Between two posts I have managed to cover the bulk of the plot already. I had completely intended for this to be the final part and include the nitpicks but sadly you’ll have to wait until next week for those as the post was in danger of hitting 4,000 words and becoming too unwieldy for words.
George as a boy
I was thinking how this might be the last time that I write that heading, but maybe I should go on to actually review the short stories rather than just summarise them.
I found George (or perhaps Blyton) to have forgotten a bit about her preference for boyish over girlish but she returns more to form in this book.
Blyton reminds us that:
George had always longed to be a boy, but as she wasn’t, she made up for it by trying to speak and act like one, and would never answer to her full name of Georgina.
And Julian thinks
How much she looked like a restless boy just then, with her short, curly hair, and her determined expression.
Mind you – she has an uncharacteristic outburst of sobbing early in the book. While I don’t believe that boys/men don’t or shouldn’t cry George certainly does. She is also not terribly prone to tears naturally, unless they are tears of rage! Yet she is devastated when her mother and father are in quarantine for scarlet fever and their holiday plans are thrown into chaos. Typical of George she’s not all that worried about her parents, just her plans!
Julian and Dick soon sort her out by playing up to her own prejudices.
“Well, REALLY, George!” he said. “You’re acting just like a weepy girl. Poor Georgina! Poor little old Georgina!”
Of course it works.
George stopped sniffing immediately and glared at Julian in fury. If there was one thing she really hated it was to be told she was acting like a silly girl! And how awful to be called by her real name, Georgina! She gave Julian a hefty punch, and he grinned at her, warding her off.
“That’s better,” he said. “Cheer up! Just look at Timmy staring at you in amazement. He’s hardly ever heard you crying before!”
“I’m NOT crying!” said George. “I’m – well, I’m upset about Joan. And it’s awful to have nowhere to go!”
Moving on from that, the Five chip in at Big Hollow – the boys carry the trays and the girls wash up, or everyone cleans up and the girls wash up. By now it seems that George has more or less accepted her role as washer-upper.
It’s only Anne, though that stays behind later to help Jenny.
There’s only one compliment for George (out loud, anyway) when Julian says
“George can help me – she’s as good as a boy any day!”
George grinned. She loved to hear anyone say that!
Mind you, later he also thinks (just we well he doesn’t say it out loud)
After all, she was only a girl!
Blyton even agrees with him to an extent –
Yes, Julian, she is—but, as you’ve often said, she’s just as brave as a boy. Don’t be too sure about tonight!
Unusually Mr Wooh knows that George is a girl, though I couldn’t see that said in front of him. His companion on the island is shocked she is a girl, even after Mr Wooh has said it to him twice.
‘It’s the girl who’s come—I shouldn’t have thought that the boys would have let her,’ said Mr Wooh, astonished. ‘I am . . .’
‘A very brave and determined young lady!’ said Mr Wooh, bowing solemnly to George.
‘Do you mean to tell me that’s a girl!’ said the other man, amazed.
Lastly, Julian thinks that
George should have been a boy not a girl – the things she does.
I’m sure George would have thought that a compliment if he’d said it to her – but all I can think is that she doesn’t have to be a boy as she proves that girls can do anything boys can!
I always like it when characters link things back to previous adventures, but they miss out on several references here.
One-Ear Bill and Jeremiah Boogle are not mentioned, despite Mr Tapper being a one-eared monkey charmer.
Clopper is never mentioned despite Dick and George donning a donkey costume – I’d have loved for Julian to say No, never again – don’t you remember what happened last time we dressed up as a farm animal?
Although built out of a different material and for a different purpose Prof Hayling’s tower is reminiscent of Uncle Quentin’s tower on Kirrin Island – as it has strange spindly tentacles coming out the top and makes a humming sound.
Despite having seen Jo scale a partially ivy-clad tower they don’t give more than a second’s thought to the possibility of anyone climbing this tower.
Not the greatest selection but most meals were provided in a house rather than out camping or at inns.
Their first meal is dinner (lunch) A large and delicious stew with carrots, onions and peas swimming in the gravy, and plenty of potatoes and a big steamed pudding with plenty of raisins in it.
