Grown up Blyton: The Language of the Dead by Stephen Kelly

WARNING: THIS BOOK IS NOT AS COSY AS SOME OF THE OTHERS I HAVE REVIEWED FOR YOU. SOME READERS MAY NOT BE COMFORTABLE WITH THE STORY’S CONCLUSION.

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However, I read it, and I’ve got nothing else to bring you this week. So I’m just putting that warning out there for you guys. As you’ll see with this review, the story itself fits into our Grown Up Blyton category, but the outcome of the story doesn’t fit into that cosy crime category I have been trying to read to bring you but to be fair until I got to the end of the book I had no idea quite how things would turn out in this mystery and what a turn they would take.

That aside, I was impressed with this book, its story and the essence of the war it captured. Shall we take a closer look?

A world away

Whereas Enid Blyton’s  books would largely ignore the war and what went on in it, The Language of the Dead is actually deeply aligned with World War Two, the struggles, the hardships and the realities of war. For this book we’re somewhere in Hampshire, not too far from Portsmouth for example, and very much in the range of the German bombers who are flying across the channel every night. It adds another layer to the book, especially with the need to sort crime scenes before the black out has to be imposed and there is the constant threat of an air raid siren going off.

As you can probably see it creates quite a closed in feel to the story, the limits, stretched man power and the threat of invasion. Roll it all together with a murder or three and then you really start to get this book going.  Stephen Kelly really does well to capture War Time Britain even though some of the spellings of words such as favour, do make it obvious he is American. This aside, the actual quality of his work, his mystery and his research is impressive. It is a very well written read for those interested in the quality, as someone mentioned on Amazon, in the reviews it is perfect for those who are fans of the TV show, Foyles War, even some parallels can be made between the characters and this was partly why I decided it would be worth a go. Plus I don’t read very many war mysteries and this seemed like a good one to try. I usually go for the post-war novels because they tie in more with the peace of Blyton’s novels, but I was pleasently surprised by Kelly’s effort.

The Actual Story

Overall, I was pleased with the way the mystery took us in very different directions, exploring different possibilities with the idea of witchcraft and rural myths and legends. The eccentric Lord was a nice touch as well, and a very typically American thing to do, slip a slightly dotty Lord so and so into the mix just to British it up a bit.

Inspector Lamb was well written, nicely rounded off, and not over the top. Kelly created a nice, older, steady character who assess situations and creates a calm air around him in which he uses to calm his staff and solve the mystery in the best way and to the best of his ability. He has a gentle wife who is worrying about their daughter who has gone off to help the war effort in a town a little way away. It turns out that Vera Lamb, the inspectors daughter is key to blowing wide the mystery her father is working on. This is something we find sort of repetitively, but its used well and with a nice twist into the big revealing moment.

The only issue for me, is like I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, the actual reason behind the murders isn’t the most pleasant, which takes it out of our crime noir category really and into something much more thrillery. So you need  to read this book with caution, but it sure twists and turns to make you get to the conclusion, even if it is less than cosy.

Recommended 

I would recommend this book to people, for sure. Its easy to read, the story keeps the mind engaged and as part of a series is definitely one to keep an eye on. I’ll look forward to seeing how the characters develop and how the events of the war effect Inspector Lamb and his team. Give it a read and let me know what you think!

 

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Putting the Famous Five in Order part 2

THE TRICKY PART – 18 MORE TITLES

As I said at the beginning of my previous post, I had in the past loosely grouped them into ‘most favourites’ ‘middling favourites’ and ‘least favourites’, so perhaps that’s a good place to continue from. If I can have three groups it’s less daunting to order 5-6 books at a time than 18!


THE OTHER FAVOURITES

I have quite a few for my other ‘most favourites’: Five on a Treasure IslandFive on a Hike Together, Five Go Off in a CaravanFive Go Down To the Sea, Five Get Into a Fix, Five Go to Demon’s Rocks and Five Run Away Together.

But how do I order these?

Seeing as I put both Smuggler’s Top and Five on a Hike in my list of six favourite Blytons I would have to put Hike – with its iconic Two Trees, Gloomy Water, Saucy Jane and Maggie Knows, delivered in the dead of night by a bullet-headed convict – in second place again. Well, I don’t have to, but I still agree with myself on that order so I will.

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Two Trees and Gloomy water is an eerie and effective settings, and the location of the Saucy Jane is genius. It’s such fun to watch the Five work it out and retrieve the loot.

Then… let me see. Five on a Treasure Island, the very first book which introduces us to the Five and the type of adventures they would have. They are no doubt young in the first book, and the adventure takes place close to home but we get to spend lots of time in glorious Kirrin and there’s little that can compare to the wreck being thrown up and the Five uncovering the dungeons. INGOTS, INGOTS, INGOTS. It’s thrilling from start to end – as we are excited by the cousins’ first exploration of the island before we even get a sniff of adventure.

