Monday, August 22, 2011

secrets, spiggy holes

I've been lying around feeling miserable most of the day with a bad cold. When I was a kid, one of the few things that could make me forget sickness was an Enid Blyton book. When my eye happened to pass over this one - The Secret of Spiggy Holes - sitting in my shelf, I felt an unaccountable urge to read it. I told myself, Allie, you'll just be disappointed. The favourites of your childhood are bound to fall short in adulthood. But I picked it up anyway. Enid Blyton was the reason I first wanted to become an author and I will always feel an attraction to her books for some strange reason.

This is one from yet another series written by Enid Blyton, the "Secret" books. Generally extremely unrealistic, exciting and packed with adventures. Written in 1940, it is just as you might expect it to be - full of "queer sorts" and "odd chaps" and "jolly fellows" and suspicious foreigners; subtle racism and not-so-subtle sexism; definitely a product of its time. Same old Blyton formula of 4 or 5 children, doing without too much adult supervision, outwitting the bad guys and doing exciting things. Nothing about this book pushes the envelope.

Having said that - it was, surprisingly, still a lot of fun. I will say this for Enid Blyton - she has a sympathy for things that appeal to children. Somehow, she manages to cram in secret passages, references to smuggling, camping on a secret island, kidnappings, sinister but inept enemies, lots of hearty-sounding food, tree-climbing, running away, long summer days, young foreign princes, at least one orphan, absent parents and independence from too much control.

Heck, these things appeal to me almost twenty years after I first read about them.

This passage may give you some idea of the general tendency of these books. It describes what happened in the last book, The Secret Island.

[Jack] was not really the brother of Mike, Nora and Peggy, and had no father or mother of his own.
But the children's parents had taken him for their own child, because he had helped Mike, Peggy, and Nora so much when they had run away from an unkind aunt and uncle. Captain Arnold, the children's father, had left them at a farm with his sister, whilst he and his wife had tried to fly to Australia in an aeroplane.
Captain and Mrs. Arnold had been lost for months on a desert island, and when it seemed as if they would never come back, the children's aunt treated them unkindly. They had made friends with Jack, who had helped them to run away to a secret island in a lake, and there the children had lived together until they had heard that their parents had been found and had come back to England to look for them.
... now here they all were together again for the summer holidays. At first they had been sad to hear that Captain and Mrs. Arnold were to go to Ireland to lecture there all about their flying adventures - but now that they were on their way to Cornwall together, to live in a house on the cliffs, and do just what they liked, the children couldn't help feeling excited and happy.

This isn't exactly a normal review but because it was so fun I'm going to give it two and a half stars.

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