After finally reviewing Five on a Treasure Island it has taken me a while to get around to reading the next book, but I’ve done it now.
FOLLOWING IN BIG FOOTSTEPS
Five on a Treasure Island is such a strong start to this series that Five Go Adventuring Again has some big boots to fill. Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that it is set in the midst of winter. The winter weather gives it a very different feeling to its predecessor, and allows it to stand on its own feet and have its own identity. The snow and the winter tides mean it’s impossible to row to Kirrin Island, and most of the story takes place indoors at Kirrin Cottage and the newly introduced Kirrin Farm instead. There is less ‘messing around’ and hilarity too, partly because of the weather but also because of the frosty relationship between George and the new tutor, Mr Roland.
THE NEW CHARACTERS
There are two new folk at Kirrin Cottage. One is Joanna, the cook, described as a fat, panting person. She is a wonderful cook and also very adept at keeping Timmy out of the kitchen. We assume that the Kirrins have been able to afford her thanks to the ingots found in the summer.
The second is the above-mentioned Mr Roland. He has been brought in by Quentin and his brother. Primarily he has been hired to tutor Julian and Dick who are behind in their lessons, thanks to two bouts of flu. However George is also behind – due to a lack of proper schooling (a point I will touch on later) – and Quentin agrees to pay a third of Mr Roland’s fees to help her catch up.
Then up at Kirrin Farm there are Mr and Mrs Sanders. Mr Sanders is a background figure who we don’t see much but Mrs Sanders provides the children with eatables and helps them discover the various secret niches and hidey-holes built into Kirrin Farm.
A THREE-PART STORY
Five on a Treasure Island could be split into three clearly defined parts, and so could this book. The first part concerns the return to Kirrin, the arrival of Mr Roland and the exploration of Kirrin Farm. It is not as adventurous a start as the previous book has, as we are not new to the location or main characters, but the secret hidey-holes (and their contents) at Kirrin Farm quite make up for that. The second part is a brief interlude when Christmas occurs, and most of the story is about the preparations and celebrations. Even the simmering tension between George and Mr Roland is at a careful, low ebb. Then once Christmas is over the hatred between George and Mr Roland increases dramatically, and the main adventure starts to pick up the pace.
GEORGE VS MR ROLAND
The hostilities between George and Mr Roland is the thread that ties the whole story together. They start as soon as she meets him, and he declares he doesn’t like dogs.
There had been a brief awkwardness when George and Anne were fist reunited with Julian and Dick but she warmed up quite quickly and went back to being comfortable with the boys. At first you might think that she will warm to Mr Roland; but she doesn’t. She remains her stubborn, difficult self.
Mr Roland isn’t much better. He can see George doesn’t like him, but he makes little effort to ease relations. He insists on calling her Georgina and makes little to no effort to make friends with Timmy – apart from throwing a few sticks for him to run after on a walk.
Knowing just what Mr Roland is up to (having read the books many times before) it would seem prudent for him to make as good friends with George and Timmy as possible, and only if that failed would it make sense for him to try to ostracise them. He goes straight for isolating George from her cousins and Timmy from the house, though, and making enemies of those two turns out to be his undoing. Firstly, they would have been at Kirrin Farm instead of seeing him meeting the two artists that he claims not to know, and secondly George wouldn’t have been suspicious enough to cotton on to his plan.
Anyway, George is in the same boat. If she had been able to swallow her dislike and been sensible about Timmy then she would have made life an awful lot easier for herself. Of course we know that she is right about him but it’s more luck than her truly knowing he is a baddie. She simply doesn’t like him, and that fuels her suspicions – she’s quite determined to catch him doing wrong, wrong of any kind.
Dick is the only other person to be not completely sure of Mr Roland. I still don’t like him awfully much sometimes, but I think he’s a sport, he says. Julian, Dick and Anne accept it is annoying to have a tutor, and worse for George as he calls her Georgina etc but they know there’s nothing they can do and make the best of it. Anne positively loves him, and in fact almost falls out with George. George is infuriated by them all ‘sucking up’ to Mr Roland and Anne accuses her of lying about him meeting the artists purely out of spite. George is incredibly honest, though, even when the truth gets her into trouble.
Quentin shows a lack of sense, just like in the last book. He is entirely taken in by the late arrival to tutor interviews, and hires Mr Roland because he’s older than the other applicants and has a knowledge of Quentin’s own work. He states that he partly hired him as it would be company for him, and he would enjoy having someone to discuss science with. He invites him into his study and shows him experiments and chats with him in the evenings, and takes his side at every turn instead of his own daughter’s. Thankfully, when it really matters, he believes that George (per Mr Roland’s accusation) wasn’t guilty of theft and damage, though he still doesn’t believe George that it was Mr Roland.
After Christmas things are even worse, Timmy gets sent outside to live and George isn’t allowed to see him at all. I can see why George gets punished, for skipping lessons and her rude attitude, but it seems unnecessary for them to put Timmy out into the garden in the middle of winter when he’s used to being indoors most of the time. Later (after a lot of snow) he’s allowed in as long as Joanna keeps him away from George, so why couldn’t they do that in the first place (well, because it would hinder the plot of Mr Roland sneaking into Uncle Quentin’s study to steal the papers…)
George tries to be good and manages a whole day of being polite, studious and almost pleasant to Mr Roland. He is pleased, but not pleased enough to let Timmy back in and this is where Julian, Dick and Anne finally turn against him to a degree. George immediately reverts back to her usual self, in the child’s logic of being nice to get what you want and when it doesn’t work behave even worse than before.