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It would have to then be Five Go Down to the Sea, as Julian and Dick’s antics as Clopper are hilarious added to an already great book with lots of mystery and excitement. This is another one with a great red-herring, the slightly surly and uncommunicative Mr Penruthlan is a convincing potential baddie, and the true culprit is (although just as surly) a reasonable surprise.

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And next, Five Go Off in a Caravan, with the terrifying Lou and Tiger Dan, the brave Nobby and funny (and also brave) Pongo. Going off with (or at least following) a circus is a brilliant element to the story, giving us a glimpse into a world most of us have never set foot in. Blyton featured quite a few circuses across many books but she pretty much always managed to make each one seem unique and just as fascinating as the last (Together Again being a rare exception for me.)

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After that, I will have Demon’s Rocks as I’ve always been thrilled reading the ending where Julian and Dick rang the bell to let people know they have been trapped inside the lighthouse. It’s also very exciting when they explore the caves, racing against time as the tide turns. This (along with Finniston Farm) has some of the best ‘mysterious stories of olden times’ from the Fives (Blyton also wove stories like that into The Rockingdown Mystery and The Ring O Bell’s Mystery and probably others) with One-Ear Bill and the wrecking.

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After that I will have Five Run Away Together. This is the first time the Five have been really independent. The earlier two books always had the safety of Fanny and Quentin in Kirrin Cottage to return to. Here, although the cottage hasn’t changed, it’s no longer such a safe or secure place with the villainous Sticks in residence. Julian facing off against the Sticks is pure brilliance (see my favourite quotes here).

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So that then puts Fix last in this group. Fix is a favourite that’s hard to explain perhaps. It perhaps isn’t the strongest book all the way through, for some reason the imprisonment of Mrs Thomas and the subsequent sneaking about her house doesn’t rate very highly with me. There are some brilliant moments, however. George facing off against the farm dogs as Mrs Jones running like a school-girl to her aid, and later Morgan using his enormous voice to summon the seven dogs are two of my favourite parts. Aily is a character I like, it’s sweet to see Julian taking care of her.

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HOW THE LIST LOOKS NOW

1. Five Go To Smuggler’s Top (4)
2. Five on a Hike Together (10)
3. Five on a Treasure Island (1)
4. Five Go Down to the Sea (12)
5. Five Go Off in a Caravan (5)
6. Five Go Demon’s Rocks (19)
7. Five Run Away Together (3)
8. Five Get Into a Fix (17)
20. Five Have a Mystery to Solve (20)
21. Five Are Together Again (21)

The brackets are the series position of each book (but I’m sure you already knew that).

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Added note of shame: While working out the order I was getting increasingly annoyed that I only had 19 books. I worked out I was missing Five Have Plenty of Fun… but the final title eluded me until I put series numbers beside every book, and then tried to check they were there in order. Of course, I was missing #1, Five on a Treasure Island

So where would these ones rank for you? Have I missed any of your absolute favourites so far?

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Monday #239

Many apologies for mucking up this week and not blogging on Friday, but I have had a horrible week one way and another, so I will make it up to you this week!

Anyway, these are your upcoming blogs for the week!

Monday#239

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September Round Up

Another month gone by and it’s been a busy one. I just want to apologise for not getting my blog out on Friday, but this week has rather gotten away from me. I assure you it will be ready for next week!

So here’s how Fiona’s September has gone!


WHAT FIONA HAS READ

I’ve only finished one book this month!

  • East End Angel – Kay Brellend

I’ve got a few on the go though:

  • What to Expect, the 1st Year – Heidi Murkoff
  • The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar – audiobook by Roald Dahl
  • The Railway Children – E. Nesbit

WHAT FIONA HAS WATCHED

  • The new series of Only Connect
  • The new series of Task Master
  • And I’m still keeping up with Hollyoaks

WHAT FIONA HAS DONE

  • Started going to rhyme time in my local library and inflicting my singing voice on Brodie and others
  • I have also been going to a baby and toddler group (it has free cake and drinks!)
  • I have done lots and lots of washing, who knew a baby could ruin so many outfits a day?
  • Not enough sleeping!

WHAT STEF HAS READ

  • The Mystery of the Strange Bundle – Reviewed here and here
  • The Language of the Dead – Stephen Kelly

I’m also reading:

  • Five go Glamping –  Liz Tipping
  • Russian Roulette (Mirabelle Bevan Mysteries #6) – Sarah Sheridan
  • Peggy and Me – Miranda Hart
  • Feet of Clay – Terry Pratchett

WHAT STEF HAS DONE

I really haven’t watched much this month, just the new series of Task Master on Dave.


WHAT STEF HAS DONE

  • As usual, Thai boxing
  • All the kids went back to school so work became very busy.
  • I went to visit Fiona and baby Brodie! He’s such a little monkey but so cute! When he does decide he’s happy to sit with you, you are pretty much stuck with him, however that’s beside the point because he’s adorable, even if he is keeping his poor mummy up all night! Still he’s amazing and I can’t wait to go back to Scotland and have some more cuddles.

