Friday, 19 March 2010

The Famous Five

I went to visit my baby today. He's stuck at the vet, waiting for his body to conform to what he believes about his body. His next x-ray is on Tuesday and then we'll find out when he can come home (I hope). Anyway, after a delightful visit of much love and cuddles, I was starving. This is probably partly due to the fact that it was lunchtime and baby spent most of the visit eating. So I trotted off to Meadowridge Park 'n' Shop, where I would get myself a sandwich before heading home. Now, I know that there's nothing worse than eating by yourself with nothing to do. Being a local girl, I know that the Meadowridge Library is across the road from the shopping centre and that they have books for sale for 50c. A good price, considering that the books the library tends to want to sell are either the stuff that no-one reads or the really badly damaged books.

So I found The Famous Five in Fancy Dress. Being a collector, I knew instantly that this wasn't written by Enid Blyton. I didn't need the fact that her name appears nowhere nor the fact that it's clearly been written sometime in the 70s, nor the fact that the writing is horrific. This is part of Claude Voilier's continuation of the series. I don't recommend it and I won't be reading any of her others. I don't particularly like the original series, but this is just horrific.

I imagine most people are horrified that I could possibly be an Enid Blyton lover and not absolutely adore the Famous Five. I grant you that certain of the books (such as Five go to Smuggler's Top and Five on a Hike Together) are good, solid adventure stories. Some of them, however, are the worst of children's literature. The fact is that Enid Blyton was able to write one of these (and in fact, wrote many of her books) in a single week, or less. Some of them have poorly thought out plots, some are excessively ridiculous and, the thing I hate most about the Famous Five, the characters are more like caricatures. Julian: oldest, kind of bossy, super-sensible, amazes the grown-ups and is always right. Dick: extra boy, able to get into trouble and behave stupidly as he's not the oldest, able to get into fights. George: super-independent girl, 'as good as a boy', cheeky, hot-tempered, fiercely loyal. Anne: girly girl and wimp-extraordinaire, takes delight in cleaning, cooking and home-making, always scared and in need of protection. Timmy: the most anthropomorphic dog ever. The Famous Five novels are also the clearest indication of Blyton's classist opinions - other children are frequently 'beneath' the Five and need to be taught how to behave properly. For some reason I can deal with the racism and sexism, but not the classism.

I collect these books, because of their nostalgic value and for the few that are actually worth multiple-reads. Also, I want the full set. This, however, is not a series I'd recommend for someone who didn't grow up with them. These are not characters we want a future generation of children to emulate.
[Another difficulty of multiple pictures per post: not putting the picture halfway through a word.]

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