1 November 2020 Susannah

Enid Blyton’s ‘Malory Towers’

Natasha Raphael and Ella Bright in Malory Towers, 2020 BBC TV

Break out the ginger beer, whip up lashings of cream to go on scones, and prepare for jolly hockey sticks and a simply smashing time … for Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers has come to our TV screens. The BBC has made a series of the six novels.

Feminists disapprove, racist comments have been erased from her books, and Noddy and Big Ears can no longer sit in bed together, drink cocoa and feel gay, but the popularity of Enid Blyton lives on. Over 600 million copies of her books have been sold and she remains one of the world’s best-selling authors. Enid Blyton once said that she didn’t care what any critic over the age of 12 thought of her fiction, but from the 1940s librarians banned her works as too simplistic, badly written and “of little literary value”. The BBC was amongst her earliest detractors.

I don’t think I’d have wanted to meet Enid Blyton. Her childhood was a difficult one as her father left them for another woman and Enid blamed her mother for this. She was married twice and she had two daughters – their childhoods were far from the idyllic ones described in such books as The Famous Five and The Secret Seven. Daughter Imogen has described her mother as “arrogant, insecure and pretentious”. There’s a good 2009 movie called Enid where the writer is excellently played by Helena Bonham Carter, and she comes across in that as an extremely unpleasant woman.

It seems that the new Malory Towers is faithful to the books. We will see the fabulously horrid Gwendoline Mary Lacey who declares “Girls only need jobs if they’re too ugly to catch a husband”, and heroine Darrell will no doubt be wielding a lacrosse stick with aplomb!

In Australia you can watch it on ABC iview.

Did you or your children read Enid Blyton? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment.

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Featured image credit- Natasha Raphael and Ella Bright in Malory Towers, 2020 BBC TV adaptation, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt11129816

Comments (12)

  1. Kathy Newton

    I was an avid Enid Blyton devotee as a child. I heard about the librarian ban around the time it was enacted and was totally confused by it. Given the level of imagination I found in the books, the characters and plots I loved, and the places they took me, it made no sense. I took those ideas into my own playtimes: hours of joy when I was playing alone. I think Enid’s comment about the critics age may have value….

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Her books gave untold hours of reading pleasure to millions of children, and that counts for so much. Maybe things in hr books are no longer PC, and her style is simplistic, but she captured the imaginations of children and encouraged them to read.

  2. Carol Reid

    Imagine a world without Moonface or Saucepan Man??? I started on Noddy, moved on to The Magic Faraway Tree (which my children loved, also), loved Secret Seven and Famous Five so much that I tried to write my own novel as a 10 year old, and then relished all three boarding school series. I realised the simplicity of Blyton’s writing when I found the Dimsie series by D.F.Bruce, which had more depth of character and more complicated plot lines and brought the times into play, i.e. the war, for boarding school stories, but that still didn’t diminish my enduring love and gratitude for Enid Blyton sparking my imagination and turning me into a bookworm!

    • Susannah Fullerton

      She did so much to encourage children to read and love stories. Yes, we move on to other, more complex writers, but we can still feel gratitude to Enid Blyton.

  3. Miland Joshi

    I must admit that even as a schoolboy in India in the 70s I enjoyed the schoolgirl stories of Enid Blyton. There were three series of them: St Clare, Malory Towers and the Naughtiest girl series, the latter which, I realised in tne UK decades later, were based on the progressive Summerhill schonever senaol.
    I remember from observing the books themselves, that the first two series were published between 1941 and 1951, and I remember a scene in one of the M.T. books which must have been a way of coping with the austerity of rationing, when the lead character, Darrell Rivers is taken to a picnic and treatd to cold chicken, pickles, ham, tomatoes, and lemonade. All of them, I imagine, would have been hard to obtain in Britain when the books were being written.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      That must have seemed the most wonderful feast to Darrell in a time when rationing was still enforced in England.
      I think children all over the world have delighted in Enid Blyton’s books.

  4. Gabrielle Holles

    Five On Finniston Farm. My first chapter book, and the start of one of my lifelong passions, reading. Enid Blyton’s detractors give her no credit for the huge number of people who learnt to love reading by experiencing her fun escapist books.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Yes, Enid Blyton may not be especially PC by today’s standards, and her writing can be simplistic, but she knew how to tell a story and get young readers hooked. I was an especially avid reader of her Secret Seven series. She can be credited with making millions of children love books, which is no small achievement.

  5. Patricia Martin

    I read over 200 Enid Blyton books as a child and as a teenager. I thank her for the fact that I have been a book reader ever since. I particularly loved the schoolgirl books and no wonder, as a boarder at school, I attended a midnight feast and we were caught out!!

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Wow, that is a lot of Enid Blyton! And I agree that she can be credited with encouraging so many children to love books. I always felt envious, when I read her school stories, of kids who were at boarding schools and could have midnight feasts.

  6. Susannah Fullerton

    Yes, Enid Blyton books were an important part of childhood for so many of us. Hope you enjoy the series.

  7. Carol Noble

    I loved all those books as a girl and my daughter enjoyed them as well. I think The Twins at St Clare’s were her favourite ones. Look forward to seeing Malory Towers.

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