Anyway, that’s it for this month! Hope you like next month’s blogs. Let me know in the comment below what your September was like!

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The secrets behind our blogging

If you’re looking for a guide to becoming a successful and/or rich blogger, I’m afraid you are in the wrong place.

What this is, instead, is a sneak  peek at some of our best blogging resources. A lot of what we write just comes from our minds but I’m a stickler for facts so I do a lot of checking to make sure I have remembered something right.

In a rough order starting with the most used:


THE ENID BLYTON SOCIETY WEBSITE

This is literally a treasure trove of information. The magnificent Cave of Books has just about every book Blyton ever wrote (and many of the continuations) are listed here. It has front covers for just about everything – including many, many alternative covers from reprints.

It will tell you the date a book was published, who it was published by and who the illustrator was (often for each reprint in the main series too).

For the main series (and many others) there are reviews – which give away a lot of spoilers as they are often verging on critical analysis. I never read a review before I’ve written my own as I don’t want to be influenced but I often check afterwards to see if I’ve missed anything important.

There are also full internal illustrations for some series (The Famous Five even include the Betty Maxey ones from the 70s) so it really is a wealth of information.

There is also a biography of Enid Blyton and a timeline of her life and career which are very useful.

Then there are the vast forums – these contain a wealth of information too, as people have discussed books and TV episodes at length. New ideas are often sparked from here and it’s always interesting to get a range of opinions on a subject. The people there are also very friendly and will do their best to answer any queries that are posted. They get a lot of what is this book, I only remember what it looked like/one story from it and do a great job of finding the right one.

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GOOD OLD GOOGLE

It’s amazing what Google will pull up sometimes. Sometimes nothing at all – but other times it can be very useful at finding random blog posts, threads with interesting points and newspaper articles. It’s also useful when trying to find information about some of the foreign editions.


ENID BLYTON.NET

Another dedicated Enid Blyton site which has reviews of the main series which I sometimes refer to. I sometimes forget a name or other small detail and often can spot it in a review rather than skimming  a whole book.

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THE ENID BLYTON SOCIETY JOURNALS

I am a society member so I get three journals a year and have for several years (all for the bargain price of £10). I have also bought as many back issues as I can find. There isn’t an index as such but you can view each journal here in the catalogue (each one has a link which lists the contents), and they contain some great analysis of books, characters, TV series, Enid Blyton’s life and a lot more. It has had articles by Enid Blyton’s daughters and other leading authorities.

journals


TONY SUMMERFIELD’S ILLUSTRATED BIBILOGRAPHIES

While the Cave is a great resource it does best on the main series and books. These bibliographies are split into part 1 – 1922-1942, part 2 – 1943-1952, part 3 – 1953 – 1962, and  part 4 – 1963 to 1974. The first one has sold out unfortunately but the other three are available in the Society Shop. I check these from time to time to confirm details of books if I can’t find them in the Cave.


FUNF FREUNDE FAN PAGE

This is a German site dedicated to the two Famous Five TV series. The majority of it has been translated into English and you will find brief episode guides which outline the differences between the two adaptations. There are also screen shots and other bits and pieces of interest.

funf-freunde


IMDb

The Internet Movie Database has got a reasonable amount of information on the various TV series and movies based on Blyton’s work. It’s far from complete however, but it is useful for finding out the main cast of shows and rough air dates. There are some big errors though, with episodes of the Secret Series being listed as being from a unknown series (or season) of the Adventure Series for example.


DISSECING THE MAGIC OF ENID BLYTON’S BOOKS BY LIAM MARTIN

Not quite what it sounds from the title – this is a great book which breaks the Famous Five books down into lots of categories including food, locations, nature and many others. I have written a separate post to explain more about it, so look out for it soon!

Dissecting the magic of Enid Blyton's Books by Liam Martin


WIKIPEDIA

I have put this last as although it can be useful it is written by the general public and often full of errors. It also doesn’t have much in-depth information so I find most of the above resources are better. It can be useful for information on the foreign editions/adaptations however. Sometimes I have to view the German Wikipedia (.de) for example and get Google to translate it into half-legible English.


There are no doubt many other sites out there which could be useful – which is why I included Google as it’ll find them for you. There are also links pages on both Enidblyton.net and the Enid Blyton Society sites, listing some other sites of interest.

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Monday #238

So I’m back from my holiday and it’s time to crack on with business and that includes our usual monthly round up this week! Hope you like the look of what’s coming up!

