Enid Blyton, brilliant or boring?

Following the BBC4 biopic on Enid Blyton (which I missed but will have to look out for on iPlayer) the writer has been the subject of not a few reports and blogs in the last few days. She’s certainly a writer that provokes strong reactions one way of the other.

I have to say I was an ardent fan when I was younger, from the Secret Seven to Malory Towers and St. Clare’s I consumed them all greedily when I was at primary school. I couldn’t tell you exactly what age I was reading them, but I do know that an anthology of Famous Five books was the first ‘grown up’ (i.e. not picture book) writing I read. (I was excited enough to go running through to my parents room in my pyjamas when I realised I could read the pages, so I must have been pretty damn young.)

From Blyton I moved on to modern stuff like the saccharine Sweet Valley High books, Point Horrors and other elective choices such as the Just William books, the James Herriot series and most of Dick Francis’ back catalogue.

Most of the people that level charges against Blyton complain about her simplistic writing style and the fact that a lot of her sensitivities are at odds with the more PC ones we hold today. In fact, when I read The Faraway Tree as research for a writing job a few years ago I balked at some of it. But it’s for children, and in my opinion children need to read all types of texts and be exposed to all sorts of influences so that they can create their own value system and I don’t see why Blyton shouldn’t be one of them.

I’m really curious to know the childhood influences of anyone willing, care to share?

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12 responses to “Enid Blyton, brilliant or boring?

  1. I read quite a bit of Famous Five and Secret Seven when I was a kid, but never the boarding school series. I was strictly about espionage. 😉

    It is kind of sobering to read her stuff now because the dodgy racist bits etc just leap out at you. But I don’t think it did me any harm as a kid – they just passed me by.

    I do remember the young feminist in me being annoyed by the way they never let the girls come along with them on the dangerous trips. And the fact that Anne’s only skill seemed to be “nimble fingers” for untying knots and sewing things. 🙂

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    • ha, I guess I may have mentally edited quite a lot of the less savoury aspects out of my memories. . . I’m pretty sure ‘nimble fingers’ would grate quite badly now. I seem to remember liking tomboy George though.

      I’m rather ashamed to say I read all the girl’s boarding school books and then I read all the books about ballet schools I could find too. Actually, I read some right dross as a child and pre-teen – I hope it hasn’t had a negative effect. 🙂

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  2. I’ve wrote about this biopic too. I enjoyed it. I read all the Blyton books whilst a child, and my child also read some of them. It is true, she does stereotype the Five, but they really did have adventures didn’t they! Adventures over, back they went to their respectives schools after the ‘hols’. What an idylic life they seemed to have, with not a care in the world. I quite envied them in their world where everything turned out for the best and there was always lashings of ginger beer, especially as my world was similiar to Blytons when she was a child. I can understand her escapism only too well. What I can’t understand is that she carried on the same way when she became an adult! Looking forward to Jane Horrocks’s Gracie Fields next week
    Kind Regards

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    • thanks for stopping by.

      I sometimes wish I could hang onto levels of escapism like that, but I suppose I’ll make do with the ginger beer (although maybe with a little Jack Daniels mixed in!)

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  3. Oi! What’s wrong with Scottish whisky, but seriously I loved the Famous Five and Malory Towers was my imaginary home. I was lonely as a child, being the youngest of 5 who were all much older than me and had left home when I was young. Books were my world really but I went from Enid Blyton to Agatha Christie and then Jane Eyre at about 10. I liked the Chalet School books too and Ian Serrallier’s Silver Sword. I missed the Blyton programme too but hope to catch up with it.
    Regards
    Katrina

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    • Oh wow, I forgot all about the Chalet School. Thanks for reminding me Katrina.

      And there’s nowt wrong with a wee dram, but I guess the grass is always greener — that’s the only excuse this Scottish lass can think of anyway 😉

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  4. I live in Kirkcaldy but was born in Glasgow and brought up in Dumbarton. I’ve been all over really, including Essex for a couple of years.

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