This week’s Twinniest twins is all about the O’Sullivan twins from the St Clare’s series. They are the second lot of female twins we’ve looked at, but the first set of identical girl twins.
The O’Sullivan twins, Isabel and Pat start off their series and their time at St Clare’s around fourteen years old, and have become rather spoilt and lazy. They assume that they are going to be sent off to a posh and expensive big private school with their friends, and are disappointed when their parents inform them that they are going to St Clare’s to get their corners rubbed off ( I don’t think this is actually said so bluntly, but their father implies it!) So the twins are sent off to St Clare’s and vow to be so bad that they are sent home and have to go to the other school (I think its called Red Roofs or something similar, I can’t be sure!)
The twins do make for interesting reading, especially with the first book because they feature in it so much. They are absolutely identical which means that they can play tricks on people by pretending to be the other twin, which is the complete contrast to the Batton Twins of Malory Towers who aren’t alike enough for tricks like that. Part of the story involves Pat pretending to be Isabel. Pat doesn’t believe she should have to run around after the bigger girls, but Isabel isn’t so sure that disobeying them isn’t wrong and so answers the summons. She is then allowed down to the town to visit the shops while Pat isn’t. They hatch the plan that as long as only one goes at a time, Pat can go too, pretending to be Isabel.
To begin with you’re not really supposed to like the twins, at least I don’t think so. They’re fairly arrogant and rude, and dismissive of anyone apart from themselves. I think this is a little more true of Pat than Isabel, and she does seem to be the more dominant twin throughout the series. I do feel that Isabel gets left behind somewhat, and is perhaps the nicer twin.
The girls play a big part in the first two stories and then seem to waver in and out of the others, finally ending up as joint head girls of St Clare’s, but beyond them deciding that they quite liked St Clare’s really and wanting to stay, the stories become less about them and more about the other girls in the form. Like many other sets of twins in Blyton’s series they seem to get left behind somewhat, at least that’s how I see it.
They are never quite the same strong female leads in twins throughout the rest of the books I’ve read by Blyton, and its a shame to see Pat and Isabel fall by the way-side so much. They have a rival of kind in Darrell Rivers of Malory Towers as she’s a strong female lead but the added mysticism of twins is hard to pick up again in any other female based story by Blyton.
The twins, when they settle down, become likeable, funny and intelligent, as well as very no-nonsense. They are always in the background of the books, providing some stability to the story, and the basis, but we don’t visit them so much. Partly due to this and partly because I read these books in my early twenties, they are probably my least favourite set of twins. There’s no connection with them for me, and even though they are superb characters for children to be reading about, they just don’t connect with me.
I have yet to read Pamela Cox’s Sixth Form at St Clare’s to see what the twins are like when they’re in charge of the whole school, but as by the fifth book, they’re around but somewhat invisible, perhaps they come into their own again in the sixth form, I don’t know. I shall just have to read the book and find out!
Read about more Twinniest Twins here.
It’s always tricky to write about twins – their similarities make it difficult to establish separate identities for the reader. That’s what makes your review so interesting. Thank you.
Thanks for this, Stef. I think that in St Clare’s (I’m not sure about Malory Towers as I have never read them) the main drama is always about, as you rightly refer to it, ‘having the corners rubbed off’ those who do not conform to the St Claire’s ethos. For the twins, this happens in the first book and from then on they don’t interest Blyton much. Instead we see a whole variety of other girls (Mirabel etc) being made to shape up (or ship out) and so inevitably the O’Sullivans don’t feature so much. I suppose the alternative would have been to keep the twins in constant battle with the school, but I don’t think that Miss Theobald would have allowed that!
By the way, I agree that Patricia is very clearly the dominant twin over Isabel.
By the Sixth Form book, Pamela seems to remember that Pat has a bit of a temper and Isabel doesn’t. Reading it, I’m like “I’m starting to think that maybe just Isabel should have been head girl”. Pat keeps losing her temper with a new girl who hates St Clare’s and isn’t shy about disrespecting everything and everyone in it. At one point, the girl looks at Isabel, who smiles at her. For a moment, the girl actually smiles back instinctively,
Pat was always the more dominant twin, but this trait seemed to disappear after the first book for me. She seemed to drag Isabel along with a lot of things. Isabel always did better as a character when she was independent from Pat. If it had just been her going to St Clare’s, she probably would have still had trouble settling in, but not as much as she did because half the time, she was just following Pat’s lead. They didn’t do too much after the first book, which is why it’s so strange that the second book is also named after them.