ADVENT CALENDAR ’15: Rereading the Enid Blyton’s Famous Five & the Five Find-Outers

The FIve Find OUters

Then: I was pretty much reared on Enid Blyton books. From as young as I can remember, I used to buy second-hand books and there was one particular bookshop in Beverley that we visited regularly which had a little children’s section down a few steps. It had floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. I used to leave with twenty or thirty thin paperbacks, usually mystery stories, and more often than not Enid Blyton.

I read all of the Famous Five books, the Adventure books, the Secret Seven and the Find-Outers. As a result of this I was convinced that a) if I had a dog it would help me solve crimes, b) clues were everywhere, c) I could very easily be a master of disguise, d) all school holidays necessarily involve being tied up and put in grave danger, e) lemons make good invisible ink, f) it is entirely logical to have passwords for your secret society even when you are intimately familiar with every member and g) I could write mystery stories. The last one was roughly speaking true. Alongside the piles of second hand books, I was also bought a string of knackered old typewriters, with which I produced masterpieces of mystery fiction.

In addition to kickstarting my career as a writer, Enid Blyton was also responsible for my mild flirtation with cross-dressing. The Five-Find Outers’ Fatty, despite being twelve, portly and male, frequently disguised himself imperceptibly as a whole range of people, including old women, French students, and carnival greasers. I was convinced I could do the same, and requisitioned my whole family to save me ‘disguises’. As the only people who really participated were my mother and sister, I consequently ended up with a large box mainly consisting of petticoats and blouses. Although my mother later blamed my homosexuality on my fondness for scented candles, she never seemed to worry about having spent my childhood providing me with floral skirts to wear.

Now: I didn’t have very high expectations of either the Famous Five or the Five Find-Outers. With perspective, I could clearly identify that Blyton’s books were sexist, racist and highly repetitive. Re-reading didn’t disabuse me of this: they are, they definitely are. It’s quite surprising that I got through two books without the character of any gypsies being maligned (although she does have a pop at the French in both books. Thankfully, the character named Sooty is not an African-American as I initially feared.)

However, they’re nowhere near as bad as I expected. For the Five Find Outers I read The Mystery of the Secret Room, which was my favourite of the series. I can’t remember why–probably something to do with the invisible ink. A few miscellaneous observations are as such:

  • The plot actually makes sense for three quarters of the novel, right up until the reveal of the criminals who a) aren’t really doing much illegal but are arrested anyway and b) clearly had a stupid plan.
  • The dog is the most developed character in the whole book.
  • The female characters might as well not exist. The same can practically be said of the male characters. In fact, having a band of five characters doing detective work is redundant, as only one of them does anything of note.
  • Has anyone seen their parents? Should someone call social services?
For the Famous Five, I read Five Go To Smuggler’s Top, which was also my favourite, presumably because of Smuggler’s Top itself which is a creepy old house atop an island surrounded by marshes that is impenetrable when the mist and water covers the causeway. (I’m not sure whether this was directly stolen from The Woman In Black , but it was hard to ignore as an adult reader.)
Prior to reading it, I did some research online to find one of what I assumed would be a multitude of essays about the genderqueer nature of George/Georgina, and was surprising to find none. Upon reading, I realised that Georgina’s desire to be George never reads as repressed lesbianism/gender dysmorphia, but instead just reads as an extreme brand of sexism because, y’know, boys are superior. (It’s slightly confused by the casting of Jemima Rooper in the TV show, who went on to be the arch-teen-lesbian of TV.)
A few miscellaneous observations are as such:
  • The plot actually makes sense for three quarters of the novel, right up until the reveal of the criminals who a) aren’t really doing much illegal but are arrested anyway and b) clearly had a stupid plan.
  • The dog is the most developed character in the whole book.
  • The female characters might as well not exist. The same can practically be said of the male characters. In fact, having a band of five characters doing detective work is redundant, as only one of them does anything of note.
  • Has anyone seen their parents? Should someone call social services?
Advertisements

One thought on “ADVENT CALENDAR ’15: Rereading the Enid Blyton’s Famous Five & the Five Find-Outers

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s