Jenny serves a cold supper – a meat pie – cold sausages – a cucumber and lettuce hearts and tomatoes from the garden, rolls – and apple and bananas.
This is the only full-length Five book that has bananas in it – poor Pongo obviously never had any. There were few (if any) bananas to be had between 1940 and 1945 due to the war amongst other factors, and even after that they were heavily rationed until 1952. Yet it took Blyton eight years years to introduce them back into the Five’s world as one appears in Five Have a Puzzling Time (1960, and eaten by a monkey, not even any of the Five!) despite them not suffering from rationing in any of their books.
They drink lemonade and orangeade. They do a bit of shopping for their camp but don’t appear to have any camp meals – tinned meats and fruits, fresh rolls, tomatoes and apples and bananas.
Lastly they have a tea of slices of ham, and salad, and fruit to end with.
Despite them being at his house for the entire story we don’t see much more of Prof Hayling than we did in Demon’s Rocks. And this time he doesn’t have Uncle Quentin amplifying his confusion and temper.
It is perhaps ironic given Blyton’s declining memory Prof Hayling has no idea who the five are when they arrive, denies inviting them and denies he’s ever stayed at Kirrin. Maybe it’s because he didn’t eat breakfast and now it’s nearly lunch time.
He tells the children they can camp out then two seconds later can’t fathom what they would want tents for. Tents he later trips over in the hall as he doesn’t think to ever look around in case his surroundings have changed.
Tinker knows his father well and urges him not to hide the remaining papers after the theft as he will forget where they are. The last time he hid them up the chimney and they nearly got burnt. But the prof knows better and goes to hide them in the coal cellar. Only he hides the day’s papers and leaves the real papers in the unlocked tower. I love that Tinker and Jenny just decide to buy new newspapers to fool him into not realising his mistake.
And that’s about it – apart from looking around the tower at night with Jenny, and getting out the old charter to confirm the circus has the right to stay I don’t think he appears at any other point in the book.
Blyton talking to the characters and the reader
There are several clear examples of this, and a few which are less obvious.
To Tinker –
Dull, Tinker! You needn’t worry! There is far too much excitement waiting for the Five—and you too! Just wait a bit, and see!
To Charlie? –
And off they all went to the great cage. CHARLIE! CHARLIE! Wake up, you’re wanted! CHARLIE!
The lack of quotation marks here presumably means Blyton is summoning the chimp, rather than the Five shouting that.
To the reader and then the characters –
There they go, over the fence, handing the food one to another. Take your paw out of that basket, Mischief! That’s right, Timmy, nibble his ear if he’s as mischievous as his name! You’re all going to have some fun tonight!
As above, she speaks to Julian about George, and then to Tinker again –
So there goes Tinker, with Mischief on his shoulder, to find his father, down the hall—up the stairs—along the landing—into his father’s bedroom . . . r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r! Tinker, you sound like a motor-scooter going up a steep hill! Parp-parp! Don’t hoot like that, you’ll make your father so angry that he won’t listen to a word you say!
But the Professor did listen—and soon Jenny heard him telephoning the police. They’re coming straight away, and that means that Mr Wooh the Magician is in for a most unpleasant time, and his magic won’t help him at all! He’ll have to give back the papers that he made Charlie steal—and plenty of other things, too! There he is, marooned on the island, quite unable to escape, waiting fearfully with his companion, for the police!
This one’s really bizarre and annoying – firstly it’s not even the end of a chapter which is where Blyton normally reserves for her direct speeches, but secondly it wraps up the whole story from a distanced position by saying it will happen in the future.
And lastly, the book ends with –
So did we, George. Hurry up and fall into another adventure. We are longing to hear what you and the others will be up to next. How we wish we could join you! Good-bye for now—and take care of yourselves, Five. Good luck!
This is particularly gutting as we know there will be no more adventures for the Five, not until we start back at book #1 of course.
I can’t be certain as I don’t think I have recorded each and every one of these little speeches all the way through, but they seem to have gotten more frequent in the latter books and particularly in the final two. I wonder if, with her mental faculties beginning to decline Blyton used this technique more to move the story on, not being able to think of anything else?
That’s enough for today – the nitpicks will come next week, I promise!