It’s been a while since part 1 of my review. I had intended to have part two done a week or two ago on a Sunday and then entirely forgot about it – I hadn’t even read the rest of the book let alone written anything about it! I’d like to say I was busy having a wild time but I was probably watching Murder She Wrote…
Anyway, last time the Five began their holiday by Faynights Castle, with George and Timmy arriving a bit late, and then ran into rather a lot of bother with the fair-folk and got rescued by none other than Jo.
The part I (mostly) remember
After all the excitement there’s a bit of a calmer interlude. They have dinner with the fair folk who are about falling over themselves to be friendly with the Five, and the next day they go off to visit the castle.
It reads very much like visiting Kirrin Castle, with the one remaining tower with its staircase fallen in and the jackdaws. Only Kirrin doesn’t have a toothless woman at the gate taking money. Timmy isn’t allowed in but suddenly appears in a manner reminiscent of Button the fox cub in The Castle of Adventure. There must be another way in!
Having heard that some men from The Society for the Preservation of Old Buildings have visited that week Julian telephones the society to find out more about the castle. Only, nobody from the society has been to the castle in years. So an unintentional bit of detective work there!
At first I thought the society was a makey-upper as it sounds a bit silly (I found references to The Society for the Preservation of Historic Buildings and The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings easily, but it turns out that there were some smaller, local organisations that called themselves The Society for the Preservation of Old Buildings (usually limited to a particular area), so Blyton’s one may have been real or at least based on the truth!
Anyway, they make a middle-of-the-night trip and have Timmy show them the way into the castle. Luckily it is not a narrow underground stream, instead it is a passage in the middle of the eight foot wide castle walls which takes them underground then up into the tower. There they discover Derek Terry-Kane being held prisoner, and then that’s where it all goes wrong.
The part I barely remember
I’ve read this book just as many times as all the others as I’m not the type to pick up a random book from mid series and read it without reading all the others. I never skipped any lesser-favourites. And yet my memories of the final chapters inside the castle are extremely vague.
I did remember that Jo and Beauty went along the secret passage and caused mayhem, but that’s about it.
What actually happens is that the Five get locked in with Terry-Kane as Pottersham has come back unexpectedly. This surprised me, as I didn’t remember it at all, and was wondering why they’d bring the fair-folk in as it looked like they were all about to just walk out.
Jo, having been outside the room at the time, hides. I assumed that she would then go fetch the fair-folk, but I had forgotten that she ends up being caught and tied up herself for a while, getting loose having remembered the hints and tips from the rope-man. Then she goes off to fetch the fair-folk.
At this point I began thinking maybe my brain chooses not to remember the latter parts of the book as the Five rather fail to shine! They’ve been captured before but this time just seems a bit worse, somehow.
Jo finds out that the fair-folk have locked up a bad scientist who came asking after them – and I realised it was Uncle Quentin as that sparked a vague memory. Of course Jo thinks it’s Pottersham as she’s never met Quentin.
My notes at this point read:
this is kind of novel, reviewing a 5 book without a clue what’s going on!
Anyway, the fair-folk, or at least the fair-men take over the rescue as it’s men’s work, but Jo being Jo follows them anyway. It’s just as well she does as she’s the only one who realises the men are arriving to take the prisoners away and heads inside to help while the men carry on their work in the courtyard with the peg rope.
Much like The Secret of Spiggy Holes the plan is for Bufflo to throw something (a blunt knife rather than a rock) in through the window, taking with it some string which will then pull up a peg rope. Also like Spiggy Holes he climbs up to see why no-one has come down, and discovers it is because the kidnappers are there. He is more able to deal with this than Mike was as he has his whip and neatly removes the gun from Pottersham’s hand. Pottersham and his men vacate the room at top speed and shut them in, but they’ve got their escape route ready at least.
Meanwhile Beauty is tripping up the men over and over and scaring the life out of them, delaying them long enough for the fair-folk to ensure they don’t get out of the passage. Jo and the Five go back to the camp and then telephone the police who, with Jo, go back to apprehend the men.
Oh – and they realise Uncle Quentin who is remarkably affable having been locked up overnight.
The nitpicks, comments and other observations
I’ll break it down into a few categories again, otherwise it will get a bit unwieldy!
Quentin is at his forgetful best at the start and has never heard of Faynights Castle. Of course he has, Fanny has already told him at least three times. He is relieved to know they are not staying IN the castle itself.
George accidentally slams a door and Quentin goes wild. The biggest slammer-of-doors was her father but he only heard the slams made by other people. The two are very alike though they’d never admit it.
He also has a row with Timmy – That dog has no sense… how am I supposed to remember he’s there? Well, you had spoken to him under the table and prodded him not five minutes earlier. And to prove the above quote, he slams the door on his way out.
Signs of the past
The post is super speedy – so fast postcards sent after breakfast arrive later that morning and not some time in the next week after the person has returned home. The post man also delivers to the rented caravans which are unlikely to have an ‘official’ address.
The Red Caravan
Third field on the left
Angry farmer’s farm
The fair-women go into town to doing their marketing which does not have the same meaning today.
It’s a running joke that Dick is terrible in the kitchen. In this one he picks up an egg which has come straight out of boiling water and drops it as it is so hot. Anne says he is not good with crockery, which is probably true but gives him a convenient excuse not to do the washing up.
