Enid Blyton Five Go Adventuring Again
Illustrated by Eileen A Soper
Hodder Children’s Books 1997 (1943)
The second in Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books, Five Go Adventuring Again as before features siblings Julian (12), Dick (11) and Anne (10), together with their eleven-year-old cousin Georgina– hereinafter George — and her dog Timothy (also variously referred to as Tim, Timmy and a ‘peculiar-looking’ and ‘terrible mongrel’). Published the year after Five on a Treasure Island but set during the Christmas holidays of the same year, this outing for the quintet also involves intrepid youngsters, unbelieving grown-ups and a few dastardly villains.
Circumstances dictate that the trio again spend time at Kirrin Cottage by the sea where, not unexpectedly, trouble finds them. In 1943 Britain was still at war, though you’ll find no reference to the conflict bar the fact that a secret formula is close to being stolen by enemies of the state.
Previously we’ve had treasure and a castle and an island to whet the attention. This time Blyton pulls a few different goodies out of her bag with which to attract the pre-teen: old wooden panelling, a mysterious parchment with diagrams labelled in Latin, a secret tunnel. The villains, like fairytale baddies, inevitably look sinister: beards, thin lips or piggy eyes give away their innate wickedness. George’s parents, scientist Quentin and housewife Fanny, are no match for her — a sulky but loyal and determined tomboy who speaks her mind, never tells lies and is the most rounded character of the bunch — while Julian, Dick and Anne’s offstage parents are amorphous figures who due to illness provide the trigger for their children’s adventures by sending them out of London.
It’s an unlikely but thrilling tale, if rather tame by today’s standards perhaps. Uncle Quentin is beavering away at some revolutionary chemical formula in his study which has somehow aroused the interest of third parties. A tutor has been appointed for the children to get them back up to speed for work missed due to ill-health, but he rouses George’s ire because of his aversion to Timmy. Meanwhile an old document is discovered by the youngsters at nearby Kirrin Farm, containing hints regarding a Secret Way from there — but where to? Even young readers will spot where much of this is leading, but Blyton plots the route with a sureness of touch.
That’s not to say there isn’t anything to quibble at from the intelligent reader. There’s a lack of detail of exactly how mechanisms work, especially given how long they’re supposed to have been unused. There’s the document itself, penned in Old English script but presumably contemporary with rather later Tudor or Jacobean wall panels. But Blyton knew that most of her readers would care more about the jeopardy inherent in the plot, and jeopardy she mostly provides.
Here’s a curiosity: I’ve noted before the coincidental parallels between the first Famous Five book and C S Lewis’ later fiction The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. In the second Blyton title there’s no lion or witch, of course, but there is the matter of a wardrobe by means of which the children access unknown places, though rather less fantastical.
And now a grumble about the publishers. My copy was issued in 1997 by Hodder and includes the original illustrations by Eileen Soper. So far so good. But why, when it’s quite clear from one line drawing that George is wearing a skirt before she tumbles into bed, is Anne amazed to see that George emerges from bed dressed in “vest, knickers, jeans and jersey”? Especially when, in the original first edition hardback, I see that the text explicitly has “skirt” in place of the anachronistic jeans? More than this, the paperback claims that Five Go Adventuring Again was first published in Great Britain in 1942 when it actually appeared a year later. So, kudos to Hodder for reissuing the title at all with Soper’s illustration, but shame on them for tampering with the details.
This title counts as a book enjoyed in childhood in the Reading Challenge. Though I’m running a bit late with my list of books completed I regret it’s worse where reviews are concerned; hopefully there’ll be some catching up some time.