There must already be a number of references to Mrs Blyton elsewhere on this blog, but well, here's a focused appreciation of why she was so important at 9DR and to me. First if you're interested, here's the wiki link. You might as well learn some stuff about her! You'll read for example that her parents divorced when she was 13, and I'm sure that this played a role in her relentless effort to recreate a "jolly good" group atmosphere within her associations of boys and girls, where parents are rather distant figures. I recently read that there was a mother in the Famous Five... something I had overlooked: and this website says that she's called Fanny, the children's aunty and George's mum: "Julian, Dick and Anne's parents are very rarely seen, and rarely even mentioned, as most of their adventures take place on school holidays while visiting the village of Kirrin."
Anyway, I'm not quite sure which book by Enid Blyton I read first... perhaps some Noddy series when I was smaller? I don't know, and this ignorance makes me wonder about who was responsible for dipping us into the Blyton bath? Auntie Olive the educator? She certainly was the one who poured most of the stuff over us! I've mentioned earlier that we were sent these magazines where some of her characters could have cropped up: perhaps this what started it all? Or the golliwogs? Or simply some Noddy books... There was also the crazy Mr Twiddle, which I believe Auntie Olive loved more than I did, because I fancy she would refer to him in her letters, thinking that I liked him a lot, whereas I really preferred other heroes more my age (didn't mind him though!).
I don't know how many series EB has done, some more learned people have probably made a list. But the ones I was lucky enough to meet when a boy were the following: The Secret Seven, The Famous Five, The Adventure series, and The Adventurous Four. And preparing this article I realized I had also read a number from the Mystery series. Of course there are tons of resources on the web, which I haven't researched. For example, just by typing a few words, I stumbled on this website, where you can actually download all of the Famous Five books! And this one is a blog by EB enthusiasts (they are a group of more than 15 people!), some of whom have a collection of 300 books!...
So lucky, yes, and I say this facing those (politically correct) whistle-blowers you always read about when dealing with the author, according to whom she was down deep a British snob, a racist and I don't know what. The trouble is, this is what adults see in her prose. I wasn't an adult. And I would just like to seize the opportunity of thanking her for the innumerable and glorious hours spent in the company of her books. I owe her some of the happiest time of my youth: isn't this an amazing achievement? She didn't even know me, and yet she was that influential? If this isn't a testimony to the power of literature, I don't know what is.
So first things first, The Famous Five. I don't know when it all started, but suddenly here I am, frantically reading away, pent up in mum's little bedroom at 9DR, stuck on the bed and hopelessly devouring the series one after the other. I would actually spend the whole day there, a prisoner of the little paperback things, and emerge, dazed, after hours of drugged, adventure-filled sessions - after which the days would spread, wide open before me, and people would go down to WS Smith at The Triangle and actually supply me with more of the dreaded addictive stuff!! There was something about the books which just felt so thrilling... what was it? Perhaps the names? I mean, look at these titles above: Billycock Hill! Finniston Farm! Can you resist such names? I mean, Demon's rock, Mystery moor, Smuggler's top... Unless you're hopelessly gone with Man U or Aston Villa, you have to feel the pull of those names.
Then the pictures. Three cheers for the artist who drew all these great covers and inside illustrations. I used to thoroughly dislike the later artists' renderings, which seemed to me a form of betrayal of the spirit of the books. Too gaudy, too quick, too photo-like... I did read some of the series with these dreadful covers though, I admit, but it was in states of sheer desperate withdrawal. I remember still to this day the triumphant feeling of joy when Auntie Olive had located one or even sometimes two of the yet unread books. Even the number of the individual stories in the series was filled with a sort of magic. Reminds me of the passion with which we collected the PG tips cards. Needless to say that I kept a count of the books I had read and the ones not yeat read, and when finally the 21 were finished, I felt a sort of loss... But well, this was without counting on Mrs Blyton's output!
Because of course when The Famous Five and Secret Seven had been read, there was the Mystery series, and this is actually a discovery I made thanks to the fact I started writing this post: I had forgotten them! Yet the last page of my 1974 diary faithfully records that I had read that year no less than 12 of them, almost all in a row! In fact it's rather fun: I started swallowing a full 6 of them (the mystery of the burnt cottage, the disappearing cat, the secret room, the spiteful letters, the missing necklace, and of the hidden house) and then it was one other book, one Mystery book, one other book, one Mystery book, etc., as if I wanted to make the pleasure last longer, or as if I knew that I could always come back to the safe value of Enid Blyton after having tried other things. Amazing, because all this had been smothered under layers of memories, and I had to unearth that diary page to realize it. Needless to say I remember nothing of the stories!
On the other hand, I have a less faint memory of some other ones, such as the Adventure series: I think they must have been intended for slightly older children, for I know that they provided a very welcome change from the previous ones, especially the secret seven, which nevertherless I made sure I had been through all 15 novels. See, I still know the number of titles (I did just check though!), which is something I believe I know only for these two Enid Blyton series. I've read many books in series, and there aren't any other series for which until this day I can say how many items in the series there are. I don't know how many Adenture books there were... Okay, I went to see: there were 8, and I think I read all of them. Great stuff, really, to be inhaled at any time, will lift your spirits and make you enter into a world of dreamlike passion for secret passages, spies, islands, danger, night events, torchlights, fabulous picnicks... and the four friends are carbon copies of their younger counterparts in The Famous Five.
One last word - it seems that I read my last Enid Blyton book (Fun for the Secret Seven) at around 16! Or perhaps I didn't dare record any later books on the lists which are at at the end of my diaries... But this goes on to prove that the lady was a wizard, perhaps not as wizardy as JK Rowlings, but enough to have kept me in thrall for all these hours and days and years! But with all the great children's books around nowadays, my generation of Enid Blyton lovers is probably doomed to slow obliteration.
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