When I mentioned in my Monday post that I was going to read and review The Queen Elizabeth Family, Fiona (as it turns out quite rightly) queried my choice of starting at the end of a series. (I have also just discovered that I have the penultimate book The Buttercup Farm Family on my shelves – D’oh!) However, back to my point, it is clear to me that by starting at the end of the series, I have managed to miss lots of important points, such as why do the children and their parents live in caravans but board at a school during the week. These are clearly things I will need to come back to, but I am hoping to look at the story as a stand alone story as much as possible.
As you may have gathered from the first part of my blog, I may not be quite as knowledgeable about the characters Mike, Belinda and Ann as some others of you may be, and as if I had read the books from the beginning, but I hope I can give all your first time readers to the Family series (like myself) inspiration to read them as well. So I am hoping to just be able to look at the story like a stand-alone. Blyton does write in the front of the book that each of the books in the series can be read separately even though they are part of a series, so shall we see if that stands?
So when I started reading the book I realized I was at a disadvantage, but it didn’t seem to matter too much when I got into the book. The short chapters are quite handy because the story moves quickly and given that these stories were serialized in the Enid Blyton’s Magazine it makes sense to have the short chapters. Anyway, back to the story; we join Mike, Belinda and Ann on their return from their boarding schools on a Friday evening to spend the weekend with Mummy and Daddy. They are excited to see their mother, who had a nice tea sorted for them and had kitted out their caravan with new curtains during their week away at school. The curtains become very much admired and then the questions start coming; “Will Daddy be late or early today?”
The answer is late, and when he comes home he had a big surprise for the children. They are going to go and have tea on the big cruise ship The Queen Elizabeth. Naturally the children are very excited at the prospect of having dinner on the amazing ship. They discuss that Granny can lend them her car and join them for the trip. What I didn’t realize at this point that Granny was clearly someone who had a lot of money – she has a driver! – in fact there seems to be a lot of money in the family, because they’re not like the usual people Blyton puts in caravans. In fact the father’s job must be well paying (though I don’t know what it is) because part of his job seems to be a bit of travel given that after the children have tea on The Queen Elizabeth a couple of weeks later they get told that they are going to go to America on ship.
Obviously they are delighted and can’t wait to get on board, explore, experience the food and America. Blyton’s descriptions of the food and experiences of the ship, and of America may be in part down to her own trip to the continent on The Queen Elizabeth and returning on the Queen Mary in 1948. This means she probably had an idea of what went on on these ships and the luxury they provided.
Its a very simple story all in all, about the build up to the trip, and then the trip itself. There is a little bit about the stay in New York and all the presents the children get, treats and visits to the tourist attractions. It all sounds very nice and civilized, lots of references are made to how much the Americans make and have to spend, as well as the portion sizes being much bigger than the English portions.
The children have a lovely time, being spoilt and then enjoy their trip back to show off to their school friends.
Overall, the book is one for younger children. The language is simple and the chapters are short, possibly as I mentioned before because it was serialized in the Enid Blyton magazines. Its a very simple story, there isn’t anything mysterious or anything like that, but the most simple of things, a big adventure and new experiences.
I didn’t click with the characters, they may be too young for me, and it may just be because I hadn’t read the previous books in the series. Maybe when I’ve done a bit more reading things will become clearer and I could make a proper assessment of the characters who I found a bit two dimensional .
Even though Blyton says that these books can be read independently, I think I Fiona had a point when I first said I was going to read and review: I should have really started at the beginning!