Following on from part one of my review now it’s time to see what happens now that the three plus Jo are hunting for George.
Jo being taken off by Jake means that the other three get lost when trying to get out of the woods again, and after going round in circles for hours they have to sleep there. Jo finds them in the night and leads them home in the morning, so there’s about two chapters out of these three which don’t further the story, really.
Perhaps Blyton just felt like we needed a chance of pace after all those hectic event-filled preceding chapters.
Off to Red Tower’s tower
The final assault begins in chapter seventeen with Julian, Dick and Jo taking George’s boat up the coast to find Red Tower’s abode.
You’d think they would be in their element here, exploring the caves that lead from the beach to Red Tower’s house, but it all goes very wrong. They’ve brought their own rope and torches but neither can stop Red from catching them. He orders their boat to be destroyed and for Timmy to be shot.
So shortly Julian and Dick are tied up, Timmy is drugged in the summer house and George is locked in a high room in the Red Tower’s tower.
All about Jo
Jo is pretty much the hero from this point on. OK, so it’s substantially her fault that they are in the situation they are in, but she fixes everything for them.
Having hid when Red Tower catches the boys, she is free to rescue them a short time later. She then scales the tower, rescues George and even takes her place so that George can escape. She stands up to her father and Jake, knowing they’re likely to beat her, and manages to lock them and Red in the tower room before making her own escape.
She’s absolutely fearless and very brave, it has to be said. With everyone free – though Timmy’s still very dopey – they just have to work out how to escape. The lack of a boat is a major problem, of course.
There are several dramatic moments in the final chapters, as they strive to escape. The twist is the boat has not actually been destroyed, but getting to it and getting it in the water becomes the challenge.
Quentin only appears in the first chapter, but there’s a reasonable amount of things I can find to say about him, still.
George tells her cousins that Father’s in quite a good temper. He’s been to America with Mother, lecturing and hearing other scientists lecturing too. Mother says everyone made a great fuss of him, and he liked it.
This is an interesting insight, I would have imagined he would have no time for being fussed over, but I suppose he does have an ego.
It’s also said that The children were fond of him, but held him in great respect. That’s perhaps over-simplifying things. There is certainly respect, and perhaps some fondness, but they also find him frustrating and Anne certainly can be afraid of him.
He is wild about what’s in the newspaper. “Look here, Fanny,” he shouted. “See what they’ve put in this paper – the very thing I gave orders was NOT to be put in! The dolts! The idiots!” He’s so mad, in fact, he doesn’t appear to even notice the children have arrived. Of course, he’s right to be angry, anyone who has read the book before will know that.
Contradicting what George said a mere page or two earlier Quentin is snappish and jumpy, Fanny declares he is as touchy and nervy as can be and it will do [him] good to get away. I suppose his good moods disappear as quickly as his bad moods arrive.
He is, at least, consistent with his forgetfulness. I didn’t know [the children] were coming… you might have told me, Fanny. Of course she has, several times. And regarding going to Spain – Well you might have warned me it was tomorrow!
The next day he spends ages sorting his notebooks while the taxi waits. Eventually he is chased out the door by another call from a reporter, but he’s taking a despatch case of work with him much to Fanny’s dismay.
My questions, comments and nitpicks
This is the fifth Kirrin adventure, and comes after two non-Kirrin ones. It is the end of the summer holidays, they only have two weeks as Julian, Dick and Anne have been in France for six weeks.
The first chapters are such a clever series of tiny events. The newspapers have published details of Quentin keeping his work at home. The adults leave. Jo makes friends with Timmy. The pantry window doesn’t shut. Timmy goes out on his own for a walk at night. George takes him out the next night. Some of these are mentioned well before they become important and everything draws together nicely. You could say it’s all a bit coincidental but it works for me.
- Jo spits damson stones at the Five, and I honestly have to admit I’ve never seen or eaten a damson before. I had to Google to make sure I was picturing them correctly.
- The Five dig ‘comfortable’ sand holes. It may be my age talking but I can’t imagine a hole in the sand being particularly comfortable.
- How funny would it have been if Anne chose an ‘unimportant looking’ notebook for the kidnappers, but it turned out to be the very important American one? (Uncle Quentin gave them to a friend for safekeeping so it’s not possible, but Anne wasn’t to know that.)
- I always feel sorry for Sid as it’s after midnight before he goes home, and he has a paper round in the morning! He will be up early for that, I bet.
- When the Five are on the beach with the whole place to themselves, they ask why Jo and her father would sit right beside them. Well, a) Jo’s clearly trying to get the measure of them and get in with Timmy and b) that happens everywhere. Park in a deserted bit of car park, someone will park next to you. Sit in an empty cinema row, someone will plonk themselves in front or right next to you. Some people just don’t observe the unwritten social rules!
Looked at with an adult’s critical eye there are some possible flaws surrounding the burglary.
- Quentin’s study is fairly trashed, but surely that would have made a lot of noise? It was done in the middle of the night, and while I’m sure they didn’t want to be there for hours surely a careful search through his papers would have been more sensible?
- Why did they bother locking the door behind them when they left? That then identified the pantry window as the entry point.
- The illustration of Anne and the window shows that the window is not that small at all. Anyone could slide through it feet first, surely?
- Julian is described as sensible but he goes off to bed, leaving the front door open for George to return later.
- I wonder that there only seems to be one set of keys (unless Quentin or Fanny has taken some away).
- Dick’s adventure (following Jo after the parcel is picked up) takes around an hour based on the times given (the notebook is collected at 11 and it is after 12 when they bring Jo inside) but what’s written doesn’t seem like it would have taken nearly as long as that.
A few general nitpicks:
- Joanna, the cook, has become Joan. There’s no mention that it’s a new cook, it reads as if it’s the same person. Perhaps she turned 40 and decided to go by a more mature version of her name? Or is it just me who thinks Joanna sounds younger.
- All of a sudden George’s boat has a sail. Jo takes the tiller and steers the boat while Dick and Julian look at the map on the way to Red Tower’s, with no mention of rowing. They also take a sail down when they get there. On the way back the row all the way with no mention of a sail. That’s not implausible if the wind is not in their favour but at no point is a sale ever mentioned before this point. I know if I had a sail and had to row I would be lamenting the lack of wind/wind blowing in the wrong direction. Also, there are no illustrations of a sail on George’s boat in this or any preceding book.
I have this ranked as 13th in the series. It doesn’t mean I don’t think it’s a great book, just that there are 12 others I enjoyed more.
If I was to pick the ‘flaw’ that pushes this title down into the bottom half it’s the fact that George is missing for a significant chunk. She goes out with Timmy at the end of chapter 7 (p56) and doesn’t appear again until chapter 18 (p132). That’s 76 George-free pages, and actually 86 without any dialogue from her. Of course Timmy is absent for all those pages too, so that’s three fifths of the Five missing for well over one third of the book. To add to that, Anne is missing for 54 pages (and barely appears for a few before then) which is almost a third of the book.
As much as Jo is a great character the Five books are about the Five, and how they interact and solve problems together.
It’s a pity there isn’t a lot of the Five together (54 pages at the start and 6 at the end!) because there are a lot of good things about this book. As I’ve said earlier I love the fast-paced beginning with all the little details that tie together. I enjoy the scene with Sid, and the escape from Red Tower is a real thrill-ride. I just like my Famous Five books with more Famous Five!