Phew, my fourth – and hopefully last review for Demon’s Rocks. I’ve never written a 4 part review for a Famous Five book until now and I didn’t really expect it.
George as a boy
George’s desire to be seen as a boy definitely diminishes through the series. Possibly she comes up against less resistance as those around become used to it, but by these last few books in the series there’s just a couple of references to it and she doesn’t act out at all.
When they go to the garage to order a car the mechanic calls George Master George. Being Kirrin he probably knows she’s a girl but doesn’t mind playing along.
George was pleased to be called Master George. It was nice to be thought a boy.
Later, though, the policeman isn’t fooled and calls her Miss, nobody attempts to correct him.
She barely argues when both Julian and Dick insist on rowing as they are stronger than her. Of course in the first book George is the expert rower, going across to her island regularly. By this point, all of them being that bit older, and George not spending all year at home, it’s not unreasonable that the boys would be stronger rowers. Still, George’s response is pretty mild.
There were two pairs of oars. Julian took one pair, and George was going to take the other, when Dick quietly took them himself, grinning at George’s angry face. ‘Sorry—there’s a good old swell on the sea, and we’ve to row through some pretty good waves. I’m just a bit stronger than you, George!’
‘I row just as well as you do,’ said George.
Like at Finniston Farm George and Anne do the dishes – without much complaint.
George does tell Tinker she hates doing dishes and wishes she wasn’t a girl. Tinker means well with his response but it doesn’t go down well.
‘Oh don’t wash up—just give the things a quick wipe-over!’ said Tinker. ‘Like this!’
‘Oh no!’ said Anne. ‘That’s just like a boy! You’d better leave this side of things to me. I like doing jobs like this, see?’
‘Just like a girl!’ said Tinker, with a grin.
‘No, it isn’t,’ said George. ‘I hate doing them, and I’m a girl—though I wish I wasn’t!’
‘Never mind—you look like a boy, and you’re often as rude as a boy, and you haven’t an awful lot of manners,’ said Tinker, quite thinking that he was comforting George.
‘I’ve more manners than you,’ said George, and stalked off in a huff.
Julian has one moment of gender-specific chivalry as they make their plans to explore the undersea tunnel –
‘Toss for it!’ said Dick, at once. ‘There’s no reason why I shouldn’t go, is there? Or what about us both going, in case the other gets into trouble, and needs help?’
‘Not a bad idea,’ said Julian. ‘Except that there won’t be anyone to look after the girls and Tinker.’
Tinker, although male, clearly isn’t considered old enough or sensible enough to be in charge of the girls (thankfully).
George doesn’t argue about going herself, she has definitely developed a bit in regards to consideration for others, but it’s a shame she’s the only one to do that. The boys still just go off and expect her to keep Anne company.
‘I don’t think I’ll come,’ said Anne, who really didn’t like dark, smelly tunnels and caves. ‘I’ll do the packing.’
‘Timmy and I will help you,’ said George, who knew that Anne wouldn’t like to be left alone in the light-house.
And a brief note on Tinker and his family –
Although presented in the narrative it’s suggested that the Five are thinking along the same lines about Tinker after he reveals his mother died,
‘I’m very, very sorry, Tinker,’ said Anne, shocked. The others were sorry too. No wonder Tinker hadn’t very good manners, and was all on his own. No mother to teach him anything! Poor Tinker! Anne felt as if she wanted to buy him every bun in the shop!
I’d like to think that they mean with no mother AND Prof Hayling as a father it’s no wonder… but equally it could mean that just having no mother was the cause. Which is not very fair!
There are a few meals at Kirrin cottage but the most notable thing about those is which of the scientists actually turns up. (Plus of course Quentin putting coffee over his porridge).
The interest begins when the Five become responsible for their own meals.
Their first night in the light house they have a tea-sup. This is a mixture of tea and supper, consisting of boiled eggs, bread and butter, Joan’s mince pies, cherry buns, macaroons and ginger-beer. I’m not sure which bits were tea and which were supper but it’s not a bad sounding meal.
After that they still manage a snack before bed, even though Dick says
We had such an enormous tea-sup that I feel I can’t manage another meal.
He suggests a chocolate biscuit or two, but Anne brings lemonade, large slices of cake made by Joan and a chocolate biscuit each.
Their first breakfast is eggs, bread and butter with apples after. Not very exciting considering they went to the shops to stock up on food before they travelled.
They do stop for coffee and buns, and then more buns and ice cream in the village though. Anne’s immediate concern (she and I obviously think alike) is to go shopping – and get more eggs, fresh bread and milk. This is followed by a tea of buns with butter and jam and cups of tea. I can’t keep up with the meals, really. Was that an afternoon tea-type snack and Blyton just didn’t write in their main evening meal?
Their next breakfast is better, fried bacon, eggs, buttered toast and marmalade with coffee.
Then there is a terrible issue that they are RUNNING OUT OF FOOD as they are locked in the light house. Thankfully they resolve that fairly quickly as the Five are hungry characters at the best of times.
Talking to the characters
I find those little, occasional moments where Blyton speaks directly to the reader so interesting. They come really at random, usually at the end of a chapter but some books have none and others have several. And sometimes she talks to the characters as well!
She talks to the characters on five separate occasions in this book.
Ah—you wait and see, Tinker! You don’t know the Five! If there’s any adventure about, they’re bound to be right in the middle of it!
The second time she seems to be speaking to us, the readers, as well as she has moved to present tense.
And there they all are in the light-house, playing cards with shouts and laughter, Timmy and Mischief watching. You do have fun together, Five, don’t you
She speaks to the reader again with the villains,
Ebby and Jacob disappeared that night! It wasn’t Constable Sharp they feared—it was the people of the village! They slipped away in the dark and the rain, and were gone. But you’ll be caught, Ebby, you’ll be caught, Jacob! And no one will be sorry for you. No one at all!
