17 April 2018

Well, Look who Finally Decided to Grace the Internet with Her Presence

... Far too many of my posts start with an apology of this nature.

Anyway. Good Intentions time! As a sign of good faith - AN ACTUAL POST

Book recaps coming back soon. Promise. Cross my heart and hope to die. 

So here it is:

I have been pondering lately the wisdom of reading the latest line of Famous five books, those new novels revisiting our favourite celebrity quartet and dog as adults as they battle grown up issues – like gluten intolerance and alcohol dependence. On the face of it, this is something that would be right up my alley: it’s a mix of Enid and snark that I certainly appreciate, and it harks back to the comic strip production “Five Go Mad in Dorset”, which my sisters and I still quote at one another.

Huzzah! I thought when I saw them. More reading material for me!

Then I thought about it some more.

Part of the joy of rereading Enid as an adult comes from the fact that Enid is the straight man in the joke. One laughs and rages at Enid BECAUSE what she says and the opinions she espouses are honestly held and earnestly stated. She’s not in on the joke with the snarky reader. You can like or dislike the characters because Enid’s Earnestness separates the characters from the author. The joy of Enid is that you can enter into her sympathies to whatever extent you want. The power is in your hands. Enid writes children’s books for children, so adults can take away different things than was intended.

So when it comes to a snarky modernisation, I run into the issue of a change of perspective. Writing a children’s book for adults, you have to walk a fine line. Anne of Green Gables does it – the perspective of the narrator is clearly an adult voice, and the view taken of the child characters is fondly derisive.

Having not read any of them (I should point this out), the idea of the books that comes to me is that I’m being expected to enter into the views of the writer. I am expected to be complicit with the mocking of characters who have been re-rendered to be universally unpleasant. The characters and the opinion of the author are so intertwined that the reader cannot separate the story or the characters from the snark.

But I’ll admit that I might be a bit biased.

I’ve been burned by such literary retellings before – Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was (to me) a crushing disappointment (both the book and the film). Other than the seminal “Lizzie Bennet Diaries”, vlog classics retellings have rarely lived up to their initial promise. Stephenie Meyer tied sparkly vampires to romantic and gothic classics because … well, you gotta borrow storylines from somewhere.

Yeah, I may have had some bad experiences with non-canon material.

Even within the realm of Enid has this modern take on a classic burned me. Being a young na├»ve reader in the late 90s and early 2000s, I was overjoyed to learn that Enid had written 10 Naughtiest Girl books. Now, that number in and of itself was not a matter of suspicion to me at the time – the prolific typewriter basher Enid went more for bulk than nuance in her work. However, once I moved beyond “Here’s the Naughtiest Girl”, there was a change. The writing … improved. It was still mawkish and sentimental, and it carried something of the same cadence and vocabulary, but it was better. I felt betrayed.

THEN, I noticed:

  •         that the stories had become more toothless, while the dramatic  stakes apparently became apparently higher.
  •        Conventional and cohesive storytelling arcs were used.
  •        “Modern” issues like bullying, the environment, and dealing with underlying psychological issues sensitively became more apparent.
  •         Teachers became figures of overt authority in Whyteleafe school, which had previously flaunted its Lord of the Flies ambience as being the main selling point of the school’s non-traditional system.

I’d been “Sweet Valley’d” (you know, where one name is used to sell the work of a ghost writer – VC Andrews is another example).

Having realised the error in my understanding of the authorship, I was left feeling betrayed. How Dared they replace Enid with a competent alternative? How DARED they replace school fetish drivel with actual stories?

NO. I won’t have it. And although the grown up famous five might be funny and clever and much better than I expect, I’m not having anything to do with them either.

I’ve got enough to get through with the original …

21 September 2015

Oh My Stars ...

