My name is Corinna, and I’m an Enid Blyton Fan.
Sometimes the Enid Blyton Society feels a bit like a support group (in a good way!) for those of us who can’t quite shake the Blyton habit. I wasn’t too aware of the controversy surrounding Blyton’s writing style, characters and “old-fashionedness” when I was growing up – I was (am) an avid reader and I just loved a good story. I was at least in my mid-teens before I particularly noticed any controversy, or that people might possibly be offended by some of the characters or story-lines. It was around that time I went underground, sneakily re-reading my favourite childhood books when no-one was around, leaving them on my bookshelf “only because there is no where else to put them,” and furtively buying more books from second-hand shops and fairs and stowing them in my bag before anyone noticed.
Until my late 20s I honestly felt a bit ashamed of reading these books (although I couldn’t stop, a sure sign of an addiction!), for two reasons. The first is one that I should be ashamed of and that is sheer intellectual snobbery! I have a Bachelor of Arts degree, and for a while I truly felt I should only be reading very high-brow, intellectual, modern and/or difficult books. You will all be very pleased to hear I got over myself at some point in my early 20s, and embraced reading books for sheer pleasure again. However, although I became happy to admit I love a good bodice ripper, I still somehow felt that I couldn’t admit I still enjoyed children’s books, and in particular, Blyton’s.
The second reason was guilt – pure and simple. New Zealand is a fairly liberal country, and I feel very lucky to have grown up in a very multi-cultural country, where women got the right to vote decades before women in the UK and the US, and attitudes towards homosexual relationships are becoming more and more accepting.
So I began to feel guilty about enjoying stories where bad characters were often “foreign”, where the girls never got to do anything interesting because that was the boy’s job, and attitudes towards broken homes (see The Six Bad Boys) totally belied my own observations. I remember as a teenager my mum mentioning something that she had heard about controversy over Big Ears and Noddy sharing a bed. When you think about this, anyone who wants to create a sexual relationship out of two children’s book characters is, frankly, sick!
However, these vague feelings of shame lasted until a couple of years ago, when I moved to England and discovered the Enid Blyton Society. I began to realise that there were many others who also enjoyed the books, and they were intelligent, kind, and caring people of all ages. I realised, in fact, that it wasn’t the people who enjoyed the books that held these attitudes – I can’t think of a single instance where I’ve read or heard someone spout nasty racist or sexist nonsense and use any work of Blyton as “evidence”. I began to openly read and buy the books again. Now, of course, I’m on the internet talking about this!
As I discussed in a previous blog post, even as a child I understood that these books were set in a different time, and attitudes were different then. So while I enjoyed stories about Gollywogs (and owned a lovely hand-knitted one), I also understood that people could be offended by this word and the character. I fully intend to both read my children Blyton books, AND teach them to be caring, open, questioning, responsible world citizens. And I don’t believe these two things are in any way incompatible.
So – my name is Corinna, and I LOVE Enid Blyton books. I’m in my late 20s and I enjoy reading children’s books for pleasure. I enjoy discussing them with fellow fans, and writing blogs about them. I am not ashamed!