Today I sat down to immerse myself in Blyton’s thrilling Valley of Adventure. I had forgotten exactly how enjoyable a read it was, and incredibly quickly the action starts.
The children are on school hols, possibly summer but more likely Easter, as Mrs Mannering makes them pack warm jerseys for the trip they’re about to make. The trip, is one suggested by Bill Smugs (a.k.a Bill Cunningham) in his aeroplane to spend a few days with him at his home, but it all goes wrong.
When they had been dropped off at the aerodrome to wait for Bill to fly them to his house (I know its thrilling, but surely Bill doesn’t live somewhere where there is a handy air strip to land the plane on?) they are told to go and sit in Bill’s plane. As it is quite dark you can imagine that it might be quite hard for them to find, and it is. As they’re waiting for Bill, some shooting breaks out and two men rush into the plane where the children are waiting and take off. Very quickly the children realise that neither of the men piloting the plane is Bill and that they are in trouble.
After a long night hiding behind some boxes in the plane, the children find themselves in a valley, a long way away as the bad guys land the plane. With only their suitcases and a picnic to sustain them, they creep out of the plane and start to explore. The first thing the see is a selection of deserted buildings, some damaged by fire, some in ruins. Now this passage, suggests to me that this is a village that was ravaged by the second world war (the book being published in 1947 being a clue to this) and I do believe that this is one of the first times I have come across a reference to the war (and later on in the book, the Nazis) in any Blyton novel I have read. Surprisingly enough, upon seeing the devastation of the village does not immediately lend itself to the children as being a result of war.
Anyway, brushing this minor point aside, the children find somewhere to shelter and do some exploring over the next couple of days. After stealing some food from the men (which is ok because they are the bad guys) and finding a nice cosy cave to live and sleep in, the real fun starts.
First of all there are two new additions to the men in the valley, one another brute and the other, a frail old man called Otto who is a prisoner. The children want to help Otto but also want to know what the men are up to, so follow them the next day to see where Otto is leading them. It turns out they are being led to a rock fall, which disappoints the children as they thought it would take them to what the baddies are after.
Anyway, Jack manages to rescue Otto and for his kindness receives two maps, one showing them a way out of the valley and the other showing them where to find the treasure. After a disappointing day trying to get out of the valley the children decide to start looking for the treasure.
The book really has a fast paced narrative in this story, things don’t seem to stop happening, which is nice, but as all events are intertwined its hard for me to review every twist and turn without giving the whole plot away.
It’s a good book, and I do enjoy The Valley of Adventure. It’s definitely in my top three, which would be Circus, Sea and then Valley. There are some points where I do just think there are some overlooked areas, like the original pondering about why the village is half destroyed and deserted – after all the book is set three years after the war. Most of Europe was still recovering and if Blyton felt the need to mention it at all, then I feel the children and the readers deserve a little more credit for the truth.
The thing about Valley, apart from the stunning location and action packed narrative, is that this one part of the book, the lost treasures thanks to the war is something very much rooted firmly in reality, which is something you don’t find in many of Blyton’s story books. Although the Famous Five, Five Find-Outers and various other series mention spies and things, I do think the mention of the war is a big step in Blyton’s world. Not to mention the fact that it would have made the situation for the children reading the book when it was first published, a more real affair. They would have really been able to believe that Jack, Dinah, Lucy-Ann and Philip really did exist, and that is what makes The Valley of Adventure such a wonderful read and I believe it showcases what a master of stories Enid Blyton really was.