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As a child, I loved Enid Blyton: the Famous Five of course, but also the ‘Adventure’, ‘Secret’ and ‘Barney “R”‘ series. I dabbled with the urban-set Secret Seven and Mystery series (aka The Five Findouters) but they didn’t do it for me in quite the same way.

Of course Enid has had a bad press in more recent years and yes, there are conservative and problematic aspects to her books. I did get a bit upset by the racism in some of the ‘Adventure’ books as a child and even defaced a school library book with a warning that racism lurked within (sorry!), but as a grown up reader I am happy to question and challenge the idea that girls should always wash up (for example) while relishing the atmosphere and sense of period, glorious and evocative Eileen Soper illustrations, lusty descriptions of homemade foodstuffs, and the general sense of freedom the four children and Timmy get to experience in their wanderings around the British countryside.

The debates about Enid’s merits or otherwise rage on, see this BBC News article on The Mystery of the Enid Blyton Revival, for instance. As you may guess, I do not adhere to Philip Pullman’s assertion that Blyton’s books are ‘rubbish’ with ‘no sense of delight or joy in the language’. As Anita Bensoussane notes in her reviews of the Barney ‘R’ mysteries, ‘it is precisely [Blyton’s] knack for phrasing things simply, yet aptly and imaginatively, which give her writing its charm’. I am slowly but surely acquiring early editions of the books and this blog arises from my excited re-discovery of the Famous Five (Soper is a new revelation – Betty Maxey was the illustrator of my 1980s childhood).

So many of the concerns of the books – sustainable, low impact living and travel, supporting small and local businesses, getting enough exercise, appreciating nature and the countryside – chime with contemporary issues that I think it’s time these aspects of the Famous Five books are highlighted and celebrated. I love riding my bike(s) (currently a bespoke blue 1980s British bike by Mike Kowal, and a racing green Brompton), exploring the UK, visiting cafes, local markets and independent shops, attempting to make/bake traditional food stuffs (bread, buns and innumerable ginger products), listening to the radio, reading interwar literature and watching old British films (which happily segues with my day job). I also adore the classic aesthetic of the Five’s bicycles, jerseys and shorts, sandwiches wrapped in greaseproof paper and the idea of virtually car-less roads.

Thanks to the lovely Enid Blyton Society who have uploaded images of Eileen Soper’s evocative illustrations (copyright Hodder & Stoughton). I have used a few of these here, alongside my own images, so I hope they don’t mind. The Blyton Society site also features some very useful and entertaining synopses and reviews (as well as being extremely attractive and well-designed) so is well worth checking out.

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  1. Well done! you have made a lovely site,I have really enjoyed all your comments recipes etc.

    I was recommended to check out your site by pete90125 from the Enid Blyton Society.

    I agree with you about the Secret Seven,although my younger brother much prefered them to my Famous Five.

    He is two years younger than me,so maybe the Secret Sevens appeal is for slightly younger readers?

    • Thanks very much for your kind comments Captain Hastings, I’m glad you like the site! As a group the Secret Seven do seem slightly younger than the Five, so I think you might be right. Seven characters are too many to bond with and parents (and school) always seem to be there as a lurking presence as well… I think one of the best things about the Famous Five stories is the feeling freedom Enid Blyton creates as they escape to Kirrin Island, or set off on their hols.

      • Was the 2nd Famous Five story the only adventure to take place around Xmas,or do they have any other adventures at Christmas time?……

        (I think Five Get into Fix was in Xmas hols but does not seem to be especially full of Christmas?)

  2. I’ve not re-read ‘Fix’ yet (I think I’ll save it for next winter!) but I think ‘Adventuring Again’ is the only one to feature Christmas. It would have fun to have seen another adventure with the alternative Christmas that Anne describes to George in book 2 (pantomimes, parties and circuses) but perhaps that would have been a bit too Secret Seven-ish? The lo-fi Christmas at Kirrin Cottage is probably a lot nicer anyway (nasty Mr Roland aside)…

  3. Love your site. I have never been a great EB fan – Buchan and Ransome have always provided my transport to the interwar years. The case that you make for her is so strong, that I will try again. You might enjoy bits of my site http://www.cycling-books.com. I will certainly add a link to yours there.
    Best
    Tim

  4. Dear Tim,

    Thank you! Your site is jolly wizard. I’ve had a little look around and there are some fascinating titles reviewed on there (I think I may have to read The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie very very soon), and loads of books that will inspire and help me plan my next big cycle excursion.

    My favourite EB cycle ride so far has got to be the one that kicks off Five go to Billycock Hill, even though the bicycles are swiftly ditched once the Five reach their holiday destination. The moonlight ride of Five Get into Trouble is also nicely evocative. Let me know how you find her this time round (and please accept my apologies in advance if you don’t enjoy!).

  5. Hi! I write from Enid Blyton spanish site! We enjoy very much this blog!
    In the nex September/October, we´ll travel to U.K.
    Congrats, from Spain!

    • Hi Oscar. Really pleased you like the site. Keep up the good work and hope you enjoy your visit to Blighty. Will you be visiting the Isle of Purbeck? I hear there will be a film festival there in September with a screening of the 1950s Five on a Treasure Island serial and a Timmy the Dog look-a-like contest. Inspired!

  6. Hi there !! It’s nice to catch someone who’s fascinated with Famous Five as much as I am. Even after all these years, I read these books all over again & still find them really exciting. Being an Indian, I wasn’t familiar with all the food mentioned in the novels..but always made me hungry & drool while imagining the FF eat them !! Talk about the power of imagination :D …anyway googling for “ginger buns” brought me here….& I guess I will try those heavenly recipes you have listed. All the best to me !! :D Keep up the good work…

    • Hello Pratibha,

      Thanks for your nice comments. Let me know if you try any of the recipes – although I wouldn’t recommend the chocolate mould (From ‘High Tea and Chocolate Mould’)…

  7. I am so pleased I stumbled on your site today, which was the result of following a treasure trail of sorts, beginning with an article on the Huffington Post about Enid Blyton, and clicking on links from there.

    This is indeed a great site, which takes a sideways look at The Famous Five, and England as we knew it growing up in a different age.

    Nicely done, you have another fan.

    • Thanks so much – I’m really glad you like the site and thanks for following!

  8. Fab site FFS…I have been reading and re-reading FF books since 1965 – I received “Five go to Smuggler’s Top” in hardback from Mum for Xmas. For my 55th I received the anniversary box set with illustrations from the original hardbacks including covers. So nice!
    My other half and I are doing a bike ride on Maria Island this autumn – we live in Tasmania and all the countryside looks like an FF novel. (Check it out via google) I can’t wait to fry sausages, eat slabs of fruit cake and drink ginger beer while checking out the scenery from the campsite.
    I also really enjoy Arthur Ransome’s “Swallows and Amazons” books and we are buying a little sailboat next summer in preparation for sailing and boating adventures. Are you a fan of these books too?
    Beautiful site, BTW…thanks for letting me fan-girl on

    • Maria Island does look very Blytonian! Lovely cliffs, bays and blue sea. I hope you have a lovely time. And yes, love Swallows and Amazons too, and glad you like the blog.


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