He can, however, light a fire efficiently so he’s not entirely useless.
George/Jo as a boy
I don’t expect boys to tidy up and cook and do things like that – but George ought to because she’s a girl. Good old Anne, propping up the patriarchy there! Interestingly George doesn’t even argue with her.
The boys are typical boys and ‘make’ their bunks by bundling the bedding onto a shelf untidily and folding the bunks away, I suspect George would do the same if Anne wasn’t watching her.
Jo has a nice foster family (no mention if it’s Joan’s cousin still) but they won’t let her wear shorts or be a boy. She still prefers sleeping outside but admits most parts of living in a house are good.
They have a tea at a farm-house and buy jam, fruit cake, ham and pickled onions.
Dick has a ham and picked onion sandwich (I prefer cheese with my pickled onions)
Lunch one day is two hard-boiled eggs each, fresh lettuce, tomatoes, mustard and cress, and potatoes baked in the fire in their jackets – followed by… slices of tinned pineapple, very sweet and juicy.
They eat a lot of doughnuts which sounds jarringly anachronistic but obviously aren’t – with bread, butter and honey and a sponge cake so more of a massive dessert course than a meal!
They watch jackdaws and comment on their habits without referencing the exact same situation on Kirrin island.
Timmy waits for them to go upstairs to bed in the caravan which is sweet but he’s slept in a caravan with them before!
They call at the post office to check for post, even though the postie brought the postcard the day before and would presumably have done the same again if there had been anything.
On page 67 there is an illustration of Jo rescuing the caravans, which doesn’t happen until page 78 so it’s a bit of a spoiler!
The farmer is obviously supposed to be difficult but surely any adult could see it would be impossible to move two caravans without horses.
Dick gives a little speech when Jo turns up It’s Jo! The gypsy girl who once got mixed up with us in an adventure! Now it’s a nice little reminder for the readers but doesn’t sound too natural when he’s supposed to be speaking to Julian.
Bufflo looks like Tiger Dan in the illustrations including the dark hair but is described as yellow-haired in the text.
Beauty the snake is once called Beau, in the narrative not in someone’s speech.
I can’t work out how Timmy got into the courtyard. He climbed into a hole in the outer wall, which the Five and Jo then explore and it leads them up into the tower. At no point is there any mention of a small hole or other tunnel which could have led Timmy into the courtyard. Also, this very secret passage which they suspect was used by people hiding in the old days simply comes out via a standard door in the tower, so not very well hidden at all. I expect the tunnel may have continued on past the hole they climbed in at, as that obviously was never an original entrance so I wonder where it did lead.
And lastly, why is Julian so adamant that Jo not try to escape the castle in the dark? As she points out it’s not going to be any lighter in the middle of the day. Oddly she agrees to wait, which isn’t like her!
Fanny says that Faynights has good strong air which is what George needs to get over her cold. As opposed to Kirrin’s sea air?
George says that Mother didn’t give me very much to spend so has all the ingot money gone then?
We have a lashings in the book but is is of poisonous snakes, and not ginger-beer.
There are half a dozen gays in the book, all on the same 2-3 pages describing the caravans (Julian uses it twice and George uses it twice), the curtains and the rugs.
The thrush says mind how you do it which had me Googling Thrush sounds, I just can’t hear it at all.
Old Joseph the sailor is rather wasted as he could have been another Jeramiah Boogle or Old Grandad but instead only tells recent stories of the fair-folk.
Dick says we’re in a bit of a fix which Blyton must have remembered as she used Fix later for a book title.
What happened to the fair-folk previously is never made quite clear. There was an incident with someone letting their canaries go free and one where the police were set on them without reason. Its not clear if these were related.
Following on from that, the Five try to talk to the fair-folk about the canaries at at different points it’s supposed that all the canaries must have died, or that half the canaries must have died, but then Julian tells the girls that half the canaries died as if it was a fact.
I can understand that the fair-folk want to keep themselves to themselves but don’t seem to realise that by being rude, aggressive and difficult is likely to attract bad feeling and cause them more trouble. There are three modern caravans in the same field yet it doesn’t seem like the families in those get any bother from the fair-folk. At first the fair-folk say they don’t want anyone in their field but later they say they don’t want any children in the field.
There must be many fair-folk that don’t get mentioned. Beyond the main cast which I listed in the last review there are Dacca the tap dancer who appears briefly twice and Pearl the acrobat.
I found it interesting that Jo has family in the fair and wonder if she has ever thought of running off to live with Alfredo. She does like the foster family but it seems like the fair would suit her better. Perhaps she knows Alfredo wouldn’t have her, as she clearly knows how to find them.
I liked the fact that the baddies dropped a chocolate wrapper in the tunnel as in Blyton’s mind littering was a sign of badness in a person.
And lastly, I found the end a bit disappointing as none of the Five went back to help capture the men, which is something they almost always do!
So there you have it, another 2000+ words on a 192 page book. I’m surprised how little I remembered of the final chapters as they are fairly exciting. I suspect the lack of involvement from the Five themselves is why it ranks lower than several other books in the series for me. I’m used to reading about the Five daringly rescuing people, not Jo!