So here we are – just 4.5 years after beginning the series – with the final book.
I’ve always been very open about finding this one the weakest of the series and I’d like to see if I can identify exactly why in this review.
The end of an era
I’ve always felt really sad when it comes to reading this book. Back when I would devour the whole series one after the other, often more than one in a day, I wouldn’t want to pick this one up and read it as it’s the last one and there would be no more Five. At least until I picked up the first book again. I still feel like that today, even if it takes me nearly five years to read them all.
Funnily enough the short stories never felt like the counted the same when I was younger, or even now. It’s surprising as even now I will feel really sad when I’ve finished a favourite book series, or TV series, and go looking for another fix of it – be that short stories or just reading people’s reviews.
Anyway, this sadness at the series ending could well contribute to my negative feelings about the book as a whole.
The title I don’t think helps as it feels rather maudlin. If Five were together again in the middle of the series it would merely be an uninspiring title. As a title for the very last book ever (sob) it gives it a feeling of a reunion, a final hurrah.
90 pages of nothingness
That’s a bit of an exaggeration, clearly something happens or there wouldn’t be words on the pages, but very little happens. The book is only 182 pages! There are other Fives that have slow starts but generally they benefit from glorious weather, lovely journeys, interesting people…
The one thing I can commend this one for is the banter (I don’t think I can pull off using ‘bants’ so I won’t try). The Five have lost none of their charm and I have enjoyed the time spent with them as they tease each other and make jokes.
Beyond that, though… There’s a brief bit of tension as we discover the quarantine situation at Kirrin, then rather a lot of ‘nothing’ as they take a bus and settle in at the Haylings’ house. There are a few run-ins with Prof Hayling – nothing out of the ordinary but I will talk about Prof Hayling in another post. Interestingly nobody wonders how Aunt Fanny and Uncle Quentin – or poor Joan – are getting on, but meanwhile Tinker goes about being annoying with his car noises.
The circus actually shows up on page 44, just as the Five plan to camp in that field but it’s page 104 before they’re settling down in their tents that night. I’m actually not sure what filled the 60 pages in between. Tinker has a run-in with Mr Tapper and his grandson. Prof Hayling confirms they have a right to use that field. The Five manage to make setting up their camp into a cumbersome three stage project with a ton of loose parts. The boys taking the stuff into the garden after Prof Hayling trips over it, then they take a break for tea. Then the four of them move it from the garden into the field, then they have a chat with the circus folk before carting it across the field to their chosen spot to assemble it all. It’s as if nobody ever packed their camping gear into backpacks and went off travelling. Meanwhile they say at least a dozen times how they must get their tents set up so it’s rather annoying the way they keep delaying it!
Anyway, they do finally get things sorted so they can then see a rehearsal of the circus show and eat dinner with the circus folk. They meet Mr Wooh at dinner and there’s a hint of something perhaps being up, as Tinker runs his mouth off about his father’s secret works, but that’s it for adventure or mystery.
Again, several other books haven’t really set into a mystery by the half-way mark, but at least they aren’t normally camping at the bottom of the garden. We haven’t even had Anne setting up a larder anywhere as clearly she just plans to pop over the wall and into the house to see Jenny and her real larder!
I think the location is definitely a draw-back here. It’s a house with a field beside it, it’s really not that interesting. It’s also annoying them being within a bike ride of Kirrin. So close but we don’t get to see it.
And I will stop there for now, next time we will get to the actual mystery and then on to the nitpicks of which there are already a lot.
Enjoyed the first section of this review Fiona – any chance of any Maxey illustrations in the next instalment for balance?
For you, Pete, I might just be able to squeeze in one or two 😉
Liked your “90 pages of nothingness” !!
I will await your last appraisal on this book, before adding my usual slant to it.