I’ve decided that I really must do better with my Famous Five reviews. The site has been running for nearly eight and a half years (!!!), and yet there are still Famous Five books without a review. There are lots of Enid Blyton books as yet unreviewed, but seeing as the Famous Five are a favourite of Stef and I, and more or less the first thing I think of when I think of Blyton, well, it seems remiss of us not to have reviewed the whole series. In fact of the remaining 8 I have still to do, only two have already been reviewed. Perhaps that speaks to the notion that the second half of the series is not as good as the first, though a couple of my favourites are near the end.
Anyway, that is why, a mere three weeks after I finished reviewing Five Go to Mystery Moor I’ve already started on the next book.
A book in how many parts?
I’ve read this one at least as many times as all the rest (I’m a stickler for reading a whole series though start to finish!) but I feel like I don’t remember this one as well. I didn’t have an idea for how many parts until I had read it.
- The Five spend time at Kirrin
- Berta arrives and there is tension between her and George
- George is kidnapped and they must rescue her
It turned out quite simple in the end!
Berta, Lesley, Leslie and Jane
If this is a book you haven’t read then you might be wondering who all these people are. If you’ve read the book (and you don’t have memory issues like Uncle Quentin) then you’ll know they’re all the same person.
Berta Wright, daughter of scientist Elbur Wright, is rumoured to be in danger of being kidnapped in order to ransom scientific information from her father. The Wrights are American and have no family or friends in Britain, and as Elbur has taken a liking to the Kirrins he sends Berta to stay there for her own safety.
He insists that Berta be disguised as a boy, so the poor girl has her hair cut off and gets a new name – Lesley, or as anyone else might assume, Leslie. She is not happy with that plan, but she does get over it fairly quickly as she looks up to sensible Julian.
Berta shares the same speech ‘problems’ as Zerelda of Malory Towers and there is a running joke about her saying twenny, plenny and wunnerful instead of twenty, plenty and wonderful, but she takes it all in good humour.
Although generally likeable Berta is clearly from a very well-off home and she can be a little bit braggy and tactless at times.
She talks about having her father buy Kirrin Island as if buying islands in other countries is perfectly normal.
She mentions that Timmy is only a mongrel more than once, while saying that Sally is a pedigree and cost a lot of money. She also has a strop when told Sally can’t sleep on her bed and says My father will pay you a lot of money to keep me happy suggesting she is a bit spoiled.
Other things she says, or has, indicate money like having her own pool in the garden, a silver hair-brush and clothes that are too expensive to wear in Joan’s cousin’s village.
Despite these flaws she remains likeable, as she copes quite well with being sent off to strangers and having to dress as a boy. She has a good sense of humour and it would have been nice to have her in more of the story but she doesn’t arrive until page 34 and then is packed off to Joan’s cousin by page 121, missing the action of the last chapters, before reappearing for the last six pages.
The Five-Find Outers Fall Into Adventure
On this reading I found this book to have many familiar elements. Blyton frequently used and reused plots, themes and similar characters, weaving them together in new ways.
I noticed a lot of repetition from Five Fall Into Adventure.
The obvious would be that George is kidnapped in both. Then there’s the fact that she’s held in a caravan (in the middle of Ravens Wood in Fall Into Adventure, and at Gringo’s fair in Plenty of Fun). Both times she leaves a note with distinct handwriting (the R in Red Tower in Fall Into Adventure and the G in Gringo in Plenty of Fun). And of course in both books she’s kidnapped for the sake of scientific secrets.
Both books have a case of mistaken identity. In Plenty of Fun George has been kidnapped instead of Berta. In Fall Into Adventure Jo swaps places with George so they’ll think they’ve got the wrong girl.
And there’s another similarity – Jo appears in both books. She assists in the search for George earlier in the book (leading them to Ravens Wood in Fall Into Adventure, going to speak to Spiky and bringing him to the boys in Plenty of Fun), and then joins them for the rescue at the end.
Fall Into Adventure has Jo sleeping in Joan’s room before being sent to stay with her cousin. In Plenty of Fun Berta also sleeps in Joan’s room then goes to stay with her cousin, though on a more temporary basis.
Smaller details include them playing cards by the bay window in both stories and Jo climbing up to a bedroom window at Kirrin Cottage.
There is also a bit of a similarity to Five Go to Mystery Moor, where George ‘competes’ with another girl dressed as a boy. A girl who does not have curly hair and is therefore more boyish than George. Last time both girls wanted to be boys, this time Berta would rather be a girl but George’s attitude is the same. There are also signs that someone else is on Kirrin Island much like in Five Run Away Together.
Now for the Five Find-Outers. The Famous Five are primarily adventurous but there is a little mystery solving too, but this is probably the closest they come to emulating the Find-Outers.
Julian and Dick look for clues in the clearing and find loose items thrown by George, but also note the tyre tracks and make a drawing (the FFO have used drawings of tyre prints, basket marks and tyre tracks), and also note the blue paint on a scraped tree. Anne discretely interrogates the shop-girl who mentions a man asking about children at Kirrin Cottage and gains a few clues too.
They go to the fair to investigate, and sneak a look in the caravans, sending Timmy in to sniff around revealing George’s dressing gown, and then get more useful information from Spiky about the car – which they’ve found and seen the scraped wings – going off that afternoon.
They do make a few dubious leaps of logic, though. They calculate that George can’t have gone more than 12 miles as the car was only gone an hour, which seems fair enough, but they then look at a map and decide she can only be in a certain distance of the nearest town in that direction. No thought that the car could have turned off before then and gone back on itself, no thought that she could have been passed on to another car, or taken somewhere very close and the delay in the car coming back had nothing to do with the distance travelled.
Anyway, they’re lucky and they’re right, of course. As this is not an actual Find-Outers story the remaining investigation is handled speedily. Jim at the garage telephones some friends at other garages and hotels in the vicinity and a hotel porter has not only seen the car that afternoon but heard where it was going, with nice clear directions.
And just like that, they know where George is. All they have to do is rescue her!
I will leave the rescue, plus my usual nitpicks and other comments for next time.