My earliest memories of books are centered largely around the Five Find-outers and Dog. I read the entire series and was very proud of it. I lost interest in the Secret Seven too soon, what with all the unoriginal titles (Good job, secret seven, Hurrah, Secret Seven, Oh we are so cool, Secret Seven). And then came The Famous Five with their hidden treasure mysteries and the sea, mountain and castle of adventures.
With Malory Towers and Saint Claire’s, I was exposed to a whole different world: Scones, Dinner bells, “Jolly old sports”, gullible French mistresses who always fell for classroom tricks and laughed about them later and prep (which is Enid Blyton for Homework)
In retrospect, I wouldn’t call Enid Blyton a great author. She was, however, a brilliant storyteller and I believe they probably invented the word prolific for her. I can’t imagine any other author churning out the amount of books Blyton has, and managing to be a part of so many childhoods in so many places and to at least two generations.
Blyton’s writing technique is fascinating in that there is hardly any. She wrote almost everything spontaneously, cheerfully winging it, without plan, notes or structure. She thought of a few characters and everything else just came to her as she put her fingers to her typewriter. Disclaimer: Don’t try this at home.
She was born in 1897 in London, was married twice and has been frequently called a bad mother by her younger daughter. The BBC rejected her multiple times because her writing was considered ‘stilted and longwinded’. The fact that her stories are as happy, pleasing and refreshing as her real life was erratic and unfulfilled, makes them so much more fascinating.
While I admit that the sexism and rascism, which are a huge part of the controversy surrounding Blyton is all justified, to 7 year old me, it didn’t matter. I never read the subtext because I was too busy imaging being friends with everyone in her books; Who would I be in the Malory Towers series (Alicia. I wanted to be the talented, intelligent and popular one). Her stories flowed seamlessly and even the tiniest bit of drama would have me worrying. I would find myself hoping that Fatty and his friends escaped Mr.Goon, that nobody would catch the girls eating in the dorm room at midnight or that the Famous Five would manage to get out of the cave they were locked into. I wished he characters lived and breathed in my world. I dreamt of my own club with its own secret password and I pretended I really was part of every adventure I read. That’s what books should do.
I devoured her books when they came to me and waited breathlessly for the next ones. I had a library card and my mother’s monthly trips to Flora Fountain were something of a big event. Now, a portion of my salary is kept aside for books, I have a shelf that can barely hold all my books, there are so many authors I love and want to be, and all of it began with Enid Blyton.