Book #4 for my Malory Towers challenge. I would like to clarify that for this ‘challenge’ I’m only reading the original six books written by Enid Blyton herself. There are six further books by Pamela Cox which explore more of Felicity’s adventures. Read a little about them on the World of Blyton Blog here.
Upper Fourth at Malory Towers picks up a couple of terms after the previous book when Darrell and her friends were in their third form. Now they have spent some time in the Upper Forth taught by Miss Williams and are preparing to take their certificate exams. But that doesn’t of course stop school life from going on as it usually does. This is the first term in which Felicity has joined Malory Towers. Darrell is excited to show her little sister around and help settle her in, but before she can do that Alicia’s rather nasty little cousin, June, takes Felicity under her wing, and out of Darrell’s way, something the latter can’t approve. To add to the situation, Darrell has been made head-girl of the form, a post she is proud to occupy but her temper rears its ugly head again, putting everything that she’s been working for at risk. There are also new girls of course, the meek and unattractive Honourable Clarissa Carter, who Gwendolen (rather like St Clares’ Alison in this respect) is keen to befriend, and (non-identical) twins Connie and Ruth, opposites of each other in more than one way.
This was another interesting instalment in the series once again focusing on the girls’ different temperaments, and how this leads them to like or repel each other, and causes differences as well. At the end of the day, the message if one can call it that, which comes through is that one must be responsible for one’s own acts, face up to one’s own failings and deal with them if one wishes to be a good human being, not merely a winner of prizes and scholarships (the very same that Miss Grayling gives her new students each year). Some of the girls (Clarrisa, for one, Felicity another) must learn to see their ‘so-called’ friends for who they really are rather than the face they put on for them. Darrell must learn to face her temper and deal with it, or else face the consequences, just as Gwendolen must do for her deception and machinations. The twins have to learn to deal with each other’s personalities, and not get overshadowed by the other, while Alicia has to learn not to scorn other just because she has some gifts that others do not. For some these lessons have long-term results, but others merely fall back into their own ways.
Another Cover (Harper Collins 1971): The girls having their midnight feast by the pool.
That was the serious side, but there is a lighter side too. This was the first of the Malory Towers books where the girls actually had a midnight feast (St Clares seemed to have far more), which is fun though it does get interrupted and has some unpleasant cosequences. They also play a trick, once again on the unsuspecting Mam’zelle Dupont, who doesn’t realise what is happening (not even once its all over), much to the amusement of the girls, and Miss Williams. And of course, there is the usual fun of term time, a picnic, games and swimming which some girls are excited about while others perpetually try to get out of, Belinda and Irene’s madcap antics, and the usual fun. All-in-all a good read again. I think I’m appreciating these better reading them now, than when I read them as a child.
p.s.: An interesting fact I learnt from this book was that EB was a regular contributor to Encyclopaedia Britannica on English fauna. I knew she wrote nature books and was very knowledgeable about nature (something that reflects in her other books too) but not that she was a contributor to Britannica too.