This is an important book, I always think. It was where Blyton originally intended to end the series, nicely bookending the series with two Kirrin Island adventures. There is a fair amount of character development from George and we get to see more of her relationship with her father too.
The first edition dustjacket on the left with the back-to-front telescope, and then the version I have, first published in 1951. I’ve never really looked at the second cover in great detail – but George looks very tall and masculine. I almost mistook her for Julian at first. It must be James pushing the boat off, I’d never realised he was on a cover before.
A story in three parts
In my first review I broke the story into parts, and for some reason this is what I think of when I pick up each subsequent book.
So for this story, we have:
- The Five coming together again, and arriving in Kirrin
- The Mystery of Uncle Quentin’s hidden workshop on the island, and the idea there might be someone else there with him
- George’s trip to the island and the main drama at the end of the book
I had toyed with the idea that ‘part 3’ would begin when Uncle Quentin suspects he’s not alone, but I think tonally it fits more with the mystery of where he’s working than the high drama later.
Five on the Mainland Again
For a book about Five on Kirrin Island (again) they actually don’t spend a lot of time there. Uncle Quentin spends more time there than they do, because he is conducting some scientific experiments there. The Five visit for lunch twice, and are almost pushed into the boat afterwards, Quentin is so keen to be left alone. Timmy spends the most time there, from page 93, and George secretly returns to the island on page 128. Julian and Dick go back on page 168, and Anne joins them on page 173, for just five pages.
Most of the Five’s time is spend around Kirrin, at George’s home, and a two new locations, namely the Coastguard’s cottage and Kirrin Quarry.
Uncle Quentin’s two mysteries
The middle of the story concerns the two mysteries around Uncle Quentin’s stay on the island.
Firstly there is the puzzle of where he is working. The only whole room of the castle had fallen in before the events of Five Run Away Together, and it has magically repaired itself but Quentin isn’t using it. He’s not in the cave, nor in the dungeons as the stone hasn’t been lifted. He isn’t at the top of his new plastic tower, either. They don’t actually check the wreck but it’s hardly likely for Uncle Quentin to shin up a rope and slip around the deck.
Aunt Fanny isn’t particularly worried. She imagines there are many places on the island to hide. Considering the cave the Five found in their third adventure, I’d say it was possibly for there to be one or two secrets the island hasn’t yet revealed but the children are wild with not knowing. It’s a strange situation for the reader, too, as we are so used to children in Blyton’s books being smarter than any grown ups and running rings around them, even intelligent scientists.
Quentin could tell them but chooses not to – showing that he has a bit of a petty side, I think. He does say he needs water all around and above, which is a massive clue, though the children don’t seem to notice or take that through to its logical conclusion. If he isn’t in the dungeons, though, which as far as we know don’t extend beyond the island, where exactly is he?
The other mystery is a more dangerous one. On their second visit Uncle Quentin says he thinks there is someone else on the island. He has heard a cough and found a fresh cigarette butt. Because of this he asks for Timmy to be left to guard him.
George and her father
George and her father have a strained relationship at best. They are quite alike in their sudden tempers, yet don’t seem to understand each other very much.
In this book Quentin demands a lot of George. Firstly he takes her island – without even asking – and then he wants her beloved dog.
In Fanny’s letter to George, warning her about her father’s plans for the island, she says Father thinks you will be very pleased indeed to lend him Kirrin Island. What planet does he live on? If he had had the decency to ask George himself then I imagine she would have given grudging permission, along with a request for him not to take too long, but she could never have been described as pleased about the situation. When Quentin reveals later in the book why he has come to the island in relative secrecy his demand for the island seems a bit more reasonable, but not knowing that I can understand why George is furious. It’s a typical act from Quentin, to assume that he knows best and can just organise other people’s lives and belongings. He probably thinks that George should be pleased to lend him the island, that any nice daughter would, and from that convinces himself that she will.
He does sort of ask to borrow Timmy, though again without any sort of acknowledgement on how hard it would be for George to be separated from him.
You and that dog – anyone would think he was worth a thousand pounds!
Well, we know that he’s worth a lot more than that to George. I’m not much of a dog person but even I empathise greatly with George here. Timmy is her constant companion and probably her best friend.
It’s not all arguments, though.
George rushes to the island in the night to make sure Timmy is all right, and ends up rescuing him and her father. She admits she is ashamed of making such a fuss about the island and Timmy when she hears more about what her father is working on, and he doesn’t seem to remember about it anyway.
Although she is impatient to check on Timmy George listens to her father’s tale, and offers to fetch help even saying I’ll do anything you want me to, Father, anything! before demanding to know where Timmy is. She wants to check on him but as soon as she has she plans to head to the mainland for help.
They then have their most touching interaction to date:
“Good girl,” said her father, and gave her a hug. “Honestly, George, you do behave as bravely as any boy. I’m proud of you.”
Even George thinks that this is one of the nicest things her father has ever said to her.
He does clearly love her, despite not showing it very often.
“I can’t risk having you buried down here, George. I don’t mind for anything for myself – workers of my sort have to be ready to take risks all their lives – but it’s different now you’re here.”
I’ve jumped around a lot here in an attempt not to just summarise the book which is what I do when I review the story in the order it unfolds. Still to consider in part two of my review are the mysterious Curtons (not to be confused with curtains), the reveal of Uncle Quentin’s secret lair, and my usual nitpicks and wonderings.