Monday#238 (1)

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Grown Up Blyton: The Red House Mystery by A. A. Milne

4735746Betcha didn’t know that A. A. Milne, the father and creator of Winnie the Pooh wrote a mystery novel. Well neither did I until I was out on holiday with my Dad in Weston-Super-Mare and spotted this book on the shelves of Waterstones. I knew I had to buy it, who wouldn’t? We know A. A. Milne so well for Winnie the Pooh and especially now that new film is coming out “Goodbye Christopher Robin”, I thought it might be quite topical to look at one of the books he isn’t quite so well remembered for and was in fact his only detective novel.

Shall we take a look at the book then?

A time before Pooh

The Red House Mystery is one of those gentile mysteries, a la Sherlock Holmes from Arthur Conan Doyle or one of Agatha Christie’s brilliant inventions. I know from researching that A. A. Milne did play on the same cricket team as Arthur Conan Doyle for a while, so that would indicate a possible link to characters mirroring each other.  However, Anthony Gillingham, Milne’s protagonist, isn’t quite the same Sherlock Holmes as Doyle created. He has a wonderful Milne-ness about him, and is more human than Holmes could ever really be. Gillingham is on the same page as most of the readers, he’s almost ‘normal’ and he just thinks it would be fun to have a go at this detective lark, especially when his host at the big English country mansion, Red House, goes missing after a shooting.

He has a trusty sidekick Bill Beverley, who acts rather more ‘Watsonish’ than Gillingham acts like Holmes, but still enables Gillingham to come up with some rather brilliant theories as to the disappearance of their host and the murder that has taken place. It’s rather an upper middle class, if not upper class situation murder just like Poirot wuld be investigating.  Published in 1922, after the first world war, it contains the archetypal characters you’d expect, the brave boys wounded, the ones who came back from the war, the vicar, the flat footed policeman. It really harks towards the usual cosy crime novel we have seen before, but there is something compelling about it, possibly because it’s a ‘locked room’ mystery where no one can really have done it.

It was received with critical acclaim in 1922, with many praising it, and without a doubt it is a wonderful book, and story. I can’t quite remember whodunnit, because it’s a while since I read it, but it is of that time and ilk that allows for the mystery to be exciting and engaging.

It is probably the best time period in regards for the mystery novella because we don’t have the interference of science and forensics. The hard work was done by the human hand and allows for the brain to work and actually strive to come to the conclusions that these detectives in the novels come to.  That’s really why I enjoy these novels so much!

The fact that Milne created this book before Winnie the Pooh even came along is amazing in itself, but it still has the feel of Pooh’s adventures in the Hundred Acre wood  but with that cutting edginess that comes with a good crime novel.  It really is a lovely easy read. I do honestly suggest you find yourself a copy and enjoy!

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Putting the Famous Five in Order

Sorry to anyone who thinks I’m about to skelp Julian for being bossy, or George for her temper. I actually want to do something even harder: put the series in order of most to least favourite. I’ve always had books I really love, ones I quite like and ones I think aren’t quite as good as the rest, but I’ve never examined it closely enough to work out exactly what order I would rank them in.


MY #1 FAVOURITE

The start is easy:  all-time favourite is Five Go to Smuggler’s Top, so that has to occupy the #1 slot.

I have always loved Smuggler’s Top, though I find the ‘why’ very hard to put it into words. It was my favourite right from the start, though I don’t think I read it more often than the others – I pretty much always read all 21 through in order. It was one of two that I had with a dustjacket which was nice, many of my others were hardbacks missing parts of their spine, 70s paperbacks or rather nasty shiny new paperbacks. I did discuss the effect hardback vs paperback had on me, and it certainly wasn’t a case of all hardbacks being my favourite, if you love a story enough it won’t matter what the book looks like (or indeed if it’s even a book and not on a Kindle but that’s getting off-topic).

Ok, so Smuggler’s Top was just a really lovely looking book, but it is also a great story. I have always LOVED the start with the drama of the tree crashing down on the house (my signature on the Enid Blyton Society Forums reads:

“It’s the ash! It’s falling!” yelled Julian, almost startling Dick out of his wits…
“Listen to its terrible groans and creaks!” yelled Julian, almost beside himself with impatience.

Yes, there a bit missing in the middle but there’s a character limit and those are the best bits! I still get a shiver down my spine when I read that bit and in my hormonal state the next time I may even cry.

And of course after that is the spooky Castaway Island with its marshes, endless tunnels, secret passages and of course the sinister Block and Mr Barling. It has some good red herrings like Mr Lenoir’s temper and some funny moments like Sooty pretending he bit Block to protect Timmy.

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MY BOTTOM TWO

It may seem a bit strange to go from the top to the bottom, but I know these positions for definite so it’s easier to do that and then work out the rest.

M two least favourites just happen to be the last two titles: Five Are Together Again and Five Have a Mystery to Solve. Blyton, it is generally agreed, was starting to decline in writing powers towards the end of her career. You can argue when the decline started but it was definitely in the early 60s, and these books were published in 1962 and 1963 respectively. Banshee Towers (generally regarded as a very weak title) came out in 1961, and her very last full-length novel (again, wildly regarded as not up to her usual standard) was The Hidey-Hole in 1964. Saying that, I love Five Go to Demon’s Rocks and that was a 1961 book, and not everything from that period was bad.

