Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Adventure Series

I love children's books, I've said this before. One of my favourite authors is Enid Blyton. Not the 'updated' Enid Blyton that has edited out all the racism and sexism of her era. I like the original Enid Blyton. It's both a period piece and a good adventure story.

My favourite Enid Blyton series (and she wrote over 500 books!) is the Adventure series about Philip, Dinah, Jack, Lucy-Ann and Kiki, with guest appearances by Bill Smugs, Mrs Mannering and, of course, Philip's menagerie. The first in the series (The Island of Adventure) was written in 1944, the final book (The River of Adventure) in 1955. There certainly doesn't seem to be an eleven year period between the first and the last book and I know I'm not the only reader sorry that she didn't continue with this series. Blyton could have easily used this series to explore far more of the world than she did. The children travel across England, Wales and Scotland, as well as going to Austria, the Near East, Morocco, the Mediterranean and a fictional country.
The only book we didn't own as children was The Circus of Adventure, the one set in a fictional country. I did take it out of the library as a child, but it was never as well read as the ones we actually own. To date, it is still my least favourite in the series. My favourite was always The Valley of Adventure when I was growing up and our copy of the book shows that clearly. The Island of Adventure is fun, but it has all the problems of a first in the series - the characters need to be introduced to each other and to the reader.
The Castle of A
dventure became my favourite as an older teenager. I had always read it least because, up until then, it had been my least favourite of the ones we owned. I suspect that was partly due to the presence of Tassie. I've never been fond of having other characters being anything other than firmly in the background. This is probably also part of why I dislike Circus so much. Not only is there the addition of Gussie right from the beginning, but the entire book revolves around Jack (frequently my least favourite character) and the various people he meets. Not my idea of what one of these stories should be.
The Sea of Adventure is also great fun and frequently one I choose to read. It is similar to Valley, in that the children are supposed to be spending their time with Bill. Something happens (who am I to give the excitement away to someone who hasn't read these), and the children find themselves alone and stranded. That's my idea of a fun adventure story for children. A group of children having to deal with each other, and deal with a stressful situation all at the same time. Frequently when I'm looking for a light, familiar feel-good story I'll pick up either Valley or Sea. Sometimes Castle, but mostly one of these two.
Next up comes The Mountain of Adventure. This is the one set in Wales and, as an adult who happens to have done more than her fair share of science, this is absolutely hilarious. I'm sure, though, that it's perfectly believable for children in 1950, when this was first published. Of course, even without the ridiculous science, this is the least believable of all the novels in this series. Following Mountain, is the original ending of the series, The Ship of Adventure. Mrs Mannering, fed up with their adventures, is determined not to let the children out of her sight, not will they have anything to do with Bill, who is clearly a bad influence. If that went well, there wouldn't be a book, would there? Lucien is irritating and while this is fun, it's not particularly believable. It's not a favourite, but it's not bad. Ranked about the same as Mountain.
The final book, The River of Adventure, is a fun ending to the series. It's not as good as the early books, but it's fun and adventurous, even with the two extra characters attached to the main group.

In terms of characterisation, Philip and Dinah are probably the two most real characters in the book. I don't doubt that girls like Lucy-Ann existed (and probably still do), but she's weak and annoying (though, I grant you, nothing near as awful as Anne from The Famous Five). Jack is selfish, arrogant and annoying. Kiki is ridiculous and unbelievable, though an enjoyable curiosity. Bill is, well, Bill. Having had a certain amount of hero-worship going on for most of my childhood, I don't think that I'm qualified to say anything. Mrs Mannering is annoying. Yes, I realise there has to be someone to object to their schemes and adventures, but really, you'd think after the first three, she'd have gained a little more of a realistic perspective.

The series is well worth reading and is highly recommended for all lovers of adventure series. In my opinion, it's the best series Enid Blyton ever wrote. [And just so you know, having multiple pictures in one post is really frustrating.]

No comments: