favourite? Six Cousins on Mistletoe Farm. Brilliant.

  13. I totally loved EB when I was a child and still have loads in the loft. Loved the Secret Seven, the Mystery series with Fatty etc., Wishing Chair, Naughtiest Girl in the School, and my favourites were the Faraway Tree adventures with Moonface, Mr Whatsisname and Dame Washalot. I can still see them all in my head. Thanks for a great post.

  14. These books and the Mallory Towers ones conned me into thinking boarding school would be wonderful, by the second term I think I realised what the term fiction meant!! However I did love E.B. especially the Famous Five and The Adventure series, so all is forgiven. Loads of luck Simon, shall think of you on Fri.

  15. Ah St Clare's. Freckle-faced Bobby, sharp-tongued Janet, Irene who was good at Maths and Music, Claudine the French girl, spoilt Angela and her terrible mother ...loved them all!

  16. Horrors!

  17. Good luck with the funding - fingers crossed.

    I wouldn't be who I am without Enid Blyton. I love your old editions - did you buy them in Oxford?

  18. So glad to have struck a chord with so many - especially impressed by Vintage Reader's memory for character's names and traits!

    Pip, those were actually a recent buy on ebay, after despairing that we only had two in the series from my childhood.



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