{13/01/2012}   The Famous Five

I am currently researching and planning for the writing of a children’s story. I love children’s stories because I love the concept of story, of a proper beginning, middle and end. I am reading various kinds of fairy tales at the moment and am about to start some darker Angela Carter fairy stories.

Today I looked through my book cases for inspiration and came across “Five Go Adventuring Again”, an Enid Blyton Famous Five story.  My mum gave it to me, it says: “For Karina, to remind you of your piano concert.”  Going by the date, I was eight.  I have a dreadful memory so have no idea of the connection between a piano concert (surely I wasn’t doing concerts at eight, I definitely don’t remember that!) and a Famous Five story.  Maybe when I’ve read it I will recall the connection, but I doubt it.  I loved The Famous Five and, to a lesser extent, The Secret Seven.  But I am slighly apprehensive about re-reading one of them in my adult years.

I had a teacher when I was 8/9 who was extremely strict and scary.  At that time, I recall that her children were adults, but that when they were children they, like us in her class, were not allowed to read or possess Enid Blyton books, I think for political reasons (I am properly intrigued what I will think reading one again).  She said that if anyone gave her children books as presents, she would open them and if they were Enid Blyton, she would replace them with more suitable books!  I always felt this was wrong, even more so now I think about it!

I am now going to share my fuzzy memories of Famous Five books (and please bear in mind this is likely to be wrong, I really do have a dreadful memory).  I will at some point write about the book post-reading.

I recall the five being four children and one dog.  There are two boys and two girls, though one girl is a tomboy.  I don’t recall one boy being whatever the opposite of a tomboy is though.  Hmm, I fear it will be quite sexist with the girlie girl looking after everyone.  There are definitely adventures.  I have a horrible feeling the girlie girl will stay behind to cook lunch or something equally dreadful.  I think the tomboy girl will be the source of the best ideas.  I think the dog will bark at opportune moments and save the day at times.  I think all baddies will be thick men.  If this sounds un-PC, it is because I am pretty sure these stories were too.  This book was originally published in 1943, wow, we were still in the midst of the Second World War.  I expect one of the main reasons I liked these books was because of the tomboy and my desire to be like her, ie like a boy.  Oh dear, I am beginning to understand why our teacher banned them!  I wonder what the adventures were about, maybe based around spying on people loading vans with illegal things … or am I straying into A-Team territory?!

I guess if nothing else, the reading of this book will be a lesson in how society has changed over the past 69 – no, surely not that long – years.  That said, I read and enjoyed this particular one 41 years after publication. As an eight year old, maybe I was just brainwashed into thinking it was ok. I have a definite niggle they were not ok!


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