So, I was on the plane to Dubai, and on the inflight entertainment was a film called "Funf Freund 4". And it name checked Enid. So OF COURSE I had to watch it.
So as far as the characters are concerned, our core group is much as it ever was (although I'm not sure how old each of the Kirrin siblings is meant to be - and how far apart they were born - they all look about the same age). But after that, well, not so much.
Because I love you all, I just had to share the whole ordeal with you.
We start with a Kitschy scene in an Egyptian market. There’s a street rat street ratting, and a nice fruit stall owner who goes for a walk and gets kidnapped by men in black robes, because DRAMA. And apparently he’s to be used as leverage to make someone do something.

With the three Kirrins’ dad Bernard for the hols (this being film four, the actor playing Uncle Quentin may have been done with this crap – I don’t see any reference to Bernard in the previous films), the kids see a preview of his new Egypt  exhibition with his pretty assistant Elena (and Dick and Julian flirting with the pretty lady is bad acting even if I don’t speak a word of German), including a 5000 year old mummy king. After locking the museum (with a plain handonmyheart house key) Anne forgets her glasses and they go back to get them, only to find a black hooded figure cutting  the mummy's  head open. The figure gets away, but the kids dig into the head  (I swear  I'm  not making this up - they dig into the head with their fingers) and find a legendary  amulet. One of three such amulets, presumably all inside brother mummy's heads. For some reason, it becomes imperative for them all to go to Egypt. By the way, no one is upset about the desecration of the mummy, they just congratulate the brats on finding the amulet …

So off they go. At the antiquities place, they find the head guy Farouk, who has one of the two other mummies said to have an amulet inside, and when he quite reasonably object  to cutting a 5000 year old mummy open, Bernard sends the kids off for his portable ultrasound which he always carries (and WHYWHYWHY DIDN'T YOU  DISCOVER  THE FIRST  AMULET WITH YOUR HANDY PORTABLE ULTRASOUND DEVICE?) The kids get pickpocketed by a street rat their age, and when they go back to the antiquities place, they find someone already cut the mummy’s head open, stole the amulet and framed Bernard, who is arrested for it.

Apparently, their only hope is to find the amulets, and also somehow they end up on the lamb from the German consulate (apparently - one handy thing about this story is that all the baddies either wear distinctive hoods or an item emblazoned with this HUGE ugly stylised bull – no one ever explains why a bull) who want to (quite reasonably) send the unaccompanied minors home. They go to pretty assistant Elena's house (she's Egyptian? When did anyone ever say she was Egyptian?) and find out her father is on holidays before the consulate dude shows up and chases them across rooftops, with Timmy barking inappropriately loudly.

They get away. They team  up with street rat kid, who has a crush on George, sneak into a billionaire's  party to steals the third amulet (wearing the worst disguises ever) only to have black robe people  steal the amulet first. Street rat picks the black robe’s pocket, and they scram, only  to be caught by the police, who are also in league with the bull people. They hand over the amulet and then set the police van on fire with the kids and Timmy in it. And sit back to watch the barbeque, laughing. Because they are all evil like that.

Now, you know law enforcement  has a problem when 4 kids (interestingly, George sits back and doesn't  help) can kick open the door to a paddy van. Baddies watch it explode from the front, kids disappear from behind. Fortunately, street rat knows a) super secret location of where shit is going to go down (which they conveniently overheard) and b) that Elena's father is missing, not on holidays (which seems to have no bearing on things right now).  He gets them camels to travel to super secret location, which they manage to lose in an hour or so, and so instead of heading back to the city and getting alternative  means of travel, our blockheads walk into the desert with no water. I swear, the best moment of the whole damn movie was when they decided to lay down in the desert and die. Timmy pulls a lassie and gets help from two old guys in a jeep, who take them to super secret location (which is only an hour away).

They get to super secret  location, and there's  this ritual going on. So at this point I though this was going to be actually interesting – like Famous Five go supernatural. I thought this whole conspiracy  was all about raising a mummy or something mystical like that. But no, the whole shebang, the robes, the rituals, the chant (yes they have a chant) is just so they can loot the tomb.


There's  unnecessarily dramatic  revelation  that Elena was involved, because of course it was her father kidnapped to get her help in finding amulets. Then they're  all left in a room with a stone roof descending  to squash them.  They get out, trap the baddies, save Timmy (who was in a cage about to be fed to the spirits – again I say ???), then get away with the amulets to save Bernard, who was being tried 2 days after being arrested.