THE MAIN ADVENTURE
All the fighting between George and Mr Roland is leading somewhere – out into the snow and back into Uncle Quentin’s study.
George is the one in the study, getting into trouble, when she notices eight wooden panels on the wall. And the room faces east. AND when she checks under the carpet (wall to wall but not fitted) there’s a stone floor…
Julian’s the one out in the snow, wearing a white macintosh and following Mr Roland. He also has a dramatic discovery – the tutor hands some papers to the two artists.
It’s not until that night that they can investigate the possibility of a secret passage, but lo and behold it does turn out that the entrance to the secret way is in Kirrin Cottage all along. No good exploring in the middle of the night – too dark and cold apparently – so the next morning while Uncle Quentin is shovelling snow (purely to give them an opportunity, as the road and village are snowed in, what’s the other point of digging a path to nowhere?) they head into the secret passage.
It leads them to Kirrin Farm – and into a cupboard in one of the artists’ rooms. They of course use that opportunity to hunt for the stolen papers, but are discovered by the artists and flee back along the passage.
But the artists realise there’s a passage there and come creeping along it the next night (they’ve no choice if they want the papers back) and it’s down to Timmy to apprehend them.
Reading this for a review I noticed a lot of things I’ve never thought a lot about before.
Julian talks about “your [George’s] family” when it comes to Kirrin Island etc with no mention of any claim from his family.
Mrs Sanders is very blasé about all the secrets in her farmhouse. There’s a hidey hole by the fireplace for small items, a cupboard with false back and a sliding panel in the hall. She’s heard of a secret way from the farmhouse but has never cared about these things so never looked for it or really listened to the stories. She seems like a nice lady but she baffles me!
Talking of the hiding place in the cupboard, I always imagined the “dent” the talk about being a man-shaped hollow (which would have made it really obvious that there was a hiding place) but it’s really a tiny dent where a release button is.
The hall panel hides a recipe book, a tobacco pouch and a map. I can see why you’d hide a map to a secret way but why the other things? And why is the entrance to the secret way upstairs? Wouldn’t it have been easier to have another sliding panel in a stone floor instead of a hollow column between rooms then going underground?
Mr Roland must have been thrilled that a secret way exists in his friends’ lodgings no matter where it was located. It would have been perfect for theft, escaping or hiding had he found it first.
Midnight explorations are usually done in holiday homes, or abandoned houses etc, rarely in someone’s own house (at least not for the first time).
At some point in this book Timothy aka Tim starts getting called Timmy. He was never Timmy in the first book though that’s probably his most famous name. By page 22 he gets Timmy but it’s rare, and grows more common as the book goes on. In contrast I think he’s mostly Timmy, occasionally Tim and rarely Timothy as the series progresses.
Anne actually annoys me quite a lot in this book. She is far too loyal to Mr Roland instead of George, then in the secret way she is rather pathetic. Yes she’s scared, yes she’s tired but you can’t sit and rest when your enemies are chasing you!
There’s a reason why Blyton didn’t accept criticisms from the over 12s, and it’s probably because they over-think things and ruin the fun for everyone. I couldn’t help but notice a few things that didn’t make complete sense.
Timmy growls because someone’s moving around downstairs at night. Surely he can’t know it’s Mr Roland from all the way upstairs and it wouldn’t be impossible for Uncle Quentin to have gone down to scribble down a sudden idea, or Aunt Fanny to get something for a headache etc. Even if he knows it’s Mr Roland, (smelled him passing the bedroom door, perhaps? and is smart enough to work out that the noise downstairs is connected? he surely can’t identify sneaking from getting a snack or an aspirin.
George says that she’s never been to a proper school before (to which I assumed she meant she’s only gone to a small village school with one teacher or such like) but Aunt Fanny says George has never been to school.
The carpet in the study goes wall to wall (George doesn’t know if it’s a stone floor) yet they roll it and the hearth rug back to reveal the secret way without moving any furniture.
Why have a false back to a wardrobe in Kirrin Farm and then a door to the secret way behind that? If you wanted to hide you could just go into the secret way.
None of my nitpickings are serious. They can be put down to misrememberings, omitted details for speed of story-telling, the fancifulness of installers of secret passages (I mean are there companies in the Yellow Pages doing that sort of thing? Is there even a code of practice? Guidelines? Health and safety laws? I think not on all counts) and so on.
Five Go Adventuring Again is quite different from most of the other books in the series as it has probably the most involvement from adults. Most of that involvement is hindering, but they are a constant presence and that explains the majority of the book being adventure-free. The real adventure is done in a couple of chapters, but there is a good, long, tense build up to it. The winter setting also helps distance itself from the mostly warm adventures of spring, summer and autumn.
This is one of those books (you can find this in films TV shows and pantomimes too) where you’re shouting at the oblivious characters for crying out loud can’t you see he’s a bad guy? and open your eyes, he’s manipulating you and sometimes he’s behind you!! It’s quite satisfying when everyone realises George has been right all along but I always wish they grovelled and apologised a bit more because the poor girl deserves it after all she goes though.