It’s been a few months since I last read a book in this series though I’ve been thinking about it for sometime now. I read and reviewed book 4 last November (here), where Darrell’s sister Felicity, attends Malory Towers for the very first time.
In book 5, Darrell and Felicity return to Malory Towers, where Darrell is now in the fifth form. As the girls have passed their school certificates in the previous term, the term before them is to be a light one work-wise as their form mistress, Miss James informs them. But there’s still plenty in store as Darrell finds herself appointed games captain for the form, sharing duties with Sally, and the fifth form are put in charge of the Christmas entertainment to be written and produced by them entirely. Darrell takes charge of writing the play, Irene the music, Belinda the sets, and Janet the costumes. There is one new girl Maureen, very like Gwendolen-Mary, and three others who weren’t sent up to the sixth form because of age or illness or because they weren’t prepared enough, among them Moira who is a little too hard and domineering, and Catherine, far too saintly. Maureen like Gwendolen Mary is too full of herself, but has only the latter for company as no one else wants her. Once again the different personalities clash or at least don’t get along as games are played and the pantomime is written and rehearsed. Meanwhile Alicia’s cousin, June is also being a handful, just as malicious with her tongue but not as straight as Alicia herself. There are quite a few in the fifth form and below who need to be set right, and the girls are up to the task. Looking at themselves as they are, is hard for them all, and some find it hard to face up to it until things go very wrong. But of course, amidst these more serious moments, there are many lighter ones too in the matches and scrumptious teas that follow and also the tricks which the first form now plays on poor unsuspecting Mam’zelle Dupont, the jolly French teacher. But Mam’zelle isn’t taking it all quietly this time around!
This was a much lighter instalment in the series in some senses with the fun and games taking the centre stage rather than study and exams. But as in the rest of this series, this book too acknowledges that it takes all kinds of people to make the world, which often means unpleasantness, but if one has to get things to work, and to get along with those we are meant to live our lives amidst, one has to face up to oneself, recognise our ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and try to make things run smoothly even if we can’t always change magically. Gwendolen begins to understand this a little when faced with her almost doppelgänger, Maureen and certainly makes an attempt to do so even if doesn’t bring her the reactions she hoped. Catherine too seems to understand this but is a little hurt in the process. June in the first form and Moira in the fifth find this a lot harder to do, one refusing to give in and the other interpreting it in a rather unfortunate way. But sooner or later the girls do begin to see sense, as we too must in our lives.
But aside from this unpleasantness and spite, it was fun watching the girls write and stage their pantomime. They are lucky of course to have all the talent they need—a great writer in Darrell, a musician in Irene, a singer in Mavis, artists in Belinda and Janet, and indeed also acting talents like Alicia—but I enjoyed looking at the whole process unfold which involves a great deal of work but also fun. Staging theatre productions (amateur or professional) and the work that goes into them has been something that’s been part of a lot of the books I’ve been reading lately (the Blue Doors books by Pamela Brown (reviews here, here, here, and here), and then Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild review here), and I had fun reading Blyton’s version.
This book also had its humorous moments in the trick that the first formers decide to play on Mam’zelle Dupont (here June takes after Alicia), and more so when Mam’zelle decides to play on them a trick of her own. Though it is a success of sorts, I’m not quite sure who the joke ended up being on!
This was another enjoyable volume in the series, and now I have only the final book left (I am only reading the six books that Blyton herself wrote) to see how things turn out for the characters as they prepare to finish school and make their way into the real world.
Have you read this book or others in the series? How did you find it/them? Only as a child or as an adult as well? If both, how did the two experiences compare?