Anyway, writing skill aside, why do I like these less than the others?

Five Have a Mystery to Solve has just never ranked that highly for me. There are parts I like – the journey down the well for example – but it irks me that the sea-faring Five are foolish enough to get stranded on an island. I also dislike Wilfrid all the way though (even if he improves) so that doesn’t help. This is one I had in rather an ugly paperback (which, if I remember rightly, had the blurb from another book on the back.

mystandtogeth

Somehow the left book seemed uglier than the right one.

Five Are Together Again is disappointing for different reasons. The last book, in my opinion, should either have harked back to the glorious Kirrin days of some of the earlier books or taken us to somewhere new and exciting (in the vein of Tremannon, Demon’s Rocks, Hike etc). Instead we get the Five camping in someone’s garden and a cursory glimpse of Kirrin.

The mystery itself isn’t particularly great either – it’s The Rilloby Fair Mystery recycled in a new setting. We’ve also already had the Five live alongside Fair Folk in Wonderful Time, and  Circus Folk in Caravan, so even that element fails to bring anything new.

It’s not a bad book, I hasten to add, but in comparison with the other 20, it does seem lacking.

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THE LIST

1. Five Go to Smuggler’s top
20. Five Have a Mystery to Solve
21. Five Are Together Again

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What would your top and bottom books be?

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Monday #237

I’m on holiday this week, all the way away in sunny (hopefully) Tenerife, so I hope you like these blogs that have been prepared for you all ahead of time!

Monday#237

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Review: The Mystery of the Strange Bundle Part 2

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I think I must be in some sort of ‘anti-Fatty’ mood right now because I struggled to finish this book. It didn’t appeal to me I guess and the mystery is a bit dry. Lets take a look shall we?

When is a mystery not exciting?

Enid Blyton has written before about the children in her books being ill before they miraculously get better and get embroiled in a mystery. Five Get Into a Fix is one of my favourite books because of the change of catalyst for the story, but The Mystery of the Strange Bundle has been so disappointing.

The most exciting thing that seems to come out of it, is that there seems to be some spies around, or something that is not the usual in Peterswood which is great! Give me something nice and juicy like that, something to really get my mind working and fizzing and just tumbling through possibilities!

However… it’s so poorly executed that I just can’t believe it even made it to publishing.  If it didn’t have Blyton’s name on it, she wouldn’t have gotten it published, especially not today. There is nothing new to this book, its the usual ‘Oh I can’t believe how brilliant Fatty is’ rhetoric, and spotting things that adults can’t. I mean ok, Goon is… as stupid as ever, but surely these ‘different’ kind of policemen should have been at least three steps ahead of Fatty, I mean he’s only a school boy!

It’s just so frustrating that this whole books seems to exist just to prove Fatty the hero once again.  The other Find-Outers barely have anything to do with this mystery, apart from collecting a few clues and bits of information. It seems such a waste. I suppose my biggest pet peeve on this one is how Goon acts towards Fatty, when he basically has a fight with him, when he lifts the sack from the bottom of the river. It’s childish, uncalled for, and just wrong. Fatty is a teenager (maybe about 15?) and he’s being set on by an adult, who is supposed to be in a position of responsibility, it’s not good.  There is very little mention of discipline, just that Inspector Jenks makes Goon uncomfortable but there’s nothing to do reprimand the man, who should really lose his job for that behaviour!

To top it all off really, the inspector and his friend find what they’re looking for without too much trouble,  Goon’s invited to tea with the FFO and Buster saves the day! We don’t even get a wonderful dramatic nasty guy catch! I mean what sort of novel doesn’t have the bad guy actually getting caught? So disappointing.

My thoughts

I cannot recommend this novel at all. I just can’t! My instinct is to tell you to keep away from it, because its just boring and painful to read. The ending is anti-climatic, the story is slow, sluggish and fairly forgettable over all, and of course Fatty’s new found talent is the real reason anyone finds anything out at all, who could have guessed?

It’s old, its stale and it just shows to me, that however much I do love Blyton, the stories she wrote sometimes were no good. They were old, tired, and just not as brilliant as some of her other works. I enjoyed the Mystery of the Pantomime Cat, it was different and exciting, but the Mystery of the Strange Bundle did just not do it for me. I’m sorry.

Let me know what you guys think of the book in the comments. I’d like to know!

 

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Make Way for Noddy Episode #76 Noddy Loses His Bell

It’s the start of February right now and in the hope of me having some maternity leave from blogging I have sat down to do what I thought would be some quick and easy TV reviews. Oh how wrong I always am. I was going to watch an episode from Noddy in Toyland on the Channel 5 catch up site, which I had already placed a link to in my guide to Blyton on TV. Unfortunately, none of the episodes work. They just take you to a 404 error.

