I was in the Hursley Clubhouse this morning, waiting for Dan to get changed after badminton, and I was reading one of the papers they have laying around. I happened upon the printed version of this article about Enid Blyton.
The lady has recently been voted Britain’s best-loved author. On the one hand I can understand it, as a child I really loved to read the Five Find-Outers books and the ___ of Adventure series. On the other hand it’s strange that Britain’s best-loved writer overall is a children’s writer, and that so many children’ writers are on the list. Does that mean that a lot of people stop reading so much recreationally after childhood, or just that people only remember liking and enjoying books unconditionally in their youth?
Had I read the article a few years ago I would have been perfectly willing to embrace the fact that Enid Blyton is our best-loved author, and I would have glossed over the article’s comments about ‘hollow’, ‘repetitive’ and ‘two-dimensional’ writing. After all J.K Rowling’s quality of writing is far from awesome.
I would have also ignored the comments about how sexist and racist the books are – mainly because I wasn’t aware of it at the time. A lot of the female characters were a bit rubbish, but I didn’t care because (tomboyishly) I was too busy identifying with the male characters who climbed trees or built dens and had pocket knives. The racism I was unaware of for an entirely different reason – that reason was that in the books I had had been heavily abridged/altered to remove any overtly racist content. I only realised this when I found an older copy of one of the books and read it to discover a huge amount of differences.
Looking back now I can see a lot of things about her books which are objectionable, so much so that I can understand why my primary school banned them. (Though I can’t forgive them for restricting me to their own library of books strictly for 7-10 year olds at an age when I was starting to read my parent’s books). At the time I thought it was silly to ban the books, because all I saw that was a problem was that they were old-fashioned in their values. And at 10 I was smart enough to know that the year was 1993 not 1933, so I never took these books as an indication of reality.
Bad-writing and negative stereotyping aside I still have fond memories of reading Enid Blyton. However reading the article now I was quite surprised to see that Enid Blyton in the top spot, beating other children’s writers like Roald Dahl and C. S Lewis. Why? For a very personal reason that I now, as a 25 year old, still read Roald Dahl and C.S. Lewis, and have even made an effort to collect books of theirs that I never owned (or gave to my younger sister). These books I can read again and again. But I’ve never had any desire to buy or reread any Enid Blyton novels – even now as I’m enjoying the happy memories of hours spent reading them.
So I guess Enid Blyton was my best-loved children’s author when I was a child, but now she’s not even on the list. On the other hand – Roald Dahl who was number two in the same survey – is a writer I could read over and over no matter how old I get, something about his books makes a lasting impression. So now I’m off to go read ‘The Witches’.