Look, I know some people have a dim view of Egyptian justice, but really?

Oh, and it turns out that Bernard's lawyer was also a bull person. They catch the baddie, blah blah blah, George  has a romantic moment  with street rat, everyone goes home.

I think I died a little on the inside.

Here's  my problems.

1. Modernising Enid  is not a terrible idea per se, but this was ridiculous. If was modernising without all the pesky modern things like mobile phones or other relevant  technology. Only street rat had a mobile, super secret location was well known and in all likelihood was on a map app. Security all round was pretty primitive, which was often handy for our intrepid heroes. I hate when modernising stories leaves out reality for the sake of plot. Modernise or don't; you can't have it both ways.

2. It wasn't  a good Famous Five story.  It was way too sentimental (Enid would definitely not approve of the emotion, and certainly not anything like a love interest), the Five were way too stupid to live, and there wasn't  enough glory at the end for the Five. Not to mention that it takes place OUTSIDE ENGLAND! How could it betray the motherland like that?

3. It wasn't  a good NOT Famous Five story. As a story it made no sense, it was painful to watch and i hated  it. And I  know it's  a German kid's  movie, but why did EVERYONE have to speak German?

4. It was bad Enid. The goodies were GERMAN! Black mark right  there. Not a single solid Englishman in the whole thing. It was ALL foreigners. And it was set in Egypt, which is probably very unhygienic. And Egyptians  were goodies AND baddies ... I  think Enid's head would explode from such a break  in stereotype (nuance – what is that?).  And a foreign  love interest? Not to be thought of.

I'll  have to look this series up now ...

31 August 2015

Insipidity Abounds

Well, I think I figured out part of the reason I never wrote about this chapter. You know, other than my laziness and procrastination reaching epic proportions. It’s BORING! I struggled to wring any snarky comments out of myself in relation to this chapter. It’s just so BLAH! But I can’t skip it just to get to my favourite hobby-horses of this book, which is a shame. So here we go.

Only three things happen:
  •  Elizabeth, feeling the pangs of conformity lost when abandoned by the right thinking majority after the meeting, happens to meet Mr Lewis, the probably-not-a-molester music teacher
  • Enid shows Elizabeth how truly wonderful Whyteleafe Prison is, as it is the school Enid should have attended had the had proper parents who knew what Enid deserved.
  • Elizabeth nevertheless continues her reign of terror over the easily horrified students and staff of Whyteleafe Prison.

And none of it is particularly interesting.

Let’s review each point properly, you know, since we’re here anyway.

Probably-not-a-molester Mr Lewis. Elizabeth, from whom the upstanding students of Whyteleafe flee, like good little sheep, decides to go to play the piano for a while. Which, it turns out, she is very good at (note this, I have a rant in me on the subject of Elizabeth’s perfections). She comes to a “little room” which I assume is a room to which children regularly have access, to find Mr Lewis playing the piano. Now this bothers me a little for the following reason: It’s his time off. I know a few teachers, and they guard their breaks quite zealously. I would assume a school like this would have had a separate teachers only area in which Mr Lewis might play in peace and not be disturbed.

Anyway, after establishing that Elizabeth is to have lessons with him, they decide that he can give her a lesson now, even though she mentions she’s leaving. The lesson consists of her playing a couple of pieces she already knows and him “tapping his foot” while she plays. He also manages to sound like he couldn’t give the smallest … daily bowel movement … about anything she has to say, all “dear me”’s and other non-statements which read as though he’s not even listening. I suppose he’s meant to come across as wise and kind, but I refuse to bow to Enid’s lazy implied characterisation.

The reason I call Mr Lewis “probably not a molester” is because he manages to also (in addition to his uninterested demeanour) convey a slightly creepy vibe to the adult reader. “You will be one of my best pupils” and “you must really be a very bad little girl” in their context in the story can be innocuous, but have those vague undertones of grooming … but unfortunately not enough for me to really make anything of them.