So after a rethink I found there are some episodes of Make Way for Noddy available (from around #51 to #100) and so what is what I will do instead. I don’t like starting near the end of a series but seeing as I can’t start at the beginning I just chose an episode title I fancied.

makewayfornoddy


THE SHOW

We start with what can only be desribed as a very annoying theme song which seems to go on for ages. I pity the parents whose children love this show and subject them to this song over and over (and thoroughly hope I will not be one of them!)

noddyloseshisbell

You can tell the show is an older one as the CGI world is not very good. The characters are OK, they have texture and so on but the inside of Noddy’s house, for instance, looks very cheap and flat. Also, strangely, he has a shower cubicle in the corner of his one-room house, and a sink, but no toilet. Then again, Blyton never had anyone use a toilet so perhaps it is in keeping with the books that way.


LOSING THE BELL

Quite a few things in Toyland make Noddy’s head start nodding – but not the milkman. The first is his alarm clock waking him up, and then later, a sudden stop in his car sets him off again. It is at this point he realises he doesn’t hear his bell ringing, it’s gone! He hears a deeper bell, and that’s the town clock chiming. Then another bells rings, but that’s on the door of a shop. That can only mean one thing, apparently. His own bell is lost.

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FINDING THE BELL

Noddy being the brainless toy that he is, decides he will search all of Toytown to find his bell. Straight away I was thinking ‘but hang on, he hasn’t been down any alleys between shops or through the park…”

Thankfully Big Ears is at least as bright as I am, and asks Noddy if he has been to any of the places he has searched before. By this point that include behind shops, in flowerbeds and in dustbins.

searchingbin

Only then does Noddy understand that he should retrace his steps to find the bell. He takes this a little bit too literally and takes his car in reverse (literally) along the route he had taken that morning. PC Plod must have been on a day off otherwise I am sure he would have had something to say about Noddy driving at speed in reverse all around the place.

Rather conveniently, at every stop the person there can remind him of where he had been he saw them. So the clockwork clown sends him to Mr Sparks at the garage (a darker-skinned Scotsman but definitely not a golliwog), Mr Sparks directs him to Dinah Doll’s stall (Dinah a dark-skinned doll was added to the books around the time the gollys were removed), Dinah reminds him he brought Martha Monkey from the train station. After that he manages to remember he had come from home before that.

And lo and behold, his bell is sitting right outside his own front door.


FINAL THOUGHTS

I’m sure two-year olds will like it. It’s brightly coloured and it had a simple but fairly interesting story line to follow.

These older shows are nice because although they have fallen foul of the ‘everything must be CGI’ way of thinking, they at least are not full of technology. I don’t understand why every show now must have a tablet computer or smart phone device assisting the main characters. Your average pre-schooler doesn’t carry a tablet around every day (even if they do have one at home to play with) so why do TV characters seem surgically attached to theirs?

Anyway I’m getting away from the point here. I thought it was OK, not really enough to hold an adult’s interest or spark any real debate or discussion but it wasn’t designed for that. It will entertain a toddler for the ten minutes it’s on.

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Monday #236

So I’m back from Dundee, and my visit to Fiona and baby Brodie, who is gorgeous, and it’s business at usual this week with blogs! Hope you enjoy!

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Review: The Mystery of the Strange Bundle

So I failed. I had one job and that was to read the book on my way up to Fiona’s when I was on the train, and I didn’t. On top of that, I’ve just not been reading because I’ve been trying to help with Brodie (he’s got a good pair of lungs on him!) and I have just failed completely in my simple task. So I’m going to review the first half of the book for you. Let’s go!

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Illness abounds

Oh woe are the Five Find-Outers, they have gone down with the flu, thanks to Bets as she’s managed to get it first over the Christmas hols, and given it around to everyone. When we join them they have managed to be mostly on the mend, and Bets is better and visiting the others faithfully.

After she gets annoyed at Pip, because he’s being mean to her, she decides to go and see Fatty who enjoys her company even when ill. Pip asks her for some bulls’ eyes, so she pops to the sweet shop and buys some for Fatty as well, thinking he’s probably at the same stage as Pip in his recovery.

When she gets to Fatty’s he already has a visitor, much to his mother’s surprise, not to mention that Fatty also appears to be asleep which adds to the confusion. The old lady who is there is apparently known to Fatty and has met the Trottevilles before. Mrs Trotteville isn’t convinced and then the cover breaks when Fatty reveals himself to be the old lady in the chair.

Mrs Trotteville is not impressed, especially given that the cook has given Fatty her aunt’s old smelly clothes. She wants to throw them away or wash them at least and Fatty won’t let her. He convinces his mother that Bets can take them down to his shed before she goes and the clothes are left and the woman forgotten.

