The Upper Fourth at Malory Towers is the one that made the biggest impression on me when I was younger and the cassette that I had listened to, had filled me full of dread for failure. The crux of the story is that pride comes before a fall, and that hard work really really pays off. As a small girl, these messages became ingrained in me, like Blyton had intended. The moral message of her stories was a huge part of her writing, and it has stuck with me to this day.
Another reason for this being one of my least favourite Malory Towers stories is because since the Second Form, Alicia has taken a back seat in the Third Year and then because of Darrell being made head girl, begins to bring out her sharp tongue and does her best to wind up Darrell and create a bad atmosphere.
The chopping and changing of scenes once more brings about a stark lack of continuity to the story, and some of the best bits, especially the descriptions of the food are left out and not to mention the hilarity of Belinda following Gwendoline around trying to catch her scowls. However there is a lot of atmosphere in the end of side one where Darrell confronts Alicia’s little cousin June about wanting to sneak on the Upper Fourth’s midnight feast. Now I know we are not supposed to like June, and this is because she is not presented to us in a very nice way, and with the adaptation, she is voiced along the same vein as Gwendoline; that is to say, arrogant and annoyingly nasal! Now I have never ever warmed to June, like I never warned to Gwen, and this audio only serves to cement that dislike. Unlike Alicia who can occasionally see she is wrong, and can admit it, June appears to have little, if any, redeeming qualities.
I better stop myself there on the subject of June, as I could quite easily write a whole blog on her, maybe I will someday! However on with the adaptation, and back to the point.
Darrell confronting June about her sudden piety of wanting to own up at being at a midnight feast was staged very well, I really could feel the foreshadowing as a child, and even now as an adult, that Darrell was going to lose her precious temper thanks to this Alicia 2.0. Alicia’s jibes throughout the rest of the book and the audio about pride coming before a fall all congregate at this moment, and Darrell loses her temper and in a similar set up to how she loses her temper with Sally way back in the first form, June starts to get the same treatment. I do feel very sorry for Darrell here because it’s not her fault, not entirely. I know first hand how easy it is the fly off the rails in anger because of someone or something that can’t be reasoned with or controlled. When I was younger I never was able just to leave the recording on the cliff hanger of Miss Potts bursting in on the ‘fight’ and even if it was my bedtime listening, I sneaked out of bed and turned the cassette over so that my over active imagination wouldn’t worry too much about Darrell during the night.
Carrying on, the downside of Miss Potts finding out about this fight is that she finally uncovers the truth about the midnight feast and Darrell is stripped of her head of form post. She suffers the punishment like a champion because I suppose in a way she does deserve it. However later on in the story she earns it back.
The Clarissa Carter and Gwendoline Lacey part of the story is played down in the audio, mostly to save time again it would seem, time that can be filled with idle music. The part of the story where Gwen pretends to have a weak heart takes up quite a lot of the book and underlines a major character flaw in Gwen, her weakness and self belief. We would believe that this is the turning point in Gwen’s character but alas, we are wrong. It will take another two books before we see the real making of Gwen.
Again with this audio we find a lot of things are left out from the book, things that in the end come to be quite a large part of the story, especially the things with Gwen, Clarissa and Bill, as well as the new twins Connie and Ruth. Again it’s the inserted music that takes up more time than it needs and doesn’t allow to the story to flow as naturally as it could. I think its the same for these six Malory Towers adaptations, and as an adult now I realise that, but when I was a child and hadn’t read the book it didn’t matter so much.
So there we are, my thoughts on The Upper Fourth at Malory Towers, let me know what you think?
Next review: In the Fifth at Malory Towers: Audio adaptation
Or read a review of the Upper Fourth novel here.