Once again I’m going to bring you a look at the Bruno Vincent’s attempts at making Enid Blyton’s Famous Five into modern-day grown-ups. I believe I’ve looked at the last in the series by this point, but by the looks of Amazon, we can expect more later this year. However, let’s have a look at this offering before we get on to the next round of “Grown-Up” Famous Fives we can expect. Fiona, as you may remember, has already done a review of this book, but just to be annoying I’m sticking my oar in and looking at it as well. Fiona’s review – which is much more detailed as to the actual content of the book – can be found here.
I won’t deny that if anything this was the book that I really expected to have me laugh out loud. I could imagine the Famous Five breezing the tasks with a wonderful happiness that they had in all their adventures and this was just an adventure the adult world had provided.
Alas, I was seriously wrong. I don’t think I laughed once. At least not in a laugh out loud, ‘oh so tongue in cheek’ manner that Five Go Parenting provided me with. The Famous Five for a start are barely recognisable as themselves. Vincent has taken the worst traits the Five ever were seen to be blessed with and blown them up into massive dominant personality traits. Not only did the Famous Five get a huge personality shift, the Secret Seven also received a damning personality switch and the two groups of Blyton’s heroes have become enemies. Peter, Janet, Barbara and co have become little oily oiks, who look down on the Famous Five, for one reason being that they have a dog for a member. George helpfully points out to them that no one can ever remember the names of all the members of the Secret Seven. (Point agreed with this Blytonite right here!)
Anyway, the story starts with a hung-over Julian attempting to get his team, who just happen to be George, Dick and Anne, not to mention Timmy (dogs in the office can increase productivity you know!) to the hotel where their training day is taking place.
Throughout the day, friendships are tested and the bonds between the five are frayed and challenged by the tasks set out by their cousin Rupert, who has popped up again just in case we had forgotten all about him. Home truths are dished out and questionnaires provide the Five with personality labels, which has been something they longed to avoid.
Eventually they stumble across some insider trading, spy type plot, which cousin Rupert is up to his elbows in once again, but as Fiona pointed out, the Secret Seven manage to foil an even bigger plot because the Five sabotaged part of their team building hike. Not something I think the Five deserved, but I suppose you could now bring up the question and debate of who was better, if you really wanted to.
The long and the short of it
The book, I believe is the shortest of the Famous Five Grown-Up Series with only 104 pages of story. It certainly feels slimmer in your hands than any of the others, and has shorter chapters as well, one or two whole pages on average I’d say. A lot is crammed into such an overall short story, Vincent tries to put in a lot of the managerial strategy nonsense and, although I read it quickly, never seem to have a satisfactory finish to them. Rather a mess I thought.
Also, the brains that seemingly blessed the Five in their youth seems to have deserted them good and proper. They can’t seem to work together to get through the tasks they are set, without sniping at each other and causing offence. The picture depicted on the front cover is one of the exercises where Julian has to lead the team, blindfolded, only with their instructions from the others (they’re supposed to be avoiding ‘mines’ (they’re made of paper!)) This is hampered by the fact that the others can’t use ‘left’, ‘right’ and ‘forward’ to help him. Once their “coach” has told them to stop using compass directions, which seems perfectly allowable to me, they descend into riddles, confusing poor Julian no end and Timmy manages to ruin it by bounding in and stepping on all the paper mines, effectively blowing the Five up. It’s hardly Timmy’s fault! It’s a long part of the book which realistically isn’t funny, but depressing. The Five were bright young things, and now seemed to have turned into useless layabouts. It’s not funny.
Eventually they do come to work together, which is nice, and to be honest towards the end they begin to feel more like the Famous Five we love. However hard to believe that they are our old friends, when throughout the book Julian is described as having a hangover, because he went out the night before and is paying for it. I suppose it’s to signify the Five being grown up, but its distracting because its part of the reason the Five aren’t getting on as well as they should do!
What am I trying to say?
What am I trying to say? It’s not a brilliant book, or story for that matter. The characters are barely recognisable as themselves and it’s a rushed book, where too much is happening compared to some of the other books where things have taken so long to kick off as it were.
These books seem to be a real mix of fast and slow, and Five Go on a Strategy Away day is just as another one in the series of bad parodies in the guise of nostalgia. I don’t like always being negative about books but this series was a particular drag. The only one that felt like it was worth reading was Five Go Parenting that I reviewed a couple of weeks ago.
Please let me know if you have read them, and what you think? However from what I have read, I’m not alone in my opinions. Still it would be nice to see if anyone out there actually likes these books, and tell me why!