You see why I hate this chapter. I try, but there is just nothing to work with. And if there were material to work with, what fun we could have!

The second part is Enid school porn. There’s the glory that is Whyteleafe. Blah Blah Blah. It’s a list. You can escape to the village in groups, you can go to the cinema, you can go riding every day. There’s music concerts, there’s a dance every week … It sounds like one of those summer camps – like in Dirty Dancing.

Oh dear, I just tried to picture Elizabeth as Baby. No … just no.

Also, by the by, there is the possibility of friendship For Elizabeth. Joan tries to make friends with Elizabeth, and gets rejected. I tell you I have a rant coming up about that  … but not yet.

Anyway, with all the glories of Whyteleafe, Elizabeth is determined to be naughty. She puts a cat in the teacher’s desk ( … I can’t even), she turns the clock in the classroom back 10 minutes to miss arithmetic, she gets sent out of class regularly. Ho hum. Enid really isn't trying here. What does bother me is the fact that all the children laugh at her tricks, then complain about how tiresome they are. YOU CAN’T HAVE IT BOTH WAYS. If you laugh, you are complicit … but I’m still not worked up enough to rant. There are a couple in me, but just not today.

Elizabeth caps her naughtiness off by going to the village ALONE. But only after she tried to be good and everyone told her to go away. Ruth in particular, feeling her precarious social standing, makes it clear that  she won’t be seen with someone who “doesn't know how to behave in the road”. Now, beside the awkward phrasing, what is this road etiquette? Is she afraid that Elizabeth will moon  cars, or play chicken with a driver? They are walking down a road! What can possibly go wrong?
Anyway, that’s it really. This mediocre chapter is brought to an end when Elizabeth is caught by the head girl. I promise there’s a rant there. My sincere apologies for the lacklustre return, but this chapter is like reheated potatoes – floury and cold in the centre.

Next time: Why gossiping is NEVER acceptable behaviour and a prelude to my major squick with this book! Stick with me, people, good times are coming!

26 August 2015

... yeah

So ... been a while, right?

It's unbelievable. You blink and nearly three years pass. My current Blyton under review followed me around like Banquo's ghost, silently accusing from bedside tables, suitcases and bookshelves, until I buried it somewhere in amongst my books.

However, as my books have been in storage for the better part of the past year, I have had to concede that if I want to continue to the end of this book (as has always been my intention) I would have to bite the bullet and get a new version. So I bought one on my tablet.

My whole being revolted against it. Even as I confirmed the purchase my Blyton-loving soul recoiled from the modern cover. I mean, really, the book is littered with these modern artist renderings of scenes in the book, while the prose remains steadfastly set mid-last century. It's jarring and hurts my poor little sense of the fitness of things.

Anyway, this post is just a heads up that I am coming back to this - and I'll finish it. AND I'm taking requests as to what to read/review next. A very kind friend has promised me a box of Blytons ... is it ridiculous that this is some of most exiting news I have had this year?

15 November 2012

How the socially undesirable gain acceptance in Blytonia

Yep, I managed to disappear again. Well done me. I’m full of those damn good intentions, in that I prop my copy of Blyton on my desk (where it will shame me for not writing up the next chapter) and SWEAR that I will write it TONIGHT … then decide at 10pm that I really couldn’t do the chapter justice and I really should watch the next episode of the latest K-Drama I’m hooked on. Life is tough when there’s K-Drama about …

So anyway, I left you on something of a cliff hanger last time, what with the dreaded school meeting coming up and everything. This meeting IS the entire chapter. And I can tell you – I would never send my precious spawn (should they one day exist) within ten miles of this hell-hole.

So, it’s a school run by children – and what do they do? Adopt the trappings of their lost grown ups (three teachers sit up the back during this thrilling chapter, but “did not seem to be taking a great deal of notice of what was going on.” Of course not – why do the job you’re paid to do if you can get minions to do it for free?). Two judges (merry-eyed William and grave-looking Rita – William sounds like a bit of a smarmy git, just from that description), a bunch of monitors (we’ve met them before), and a gavel (because you can’t be an official without a wooden hammer – I like to think it’s a meat tenderizer nicked from the kitchen …). To be honest, it’s one conch shell away from a desert island.

