We’re almost at the end of these comparisons, mostly because there was only ever six to do with Malory Towers. In the Fifth is my second favourite Malory Towers book, the first being The Third Year at Malory Towers. The reason why In the Fifth is only my second favourite is because I didn’t read it until much later in my Enid Blyton reading.
In fact that is probably why the Fifth is one of my favourites, when I reading the book the girls were the right age for me to relate to in my tender teenage years. I could see why they decided to treat the new girl Maureen Little the way they did. This part has made it into the taped adaptation I have, but I have no idea on whether it would have been edited or removed from the later versions as the way the girls handle Maureen can be seen as cruel and in fact, is a form of bullying. However it being a Blyton book and Maureen being one of the ‘bad’ girls and everyone else being ‘good’ as a youngster you get away with the scenes as it just means that everyone is being put in their place.
As an adult however the handling of Maureen, Catherine and Gwen is uncomfortable to listen to, let alone read the full descriptions of ‘taking them down a peg’. In fact the attitude of our ‘good’ girls is hardly anything spectacular. Blyton might have included that to show that even though there are silly people in the word, not everyone is one thing or the other. I know now that life, even for the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ people is never as easy as it seems. People aren’t all bad and people aren’t all good. We all deal with things differently and perhaps the way the fifth dealt with Maureen, Gwen and Catherine was them trying to deal with things in a very young way. In fact the first suggestion is to act scornfully towards them but this was turned down in favour of laughter. The acting out of it can be a bit lacking in intensity and drama, whereas the book gives the full whack. I never realized the seriousness of the situation when I was younger and through the audio, but being older and having read the book, I see the horridness behind the actions.
The cassette covers things quite closely in this one, though there are swathes of text cut and more instrumental music to fill in long gaps where the narrator walks you through the book. The Fifth is one of the better adapted novels as the plot does not jump about from chapter to chapter and follows a main story arc. This holds it together better throughout the audio experience and things to not seem quite so random in this one. Perhaps it is because we know the characters better or that I just know the book by heart I know whats happening in-between the segments of text. As a once first time listener with no idea of what the book said these audios do work well, but now as a seasoned Blytonite, the world from the books has become my life and the most important thing about it was the description that Blyton included in her books. I loved that we got more of a flavour about the characters in the books, and little glimpses of character that were somehow lost in the audio. It was through the books that I began to fall in love and enjoy the characters even more!
One of the nicest things about In the Fifth is that when the Fifth form perform their pantomime, and go through rehearsals, we get to hear parts of ‘Darrell’s’ script. Of course these aren’t really included in the book and must have been put in by the script writer but they really do make the whole idea of the fifth putting on a pantomime more or less realistic. It is a performance I would have paid any silly amount of money to see; I really would. I’m sure it was the performance of a life time for the girls, and through the audio we get to experience a little bit of that magic.
As I’ve said, this has to be one of my favourite audios, and even though like the rest of them, it has its plot cut about to condense it into an hours performance, the result is a pleasing one. A lot of it is down to the actors of course, and perhaps needing more ‘oomph’ in their plummy acting, but still these are the girls of Malory Towers, they’re learning to become proper ladies!
Next review: Last Term at Malory Towers: Audio adaptation
Or read a review of the In the Fifth novel here.