And the Five again,
Oh yes they will, Julian—especially when they hear the exciting story you have to tell! You’ll have some fun showing round a gold coin or two. Timmy is to have one hung on his collar, as a reward for guarding you so well—how proud he will be!
Well, good-bye to you all! Good-bye, Julian, and Dick, and a good journey home! Good-bye, Anne and George—and Tinker too, and Mischief, you funny little monkey!
And good-bye, dear old Timmy, best of friends. How we wish we had a dog like you! See you all again some day!
I can’t think of any book with as many examples in it as this one.
- The Five bike to Kirrin so they live much closer now than they did at the start of the series
- Fanny talks about George’s aunt and uncle, rather than saying to Quentin your/my brother. Perhaps Blyton knew she had created an inconsistency by this point and didn’t want to add to it. I thought that whichever the siblings are they still can’t talk much if they don’t know where the others are going on a cruise.
- Interestingly it is chapter two before we see any of the Five. There are books where we don’t have all the Five together straight away but it’s unusual to have a whole chapter without them.
- I was slightly sad to read about them making plans to visit Kirrin Island when we know they won’t (ever again!) but there’s few better alternatives than a lighthouse!
- This book is set at the beginning of April. I’m not sure if Finniston Farm specifies when it’s set – I didn’t note that in my review – but it’s very hot so it must be summer, therefore this is the following year.
- It’s funny how everyone is so disbelieving about the lighthouse. George owns an island with a castle (and a wreck) but Tinker having a lighthouse is so wild to them. Julian is likewise surprised that the tunnels go under the sea, forgetting all about Kirrin’s undersea tunnels?
- Also funny is the way George Jackson plays a trick on Tinker by putting the electric windows up and down in the car.
- Julian and Dick pay for the food for going away – I’d have thought that Uncle Quentin could have coughed up a bit of cash for their food seeing as he’s kicking them out.
- Julian’s poshness becomes obvious (apart from the fact he wears a tie throughout the adventure) when the policeman is so deferential to him. He asks him if he has any suspects in the theft and calls him sir throughout. The locksmith also calls him sir.
- Thankfully Tinker stops doing his car impressions once they arrive at Demon’s Rocks. It’s possible Blyton rather forgot about them – though Julian does remark later on that Tinker must be growing up as he isn’t making the car noises.
- Julian’s parents shut up the house before they go away, which isn’t a thing any more now, is it? I mean if you’re going away for a few weeks you might unplug various appliances and tell a neighbour but you don’t call it shutting up the house. I’m not even sure quite what it entails though I always imagine them draping white cloths over everything to keep the dust off. Also interesting is that they leave and have a neighbour lock up. Why when they could have just locked up themselves and handed the keys in.
- I actually read a modern ebook this time and noted a few updates – the tobacco costs 20p instead of three shillings, and the Loomers get 5p tips rather than one shilling (surely the tobacco should be 15p in that case? Of course it’s sweets in other editions). Yet Julian still only has £1 to buy all the food for going away. They also wear jeans instead of shorts.
- Tom the tobacconist mentions the Loomers having two children (which brother isn’t clear) but we never see them or the wife or wives.
- There are quite a lot of similarities to Five Go Down to the Sea. Both have an old man telling tales of wreckers moving lights, and secret tunnels, but there are a lot of differences too.
- I haven’t mentioned it in these reviews yet but the boys trying to ring the bell (risking life and limb to do so) is one of my absolute Five moments.
The first is the problem of where they are going to sleep.
George and Anne always sleep in George’s room, there’s two beds in there. The boys normally sleep in a room with two beds in it, too.
Mrs Kirrin then refers to a guest room where she asks Joan to make up a bed there on the couch. This is presumably the room Mr Roland had in Five Go Adventuring Again. Yet Berta slept on a folding bed in the girls’ room when she arrived.
In this book there is apparently not enough bedrooms for eight people, despite there being enough for seven with Mr Roland.
I’ve no idea where Joan is sleeping now, as the boys are offered the loft which is dusty and drafty – previously this has been a perfectly comfortable bedroom for Joan!
It’s rather like a house in a soap whereby a family of four take in two or three waifs and strays and somehow have never seen bedrooms for them. Except only when it suits the story!
- Joan says that Prof Hayling telephoned to say he was coming this week, but he didn’t, he wrote, (ensuring they wouldn’t have time to stop him). Is this a character error or an author error?
- Dick is horrified by Tinker describing wreckers, but they know all about wreckers from Tremannon.
- I had entirely forgotten the little throw-away remarks from George Jackson about the wreckers breaking into the old lighthouse, grabbing the keeper and putting out the light causing another wreck. Yet Jeremiah Boogle implies that the Wreckers were all jailed – for a long time – before the lighthouse was built.
- With the key lost they block the lighthouse door with some wood and say that nobody could get in, at least not without making a lot of noise. But the police manage to get in quietly!
- They leave a (paper) note half out under the door to ask for help from the postman or milkman but there is a storm so surely it would just get soaking and be unreadable?
- Lastly, a nitpick I have to credit to Dale Vincero. Tinker says the lighthouse is about ten miles along this coast. Yet they take around six hours (plus lunch) to get there. Even allowing for the ten miles to be an underestimate, and imagining the road is a generous 50% longer than the ‘as the crow flies’ distance due to winding away from the coast to cross rivers etc, it still can’t be much more than twenty miles by road. At a sedate twenty miles an hour that’s still only an hours’ drive!
Sadly I only have my two least favourites of the series to go now. Will a critical re-reading improve or reduce their standing in my eyes?