So this week (and last) I have been reading The Castle of Adventure, or re-reading it I should say. It is one of my favourite Adventure books, probably my third favourite (Circus comes second and Sea comes first).
Castle starts with a cosy school scene between Dinah and Lucy-Ann, who are talking about the letter Dinah received from Mrs Mannering just a few days before, confirming their holiday plans. The children are to join Mrs Mannering in a small cottage called Spring Cottage, seemingly in the middle of Scotland for the Easter Holidays (though I must say it does seem very very mild for the Easter hols – perhaps its a late Easter). The boys join the girls the day after the girls have arrived at the cottage and the real fun begins.
At the top of the hill that Spring Cottage is on, is an old castle, its front door seemingly blocked off by a landslide so they can’t get inside it, to much disappointment. Mrs Mannering does forbid them to try in case they get trapped – however, best laid plans and all that!
The four and Kiki befriend a local wild girl (in a similar way to Five Get Into a Fix when they meet Aily the shepherd’s daughter) and start to explore the area, and Tassie manages to cement her friendships within the group by finding Philip a fox cub to look after. Button, the fox cub, becomes a favourite to them all, including Dinah (although sometimes she does complain about the smell) apart from Kiki who doesn’t like Button at all, and takes great delight in telling Button off with some of her comical phrases.
It is well established that there is lots of wildlife around the area and Jack even thinks he spots an eagle or two in the sky, and persuades Mrs Mannering to let him and the others go searching for the nest, even though it might take them near the castle. This is the turning point for the novel really as Mrs Mannering’s quiet stay in the Scottish hills unravels from the moment the children step foot in the castle and discover that it’s not as deserted as it might seem.
After discovering that the eagles have a nest in the castle, Jack convinces “Aunt Allie” to let him go and make a hide to try and get pictures of the baby eagle learning to fly. She agrees, but Jack can’t start off right away as the weather turns against them. Instead of letting the children mope about the house all day, Mrs Mannering sends them off on the small train to the nearest town (never specified) where they meet Bill Smugs!
Of course everyone should guess by now that wherever Bill is, adventure must surely follow, and we are reading an Enid Blyton novel, so you know it’s true!
We are not disappointed in the slightest, almost from the moment that Jack is left in the castle alone at night, things start to happen. To start off with, he wonders if he’s dreaming, but its only a chance remark of Lucy-Ann’s the next day that makes him think he is right. So the next night, Jack tries to find out what is going on, and does indeed find out that there are people living and hiding in the castle!
Now the action really starts as the others come to stay with Jack and the girls get discovered. I won’t give any more away, but its all alright in the end, and Bill comes to the rescue with some dramatic results. In the midst of the rescue a storm breaks over the hills, and causes parts of the castle to collapse.
I think this book ranks highly on my list because there is a lot of focus on Jack- my favourite Adventurer- and of the stunning locations that surround Spring Cottage. I can really feel peaceful when I read this book. The other thing I enjoy about Castle is that I can see similarities between Castle and Five Get Into a Fix with the animal loving wild girls who know their way around the hills blindfolded, barefoot, and in any weather. The other thing that draws me to this book is the similar weather situation it has to Malcolm Saville’s Lone Pine novel, Lone Pine Five, the landslide in Not Scarlet but Gold and the secret passages and hiding from the baddie in The Neglected Mountain.
I think that this is one of Blyton’s strongest books from one of her strongest series. It has only been a year or so that I have been well acquainted with the Adventure series, but it is one series of Blyton’s that I do not feel like I am missing out by being an older first time reader. In fact I believe I wouldn’t enjoy them as much as a child and most of the wonderfulness of the locations would go straight over my head as a child. As I have said before, this is definitely a series for older readers, the next step up from my beloved Five.
So if you haven’t read The Castle of Adventure, you really should. If you don’t enjoy it, I shall bake you a cake! Now there’s a challenge you can’t turn down!
[Fiona’s note – the book never specifies that the location is Scotland. It is mentioned in a later adventure where they reminisce about past holidays.]