Corinna’s Famous Five Pick’n’Mix Reflections: Five Go to Billycock Hill

As one of the blog’s regular commenters Nigel pointed out, these are not really reviews but more personal reflections.  Fiona has written good Famous Five reviews and I don’t feel any need to replicate or try to compete with them!  So let’s rename this series Corinna’s Famous Five pick’n’mix reflections.

I’d also like to apologise in advance if this blog is a bit disjointed – I’m writing it as I cook my Christmas cake (only a month until Christmas, and I need to allow plenty of time for generous sherry infusions!) and have to keep getting up to check that it’s not burning on top.

Now – on with the show!

For those of you who didn’t read the last couple of installments, I’m re-reading the Fives in any old order I feel like – hence the “pick’n’mix”.  After finishing Five Go To Mystery Moor for some reason my eye was grabbed by Five Go To Billycock Hill.   This might be because, as it turns out, I have 3 copies!  I have  a 1991 Knight paperback from the series I collected as a child, a first edition in reasonable condition with  no dust jacket (this was the one I read this time round), and a second impression from 1959 with a fair dustjacket.

Five Go to Billycock Hill Dustjacket

Five Go to Billycock Hill Dustjacket

Once again, for those not familiar with the story, I’d refer to you Fiona’s synopsis.  This relfection however might have a litte more detail about the plot than my previous entries, as I really liked how all the elements of the plot linked neatly together.

In the very first chapter (the second page even) we learn that Billycock Hill, where the children are heading off to camp, is near a butterfly farm and some caves to explore.   By chapter three they have arrived, and met two key characters: Toby, a friend of Julian and Dick’s, whose farm the Five are camping near, and his little brother Benny and his pigling Curly (because of his curly tail of course!)  I had never heard the word pigling before I read this book!  A quick check of my 1990s paperback reveals that “pigling” was used in this edition.  I would always use piglet.  However, it is very clear what is meant by this word, and actually Curly the pigling was a great favourite of mine in this book!  Not to mention that Curly’s habit of running away (and Benny’s habit of following him) is a key plot point.

After a “whopping great tea” at the farmhouse (courtesy of Toby’s mother, who plays the always important role of keeping the Five well-fed!) the children head up the hill to find a campsite, and spot an airfield nearby.  They learn that Toby’s cousin Jeff is a flight-lieutenant there, and whatever they are working on is all very hush-hush.  The very next day the children meet the strange inhabitants of the butterfly farm (the human inhabitants, that is!) who will also prove to be key to the plot.

So it’s all set up reasonably quickly – unlike some Fives which seem to take a few chapters of picnics and teas and rowing and walking etc before the adventure really kicks off!  Or maybe that’s just me being a quick reader?

What I like about this book is the way everything is all tied together, and it’s not necessarily what you expected (even on re-reading as an adult).  The strange man that isn’t Mr Brett from the butterfly farm, the mysterious, sad old woman Mrs Jane, Cousin Jeff’s alleged treason, and even how Curly the pigling “runned” away are all  nicely linked together at the end.

Much to my relief I also liked George better in this book than the other two I’ve recently re-read.  She doesn’t have any incidents of temper or sulkiness – or at least none that come to mind!

Despite this story being so tidily put  together, it being full of good characters and exciting events, I liked Five Go Off To Camp better.  Perhaps it was just the evocative atmosphere of the spook trains.  I did like Billycock Hill more than Five Go To Mystery Moor though, which seemed rather slow in comparison.  Oh well – we shall see how it comes out in the overall rankings once I’ve re-read them all!

  1. Five Go Off To Camp

  2. Five Go To Billycock Hill

  3. Five Go To Mystery Moor
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2 Responses to Corinna’s Famous Five Pick’n’Mix Reflections: Five Go to Billycock Hill

  1. pete says:

    A nice post.I often read the books in random too,just reading whatever takes your fancy in no particular order!


  2. Francis says:

    Great idea to read them randomly. I do like ‘Billycock Hill’ which as a boy growing up in the Cold War 1950s seemed such an apt subject. Reading it as a youngster today would lack this context.
    I do hope that you enjoyed some infusions of Sherry as well as your cake – I bet it is lovely!


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