Sorry to anyone who thinks I’m about to skelp Julian for being bossy, or George for her temper. I actually want to do something even harder: put the series in order of most to least favourite. I’ve always had books I really love, ones I quite like and ones I think aren’t quite as good as the rest, but I’ve never examined it closely enough to work out exactly what order I would rank them in.
MY #1 FAVOURITE
The start is easy: all-time favourite is Five Go to Smuggler’s Top, so that has to occupy the #1 slot.
I have always loved Smuggler’s Top, though I find the ‘why’ very hard to put it into words. It was my favourite right from the start, though I don’t think I read it more often than the others – I pretty much always read all 21 through in order. It was one of two that I had with a dustjacket which was nice, many of my others were hardbacks missing parts of their spine, 70s paperbacks or rather nasty shiny new paperbacks. I did discuss the effect hardback vs paperback had on me, and it certainly wasn’t a case of all hardbacks being my favourite, if you love a story enough it won’t matter what the book looks like (or indeed if it’s even a book and not on a Kindle but that’s getting off-topic).
Ok, so Smuggler’s Top was just a really lovely looking book, but it is also a great story. I have always LOVED the start with the drama of the tree crashing down on the house (my signature on the Enid Blyton Society Forums reads:
“It’s the ash! It’s falling!” yelled Julian, almost startling Dick out of his wits…
“Listen to its terrible groans and creaks!” yelled Julian, almost beside himself with impatience.
Yes, there a bit missing in the middle but there’s a character limit and those are the best bits! I still get a shiver down my spine when I read that bit and in my hormonal state the next time I may even cry.
And of course after that is the spooky Castaway Island with its marshes, endless tunnels, secret passages and of course the sinister Block and Mr Barling. It has some good red herrings like Mr Lenoir’s temper and some funny moments like Sooty pretending he bit Block to protect Timmy.
MY BOTTOM TWO
It may seem a bit strange to go from the top to the bottom, but I know these positions for definite so it’s easier to do that and then work out the rest.
M two least favourites just happen to be the last two titles: Five Are Together Again and Five Have a Mystery to Solve. Blyton, it is generally agreed, was starting to decline in writing powers towards the end of her career. You can argue when the decline started but it was definitely in the early 60s, and these books were published in 1962 and 1963 respectively. Banshee Towers (generally regarded as a very weak title) came out in 1961, and her very last full-length novel (again, wildly regarded as not up to her usual standard) was The Hidey-Hole in 1964. Saying that, I love Five Go to Demon’s Rocks and that was a 1961 book, and not everything from that period was bad.
Anyway, writing skill aside, why do I like these less than the others?
Five Have a Mystery to Solve has just never ranked that highly for me. There are parts I like – the journey down the well for example – but it irks me that the sea-faring Five are foolish enough to get stranded on an island. I also dislike Wilfrid all the way though (even if he improves) so that doesn’t help. This is one I had in rather an ugly paperback (which, if I remember rightly, had the blurb from another book on the back.
Somehow the left book seemed uglier than the right one.
Five Are Together Again is disappointing for different reasons. The last book, in my opinion, should either have harked back to the glorious Kirrin days of some of the earlier books or taken us to somewhere new and exciting (in the vein of Tremannon, Demon’s Rocks, Hike etc). Instead we get the Five camping in someone’s garden and a cursory glimpse of Kirrin.
The mystery itself isn’t particularly great either – it’s The Rilloby Fair Mystery recycled in a new setting. We’ve also already had the Five live alongside Fair Folk in Wonderful Time, and Circus Folk in Caravan, so even that element fails to bring anything new.
It’s not a bad book, I hasten to add, but in comparison with the other 20, it does seem lacking.
1. Five Go to Smuggler’s top
20. Five Have a Mystery to Solve
21. Five Are Together Again
What would your top and bottom books be?