Stef laughed at me. This happens more often than you might think, considering we live at opposite ends of the earth. During our last Skype conversations, all I said was “After Smuggler’s Top, I can’t help but find Uncle Quentin a bit… welll… sexy!” I think she was lucky she wasn’t eating or drinking at the time, as she might have choked!
I did allude to this in previous blog where I said Uncle Quentin looked rather handsome. With this in mind, I thought my next Five should be one that features Uncle Q, and Stef (once she had finished laughing) suggested Five on Kirrin Island Again.
My edition of Kirrin Island Again is a 1965, 14th impression. So not a terribly early one, but it does have a dust jacket in very good condition. I also have my 1990s knight edition from the first serious I collected (referenced in previous blogs). By the way, my Famous Five “originals” (or as close as I can get) set is coming along rather nicely:
Still a few gaps, but I’m getting closer to having the whole set in beautiful dust jackets.
Since I’m mainly going to talk about things that relate to Uncle Quentin, I’d refer you to Fiona’s summary for the plot details. I also need to warn you that this reflection will contain SPOILERS – so if you haven’t read the book, and don’t want to know what happens, please stop reading now!
The story begins with George finding out that her father will be using Kirrin Island – her island – for some mysterious experiments, which require him being surround by water. Being Quentin, he never thought to ask his hot-tempered, possessive daughter for permission, which causes some familial friction – another occasion where I really do feel sorry for the long-suffering Aunt Fanny! However, this does paint Quentin as a man who is extremely clever, mysterious and very firm when he needs to be… what’s not to like about this?!
Also, although you don’t discover the nature of his experiences until much later in the book, it turns out that he is working on something for the good of mankind:
I’ll tell you what my experiments are for, George – they are to find a way of replacing all coal, coke and oil – an idea to tie the world all the heat and power it wants, and to do away with mines and miners.
From this, you might reasonably infer that he is not only very clever, but selfless, environmentally aware and a humanitarian!
Some time later in the story, when Quentin ends up shut down in the dungeon by the baddies, he shows a rather crafty, unexpectedly practical side when he first hides his notebook with all the details of his secret experiments in it, and then gives it to George to smuggle it out and away from the bad guys. I liked this resourceful side of him.
However, I do have to say that I did not like that he did not go and rescue poor Timmy – I know he didn’t want to leave his notebook behind in the hiding place in case the baddies found it, and neither did he want to carry it on him in case the bad guys found it there either, but still… Timmy was there to protect him and leaving him shut up in the dungeons seems rather harsh.
By the way (and this is a non-Quentin-centric digression), I really didn’t understand why the baddies didn’t just shoot Timmy. Of course – I understand that it is simply not in the nature of the Famous Five stories that Timmy could get hurt! But it seems to me that bad guys who have no hesitation in blowing up an island and it collapsing on top of the people they’ve captured and shut in the dungeons, would have absolutely no qualms about shooting a dog. I’ve often wondered this in the Five books. Sometimes Timmy runs away, or the baddies don’t know he is there, but when he is there I’m always wondering why they don’t just take him out of the picture as it seems inconsistent with their other despicable behaviour. However, like I said, there is no place for dog-killing in a children’s book so I wouldn’t want this to happen! I couldn’t help but notice the seeming inconsistency, however.
Back to Uncle Quentin: another stand-out Quentin moment is when he rushes up to the top of his experimental tower to smash up the equipment there – to stop the explosion that would destroy the island and everyone on it! This was a very exciting moment in the book and Quentin is quite the hero.
There were so non-Quentin-centric things about the book that I also really liked (just before you think I’m completely mad). I found Timmy’s reaction to Mr Curton and his son very interesting – I don’t recall another time where Timmy simply ignored a “baddie” – rather than obviously disliking/distrusting them (although I’m sure someone will set me straight if there were other occasions). I also really liked how Timmy seemed to know he must stay with Quentin on the Island to protect him, even though his mistress is clearly upset at the prospect. Good old Timmy!
Another aspect of the story that I really liked was the links back to Five on a Treasure Island and the old map of Kirrin Island and village. Of course, I think it is wonderful that Quentin found the alternative entrance to the dungeon when the children couldn’t! I also really liked that the tunnel under the sea was finally found – it’s funny, I felt like that had always been part of the story and had forgotten that it wasn’t until this book, the sixth in the series, that this was discovered.
So, how did this story, with its generous helping of Uncle Quentin, fare amongst the rest? Well, I’ve put it in third place, behind Smuggler’s Top (which wins out on some many counts – I think it will be quite difficult to topple from top spot) and Five Go Off To Camp, which has always been one of my very favourites. They felt more action-packed, too. Kirrin Island Again still rates ahead of Billycock Hill and Mystery Moor. I’m not convinced it will retain its “top three” spot – but we shall have to wait and see!
- Five Go to Smuggler’s Top (#4)
- Five Go Off To Camp (#7)
- Five on Kirrin Island Again (#6)
- Five Go To Billycock Hill (#16)
- Five Go To Mystery Moor (#13)