I’m not doing all that well at reading through the Famous Fives am I! Once upon a time I could devour the 21 books in a matter of weeks, now I’m lucky to get through one a month. But here I am reviewing the third one, so I should reach Five Are Together Again by 2020!
At Kirrin Again
This is our third Famous Five adventure and they are yet to venture further than the idyllic Kirrin – and why would they? Summer or winter it has everything they need for a smashing adventure. We are back to summer for this story, so a whole year has passed since the events of Five On a Treasure Island. Not much has changed, though. The children state they are a year older (naturally), and this time George is lonely and missing her cousins and fits right in with them as soon as they arrive. They haven’t been to Kirrin Island together since the previous summer, they visited at Easter and the weather was too bad. The island is the same as ever – only the wreck has moved a little, battered by winter storms, and the last remaining whole room in the castle has fallen in.
The only change at Kirrin Cottage is a new cook. The fat, panting Joanna is gone and the sour-faced Mrs Stick is in her place. I had to remind myself that it’s only those of us who have read the whole series (perhaps over and over) that will see this as a major thing. For the children and first-time readers Joanna has only served one book, so her absence is less of a wrench.
Another three parter?
If you try hard enough you can probably divide any book into three parts. I mean every book is supposed to have a beginning, a middle and an end, though I always assume the beginning and end to be short while the middle encompasses the main story line. The Famous Five books can, so far, be broken into three chunks of varying length.
For Five Run Away Together the three parts can probably be identified thus:
- The first page through to Aunt Fanny and Uncle Quentin leaving Kirrin – three chapters
- The Five having to live with the Sticks alone and then planning to leave – six chapters
- On the island and the adventure – thirteen chapters
The Five vs the Sticks
There’s not a huge amount to say about the first part of the book – the children arrive at Kirrin and enjoy bathing and swimming, a trip to the island and so on, but with a background of worry as Aunt Fanny isn’t feeling well.
The story kicks off when, on returning from the island, George’s parents are gone – her mother has been taken into hospital and they are alone with the Sticks.
So let me backtrack – who are the Sticks?
Mrs Stick is a wonderful cook but she is short tempered and does not like the fact she now has four children to cook for and the lady of the house is not well enough to assist. She has a ratty little dog too, who mostly stays in the kitchen lest he fight with Timmy.
She has brought her son, Edgar, with her and he’s a spotty-faced lad of about 13 or 14. That makes him ages with, or a little older than Julian. I always think of him as a bit younger than that, probably because he is so immature. He taunts George by singing Georgie Porgie pudding and pie at her for example, and does a lot of crying near the end of the book. He is awful to George when she can’t find her parents – he knows what has happened but sits smugly in an armchair and refuses to say anything until she loses her temper and slaps him.
So now they are ‘under the thumb’ of the Sticks as Julian puts it and they have a few rather unpleasant days. Mrs Stick stops cooking for them and they are stuck with stale sandwiches for lunch. Julian is then forced to tackle them on a few occasions – in order for them to get a decent supper.
This is when they discover Mr Stick, a small, grubby man who needs a shave, sleeping on the kitchen sofa. He claims his ship is docked nearby and Uncle Quentin said he could stay but this is a dubious tale. The Five can’t do much about it though!
Julian is, in my opinion, fabulous in his confrontations with the Sticks. I have given a few
examples in a post about my favourite Blyton quotes. In short, he is quick tongued while Mr Stick keeps repeating now look ‘ere. Julian doesn’t want to look, and says so, all while maintaining a polite tone. I love the moment where he accidentally drops a sticky jam tart on the sleeping Mr Stick’s face and yet still waltzes off with a good supper.
He does tell the Sticks a few home truths, however, about Tinker needing a bath and that they haven’t raised Edgar very well and that makes things worse. Usually Julian is too smart to exacerbate a bad situation but the Sticks are so infuriating I can understand why he couldn’t hold back.
The two boys show off their typical roles around this time – Julian takes charge, tackles the Sticks and is described as grave and grown-up. Meanwhile Dick supports him but also tries to lighten the mood with humour.
Things become untenable when the Sticks try to poison Timmy – an idea Blyton will revisit in Five Go Off in a Caravan – and George starts getting awkward. She has a secret plan and wants the others to go back to their home. Of course they stick (sorry, bad pun) it out, and finally Julian catches her trying to run away to her island. George is quite stupid to think the others wouldn’t go with her, because of course, they agree to do exactly that.
The Secret Kirrin island
At this point the story evolves into something a bit different. We are suddenly in a Secret Island or Hollow Tree House sort of book. The children gather lots of supplies, and buy a few things too. Amongst other things they take secret island – tinned food, candles, kettle, saucepan, cutlery, big tins of water, a last-minute tin-opener and a huge bone for Timmy. It’s a wonder George’s boat can hold them all.
They are not in as dire a situation as the Arnolds, Jack, or Susan and Peter Frost. They are capable of standing up to the Sticks and not starving but life is rather unpleasant for them. Plus there’s the worry that the Sticks will poison Timmy – an idea that Blyton repeats in Five Go Off in a Caravan. So they are better off on the island, and after all George had, earlier in the book, wished that her mother would let them camp on the island for a few days. A case of ‘be careful what you wish for’ I think!
So they have supplies and made a few clever plans. They leave out a train timetable with a train to Julian’s home underlined, and set off in that direction to fool the Sticks. A smarter family might have realised they were being led down the garden path but the Sticks take it at face value. They also arrange for Alf to sail near the island with a flag when George’s parents return so that they can return too.
Once on the island they have to find somewhere to live. The remaining room is no good (though I seem to recall it recovers for Five on Kirrin Island Again), the dungeons are too dark and dank, and the wreck is too wet and smelly. There’s no willow trees to create a house and there are no handle cave… wait, yes there is! There’s a cave George has never found before with a soft sandy floor, a shelf for their supplies and a nice skylight/alternative entrance in the roof.
I’m going to stop there as the adventure proper starts in the next chapter and I’ve already written tons and run out of time too!