Rereading Enid Blyton

I ordered myself a copy of The Secret Island from ebay. It was always one of my most favourite Blytons – the independent children, running away and living their little self sufficient life on an idyllic island in the middle of a lake.

I’ve started reading it out loud to Smallest, but first of all, I read it right the way through first. It’s such a different time – it was written in 1938. Children whose parents disappear, and their aunt and uncle pull them out of school and force them to do house and farm work. (Domestic servitude anyone?) Most of the children in Blyton seemed to do chores it had to be said, I have distinct memories of Fanny having to do washing before they could go to the faraway tree. The male/ female breakdown grates a little too – the three children discuss running away, and Mike makes the decision, despite Peggy being older.

I don’t know to what extent Smallest will notice that sort of thing at age 4. Should I switch some of the names around to even out the chores as we get further in? Or is it enough to discuss roles, balance out our reading with more modern books that are more evenly balanced?

Difficult to tell. Although I grew up with this sort of thing all around me, and I’ve come out of it pretty well balanced. Is that despite my reading material or because of it? One of the first books I remember reading that wasn’t Blyton or Chalet school is Wizard of Earthsea by Le Guin – I must go back and reread that. And there was a Wrinkle in Time, which has a wonderful non subservient, utterly authentic, female character in it. (I don’t want to say strong female as I think that particular stereotype is being just as abused as the sweet little girl, particularly at the moment.)

Maybe I’m overthinking it all. Maybe The Secret Island should stand as it did when I first read it, a wonderful, slightly nostalgic, and fanciful adventure tale. Were children in 1938 really that self reliant and capable that they could live on an island, hidden away for 6 months? Always assuming that they could find any tiny little bit of space that remains so wonderfully untouched.

What have you been reading this week?



About Jax Blunt

I'm the original user, Jax Blunt I've been blogging for ten years, give or take, and if you want to know me, read me :)

Comments

  1. I re-read Five Go Off In A Caravan.”Anne made supper, she loved having a little house of her own to organise. “You’ll make a wonderful housewife some day,” said Dick. Anne beamed with pride. After supper Anne and George (Georgina) washed the dishes while the boys looked over the map and planned the route for the next day.”

    This was my original copy but I heard they did some editing when they re-released the books in the 1990s. When I re-read it I was shocked – these gender stereotypes had never even occurred to me when I read the book as a child.

    I once showed an English class the original version of the film War of the Worlds (1940s?). The 14 year olds were confused and asked me why the male ‘hero’ was treating his wife like a child as all she seemed to do was cry, scream, cling to him in fright, and sleep while he figured out what to do. It was completely alien to them.

    • Jax Blunt says:

      It really does grate doesn’t it? But it never made me want to be a housewife, so it didn’t limit my ideas particularly.

  2. I loved Enid Blyton. I was more of a Chalet / Mallory Towers girl. Didn’t do me any harm!

  3. I read every Enid Blyton book I could get my hands on as a child, I recently read The Faraway Tree to my son but really found it hard going for many reasons. I am not going to push to read him anymore unless he asks. :)

  4. I loved Mallory Towers as a child and I still have a whole set of Famous Five books.

    I have been reading My Naughty Little Sister and Teddy Robinson to my daughter. She loves them but there are a few sentences that sound slightly old fashioned (and the money is different!). I don’t think it stops the enjoyment for either of us though :)
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