 And they have RULES! You HAVE to obey the monitors (with no explanation as to the limits of their power and what they can order you to do), and all bad behaviour is reported and dealt with at these meetings – trial by mob. OH! But wait – reporting any person is encouraged with these words:

“Please be sure you understand the difference between a real complaint and telling tales, because telling tales is also punished”

I’m not sure I understand the difference. Given the casual acceptance of institutionalised bullying and violence, how do you suppose a whistle blower would fare in that environment? This place sends shivers down my spine – SHIVERS I tell you!

On another note – Elizabeth is an ovine-minded moron. The girl doesn’t talk, she bleats! Take this little gem, for instance: there’s a sign up for the meeting which says “Bring all the money you have” (I’ll get to this little rort in a moment), and Elizabeth does! She tells herself that she won’t hand it over, of course, but then why take it at all? The girl is just plain dumb. Seriously, you take your money somewhere where you know it’s going to be taken? Good grief, I want to send the idiot an email telling her that I‘m a Nigerian prince. Although, she might not go for that particular line … all foreigners being evil and all.

As for the rort – well here’s where we get to the fun bit – and the title
of this post. It turns out that this place is not a school, it’s an
extortion racket. All the kids are forced to put all their money into a box and it gets doled back out to them in set pocket money. A tad commie for comrade Enid there, but it’s ostensibly and egalitarian idea. Until you learn that no-one seems to be responsible for the accounting of this slush … er trust account. I bet merry-eyed William gets his grubby little paws all over the dosh and gets his ciggies and gin on these proceeds of extortion.

And you remember fat Ruth – of course you do, her main character trait is that she’s fat (remember, this is Blyton – and in this book we also have Nora, who is Irish). Anyway, it struck me as odd that Blyton would allow such an obviously undesirable person to be part of the right minded majority – Enid being supremely superficial and all. In this chapter I figured it out. She volunteers to do the dirty work. Who volunteers to prod Elizabeth when she doesn’t stand up and sit down with the other lemmings? Ruth. When someone has to shake Elizabeth down for her money, guess who jumps at the chance to do the shaking down? You guessed it. “Nice” people don’t stop to scuffling over a few shillings – it’s undignified and vulgar – they just leave it to the eager underling who yearns for nothing so much as acceptance … AND they’d have to have some horrific physical deformity such as Ruth’s to be qualified to do the job. Ruth’s overwhelming subservience to the regime is what marks her as acceptable – she knows her place and doesn’t presume to aspire to the big table … but everyone needs a flunkey …

Anyway, Elizabeth refuses to hand over her cash (until Ruth forks her purse and dumps it by the box), and states that she thinks the idea is silly and will not be complying. Well, you can almost hear the chant of “kill the pig” starting up in the mob. Elizabeth also announces that she’s going to run away home, at which point her money is placed firmly beyond her reach into the slush fund – and she’s denied pocket money for the week. With, of course, the threat of further punishment to come. Because it can always get worse in Blytonia.

So now our heroine is trapped like Jonathon Harker in Dracula’s castle (guess what I’m reading right now) and is doomed to spend at least another chapter being stood over by the Boarding school Gestapo.

To be honest, I have to say I’m glad she stands her ground in public. It’s the first actual rebellion you see from the girl, and if she could just keep it up, I’d love her forever. Alas, I feel social conditioning coming on ...

12 July 2012

First Day Disappointment

All of a sudden it’s been 6 odd months. Good work me. Seriously, I have been looking at this book on my bedside table for the past six months (no matter where I have been – I took it to Europe and the middle-east with me in January) thinking “I’ve got to do some work on that ... I’ll do it tomorrow”. But of course I never do. Such is my life.

 I'm not promising much with this chapter - it's a bit blah (filler before we get to the next chapter), but I'm back online, so one miracle at a time is all you can expect right now!