Bets and Fatty sit down to talk, Mrs Trotteville having invited Bets to stay for tea, and Fatty tells Bets that he has begun to teach himself to throw his voice and become a ventriloquist. Apparently he’s been inspired by someone visiting his school in the last term and wanted to take it up. How he managed to ‘perfect’ his new skill so quickly, I don’t know, because its a very difficult and precise skill, and it takes people years to perfect it. However this is Fatty, why am I not surprised that he took it on with ease? He’s Blyton’s perfect character after all.

What I do find really distasteful is that he scares Bets with this ‘talent’ so much that she genuinely is trembling with fear. Fiona disagrees with me, saying that Bets is just a big baby, but there’s two sides to this issue. To me they hinge on Fatty’s personality. One is the mature, sensible boy he can be sometimes, when he’s actually in the middle of a mystery and looking after the others, but when he’s bored he can be brutish, and when he’s showing off he is just a pain. He can be so flippant and disregards so many opinions and feelings because hes the ‘great’ Fatty. Fiona thinks I just don’t like him and that many people would disagree with me about him. Feel free to back one of us up in the comments!

The beginning of the mystery 

After the generally recovery from the flu the five and Buster start to explore the village once more much to Mr Goon’s disgust. He’s gotten rather big for his boots since the children were ill because he was able to run after any mystery that may have occurred. He’s as insufferable as ever, back to being rude about Fatty (not that he doesn’t deserve it) but he should at least have manners when dealing with the children and Fatty. When Bets is on her way to visit Fatty, she bumps into Mr Goon, and he tells her what he thinks of Fatty and is quite rude really. Bets then blithely tells Fatty everything who laughs at Goon, but is determined to find a mystery to beat the policeman to solving it.

Anyway, once the children are more recovered from the flu, they are out and about, trying to find a mystery before they go back to school, but nothing appears until there’s a break in two doors down from Larry and Daisy. Again there doesn’t seem to be much of a mystery and it rather feels like there won’t be much of the mystery until the very end of the book again. Still, best to keep going and see where we get with this.

Please tell me it gets better?

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A prize for the most updated of Enid Blyton’s text

As you will probably know I have written several series of posts on the updatings to Blyton’s texts, looking at the first book of a series (and a few Noddys). I would now like to award a (dubious) prize to the ‘most edited’ title.


THE SHORTLIST

Our contenders are:

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THE METHODOLOGY

There are two possible ways to rank these books. First would be a simple ‘highest number of edits’ chart, but that’s probably not quite fair as some books are longer than others. The second would be to work out the average number of changes per chapter (though now I’m starting to doubt myself and wondering if it should be by number of pages, as some might just have very short chapters…)


SOME RESULTS

Anyway, using the first method, our chart would look like this.

  • In last place is The Secret Island with just 59
  • Still under the hundred-mark is The Twins at St Clare’s with 83
  • Five on a Treasure Island comes in next with 117
  • Then not far behind is The Island of Adventure with 128
  • First Term at Malory Towers would come next, with 133
  • The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage would scoop the coveted top spot with a whopping total of 187 changes.

SOME MORE RESULTS

However, let’s see what happens when we work out the average per chapter:

  • The Secret Island (3)
  • The Twins at St Clare’s (4)
  • The Island of Adventure (4.5)
  • First Term at Malory Towers (6)
  • Five on a Treasure Island (7)
  • The Mystery of The Burnt Cottage (10)

So The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage is still in top place, and The Secret Island is still at the bottom, but it does change around the order for those in the middle.


IS THERE A BETTER WAY OF DOING THIS?

I then started to look at number of pages, thinking that would be more accurate (as some books have longer chapters than others) and there I stumbled upon another problem. I wasn’t sure whether to use the paperback number of pages, or the hardback. So I counted both just to see what the difference was. For most books, it wasn’t significant. Five on a Treasure Island and The Secret Island had almost exactly the same number of pages in each format. First Term at Malory Towers differed by sixteen pages (the paperback being longer), The Twins at St Clare’s was 35 pages shorter in paperback, The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage was 52 pages longer in paperback, and then, The Island of Adventure was a whopping 136 pages longer in the hardback!

I had expected the paperbacks to be shorter – cheap, economy paperbacks cramming as many words per page and most lacking illustrations. But that wasn’t really the case. So clearly there’s a lot of variety in terms of font size and words per page.

My problem really arose with Five on a Treasure Island vs. The Island of Adventure. In paperback they are exactly the same length. In hardback, The Island of Adventure is 1.7 times longer. Any attempt to work out which had been most edited (and by what margin) would have to take that into account.

And so, I found myself counting words on a page. I just picked one average page that was all text (I don’t have all year for this, despite how long I’ve gone on…) that made Five on a Treasure Island around 51,000 words and The Island of Adventure 68,000, the latter being only 1.3 times longer. (The chapter numbers gave a 1.7 increase too, incidentally.)

