Thursday, February 24, 2011

Mysteries and Boarding Schools...

She was racist, sexist, caste-ist, elitist, xenophobic and incredibly politically incorrect.
But she did define my childhood reading. Her books were my childhood. 

Secret Seven, The Famous Five, The Five-Findouters, Malory Towers, St. Clares and who could forget the harbinger of all of them - Noddy!

The love for boarding schools began and ended with Malory Towers. Whatever the realities of boarding school life, to me it was a world of midnight feasts, and lacrosse games and the scatterbrain Irene who loved Maths and Music. A boarding school would always have a firm but loving Matron who gave you disgusting syrups when you fell ill. And it would have a pool surrounded by rocks and filled by the waves from the sea water. And it was always have silly girls like Gwendoline Mary. I still have my "First Term at Malory Towers". It was my book to read during breaks from engineering exam studying. And is still my book to read when I go to my folks home to stay.

I don't remember much of St. Clare - but I just checked Wiki and it brought back memories of the O'Sullivan sisters. You had to be a Malory Towers of St. Clare's staunch loyalist. You could not love both. It was like Sherlock Holmes vs. Hercule Poirot. Sooner or later a 12 year old girl's gotta pick sides.

Of the various adventure series, Secret Seven wasn't much of a draw. I guess if forced to choose I'd be torn between The famous five and the five find-outers. I am kinda partial to The Five Find-outers because The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage was my first "big girl" book. With that book I moved from Noddy and Bed-Time stories to books which were paperbacks (not hardcovers), much thicker and the font was much smaller. And more importantly, it didn't have pictures in it.   I still remember how proud I was when I had started reading my first Five Find-outer book. 

My 5 year old niece now reads The Bubbles series and The Peter and Jane series. I recently bought her "The Cat in the Hat" and "Green Eggs and Ham". But one thing I know. She still reads and loves her Noddy.

I know all the new editions have tried to remove the inappropriate language and contexts. I hope that allows a whole new generation of readers to enjoy the magic of her books without the stereotypes and racist remarks.

She was racist, sexist, caste-ist, elitist, xenophobic and incredibly politically incorrect. 
But she ignited my love for reading. And for that, I will always remain grateful to Enid Blyton.


Anonymous said...

Can't forget The Naughtiest Girl... The Adventure Series and the Secret Series... My romance with Enid Blyton started with The Boy Next Door :)
Just read that an unpublished manuscript has been found...

Nandita said...

Yes. Thats what inspired these ramblings.