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Adventures, Picnics and Plenty of Fun with Lashings of Politically Correct Lemonade
on 8 February 2011
Well, these books were all on sale at a local discount bookshop - all hardback too (nice!) and I have to say, what a trip down memory lane. I grew up on many books, including the Famous Five adventures. I am now almost 26 and I couldn't resist getting a few additions to my sort of Famous-Fiveless bookshelf.
I loved the books back then and I'm happy to say I love them, reading them all again now. George is still one of my all-time favourite children's literature characters, Anne still annoys me (in a very endearing way), Dick still makes me laugh and I still roll my eyes at Julian, who seems to think he knows best (which I think is big brother's privilage). I am continuing my trip along memory lane with a sudden (and familiar) obsession with the series.
Alright, Enid Blyton books never are as twisted, humerous and devious as - say - Roald Dahl (another writer I'm very fond of and who I adored in my younger days) and certainly not as dark as a few famous fairy-tales. It's all very ideal and quaint and sugary sweet and a bit 'jolly-hockeysticks' in places - but it's still wonderful. I can see why today's children might find Enid Blyton a little too pure and maybe 'boring' for thier liking, but I don't think you can get away from the fact these books are just filled with adventure - adventures that children can cope with. Realistically, I mean. It's not about saving the world and a race of special aliens - and that's fine by me.
These are books of the time when it was written and reflect a few attitudes that were prominant at the time - I get a feel of children should be seen and not heard, girls should like dolls and not do anything too dangerous, the woman is the mother and should run the home, the father is a studier and works and should be left to do so. But again - it's of the time and I think, if anything, it makes a more realistic world. If you can call their world realistic - it's how children view the world, so I suppose it is realistic enough. I think I thought it was all very realistic and took it as a reflection of their era when I first read it. Reading it now, I have a few 'erm ...' moments, but it doesn't spoil the read.
What does spoil the read for me this time - and the reason I can't give it five stars - is the way the P.C. brigade (or whoever it is) had stepped in and spoilt some of the writing and language that Enid Blyton originally used. Firstly - why change the children's books - children are less likely to pick up on some of the things that have been removed and more likely to just sit back and enjoy the Five's adventures. I'm not saying it's an overly bad thing, I just find it takes away some of the original quality - the copies I and others read as kids were littered with words like 'spank' - so why change it?
Secondly - surely if there is a problem with words like 'spank' or phrases such as 'needs a good spanking' (which was replaced by 'needs a good talking to') then why leave us with characters who are called Dick and Aunt Fanny. Might be just my opinion, but surely, those two names come with more connotation than the word 'spank' ? Don't get me wrong - I would've been upset if they had changed the names (they changed Aunt Fanny to Aunt Francis in the 96 tv series, which I can understand why, but don't understand why they didn't change the name Dick or even the character Nobby's name to go with it - plus a modern-media production is different to the classic literature). If they're going to interfere with classic literature, why not just completely purify it and make a proper job of it instead of nit-picking phrases that were completely harmless when it was written.
To turn that last sentence on his head - why do they have to interfere at all - why not just leave it alone and let it be the piece of classic adventure, innocence and child-hood it was intended to be. They're the ones who read things into it and cheapen it - not the audience. Yes, there might be a few bubbles of laughter at the phrasing - but so what? People at the intended reading age of these books find every subtle connotation funny.