 Anyway, to recap the story thus far: Elizabeth is a pretty normal child (by which I mean self-centred and rather bratty – and don’t get up in arms over that, you know I’m right) who has been accustomed to accepting that she is some sort of devil spawn. She has become a burden to her hard-living parents who want to go on a cruise. They ingeniously decide that it’s time to indoctrinate the poor girl in the time-honoured fashion of packing her off to school and having someone else do the actual work of raising her. So she goes to school. Said school turns out to have reverted to some sort of Lord of the Flies meets 1984-esque scenario in which Elizabeth is deemed persona non grata on the first day. We left our intrepid heroine on the cusp of sleep, vowing vengeance and declaring that she’ll be home by half-term.

 We open the scene with some bell indicating that it’s time to get up. Nora the enforcer tells everyone, rather unnecessarily that it’s time to get up; Elizabeth “cheekily” decides to stay in bed (she is such a rebel!). Of course Irish Nora doesn’t like this, so she and Fat Ruth (I’m not making this up – she’s called “plump Ruth”) pick up E’s mattress and tip Elizabeth onto the floor – because that’s not at all an overreaction. When Elizabeth objects, Nora threatens to do an unnamed form of violence on the girl because “Monitors do that sometimes, you know”. I love how Whyteleafe rolls: do what we say or we’ll kneecap you! I can just picture Nora waiting in the dorm with knuckle dusters.

 Elizabeth, of course, decides that as open rebellion is not feasible, guerrilla tactics are advisable. So she decides to wear socks instead of stockings down to breakfast. Ooo-er. (just on a side note – I’m not even two pages into this chapter and already they have set times to get up, eat breakfast, rules as to appropriate footwear – what sort of child perpetuates this arrant nonsense? Seriously – you can’t wear socks???). But just when you think Elizabeth has finally given one to the man (or child), she is shamed into the stockings. Sigh.

 School-wide roll-call comes up after breakfast. In this strange event, boys and girls are segregated (why bother with a co-ed school if you're just going to split them up?) and formed up into rows before the roll is called, then the children march out to music. Yes, MARCH. I bet it's not even normal marching - I bet they have to goose step out of the hall. The school strikes me as that sort of place. I wonder whether they have to salute their glorious leader while they're at it?

 This school really gives me the heebie-jeebies: violent monitors, children doling out punishment to one another, lives lived according to a series of bells, no socks allowed, and a vaguely militaristic assembly? THIS is a progressive school? I’d hate to see what Enid thought was old-fashioned. The more I read about this school, the more I’m in E’s corner, willing her to some drastic feat of naughtiness that will release from this hell-hole!

 And it seems we may finally get the chance see such a feat, as class finally begins (and Elizabeth gets a seat in the back row, which she likes because you can be naughty there. How she knows this, having never gone to school before, puzzles me a little). At first we are disappointed, Elizabeth being high on the fresh paint fumes in the classroom to such an extent that she gets a “VERY GOOD” on her dictation. She soon comes to her senses, however, and embarks on her first deed of the mischievous variety: flicking paper at various people in the room.


 Really, I despair of the idiot. Go hard or go home, Elizabeth; if you want people to take you seriously as a delinquent, hike up your skirt and do some serious damage. Throw a child through the classroom window, get into a proper fight, trash the teachers’ lounge. Don’t flick freaking PAPER!

 I suppose, in her defence, she does talk back to the teacher, but as the chapter ends with E knuckling under AGAIN (and promising to behave), you can’t really give the girl too much credit. Another disappointing episode in Elizabeth’s school career.

 One thing to note: we learn that Elizabeth likes music in this chapter. It should be noted, as it comes up later in the book, as there is nothing the regime won’t do to ensure the loyalty of their adherents.

 This chapter feels a bit like a filler chapter, and I suppose it is. But the next chapter ... school meeting time! I shall be updating you on that little gem anon (less than 6 months this time – I promise!)

06 February 2012



quick heads up - The past couple of months have been crazy, and although my faithful Enid Book has followed me halfway round the world and back again, I've had not a moment to ponder our loved one.

I shall return anon - hopefully this week (but I'm moving house, so perhaps next week ...).