In addition to that, the hardbacks of Five on a Treasure Island and The Secret Island are the same length but Five on a Treasure Island is around 10,000 words shorter.

Therefore I have come to the conclusion, that in the search for pedantic, pathetic accuracy, I will be doing a word count on all the books…

So, with a rough estimate of length, here are the books from longest to shortest:

  • The Island of Adventure 68,000
  • The Twins at St Clare’s 55,000
  • Five on a Treasure Island 51,000
  • The Secret Island 62,700
  • First Term at Malory Towers 49,500
  • The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage 43,500

And so, let’s see what that means, drumroll please! (I will be quite annoyed if this list is in the same order as the first one mind you.)

  • The Secret Island remains in last place, as there was an edit for every 1,062 words.
  • The Twins at St Clare’s is still in second-last place, with an edit for every 662 words.
  • The Island of Adventure moves down to fourth place (same as in the per chapter result) with an edit per 531 words.
  • Five on a Treasure Island comes third (it was fourth in total and second by chapters) with a change per 435 words.
  • First Term at Malory Towers retains second place (but was third by chapters) with an edit for every 372 words.
  • And you know what that means! The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage is the unequivocal winner, with a change made for every 232 words.

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Yes, Mr Goon. I’m as perplexed as you.

So the final order doesn’t look too different, but I think it’s the most accurate. If there are any mathematicians or statistical analysts out there, please let me know if my methodology stinks.


AND NOT FORGETTING…

And just as a little bonus: Noddy! Thankfully the Noddys are all exactly the same length so I can order them easily.

  • Noddy and his Car (47)
  • Here Comes Noddy Again (39)
  • Hurrah for Little Noddy (32)
  • Well Done, Noddy (20)
  • Noddy Goes to Toyland (14)

That does give Noddy and His Car an edit for very 165 words, though… Even Here Comes Noddy Again has one per 200 words, making them both more edited than even The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage. 

You know what? It would just be simpler if they didn’t edit any books, and then I’d have nothing to count and nothing to obsess over. Wouldn’t that be great??

 

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Monday #235

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A Writer’s Garden part 2: What we know about the original Old Thatch gardens

Last week we looked at the most up to date information we had from Old Thatch gardens and got an idea of the kind of place the cottage and gardens are, but as mentioned we don’t know very much about Old Thatch in Enid Blyton’s own time.

Shall we have a look at what I’ve been able to find out?

Citation: Many thanks to the tireless and hard work of the Enid Blyton Society for uploading the periodicals of The Teachers World magazine for my research in this article.

Welcome to Old Thatch

In July 1929, Blyton moved into Old Thatch at Bourne End and wrote in her Teachers’ World column about the garden and how wonderful everything was. She describes the lily pond, the rose arbour, the tall yew hedges that still surround the gardens today, as are the trees that surround the garden and the brook at the bottom. So by the sounds of what Blyton wrote in that copy of Teachers’ World in 1929 the actual layout of the garden hasn’t changed all that much by and large. Possibly the only big alteration is that a second house was built on part of the garden at some point and this was only possible with a piece of the garden being sold off.  You can read the whole piece either on the Enid Blyton Society page here, or look at the scan they made below.

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How can you dispute such a perfect description of a writer’s garden, from their own pen indeed?  You can check out the other pieces of writing Blyton did about Old Thatch here to find her other descriptions.

There were other bits and pieces that could help up piece together the garden at Old Thatch and there are some surviving photographs of the family there. One of the most famous pictures is of Blyton with Bobs the dog, sitting at the “wishing” well at the back of the house under Gillian’s bedroom window. 3E742AB500000578-4331320-image-m-38_1490013237932

You can see from this picture that there is a lot of space behind the house at this point, no masses of beautiful flowerbeds as planted by Jackie Hawthorne and her husband when they owned the house and then opened the gardens. There is a lot of space in this garden, perfect for a new family and lots of pets.

Tess Livingstone

Tess Livingstone wrote a book, Enid Blyton  at Old Thatch where she goes around with Gillian Baverstock (Blyton’s oldest daughter) and discusses the garden, and the experiences had in it.

Fiona has read it properly whereas I only had time to skim through, but the idea that this book can allow us to have a glimpse of Blyton’s garden as it was way back when she was the owner is something to delight in. The added voice of Gillian as well is a perfect accompaniment to the book and the guide, with someone who actually remembers the garden and the joys it brought. Goodreads tells you more about the book here

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My point being that all these things could have been researched up to make an entry into the The Writer’s Garden by Jackie Bennett to add such a beloved children’s author to the book where so many other prolific authors are mentioned and looked into. All right, so my blogs haven’t been the extensive ones you’d have from Fiona, but this is just minimal digging to show that there is enough to not leave Blyton out of these kinds of books.

What do you think?

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