Malory Towers Series Review #EnidBlyton #Children’sBooks #SchoolStories

Last week I finally finished my revisit of Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers books. (I say finally because while I started my revisits last year, and finished the first five books, because of various things, I only got to the final book this year). While I have reviewed each of the books individually as I read them, this post is my thoughts and impressions of the series overall.

Malory Towers is a six-book series by Blyton, set in the boarding school of the same name, in Cornwall. The series was published between 1946 and 1951. (There are further books by author Pamela Cox; while I didn’t these include in my reads, but you can find more about these on the World of Blyton blog here and the Blyton Society Page here). This is one of three school series by Blyton, who also wrote at least one standalone school story Mischief at St Rollo’s. (I have a post about her school stories generally here). The stories feature Darrell Rivers (named after Blyton’s second-husband, Kenneth Darrell Waters) a young girl of twelve setting off to attend school at Malory Towers in the first book, First Term at Malory Towers, and trace her journey until her last term when she is about to turn eighteen, finish school, and join St Andrews in Scotland with some of her Malory Towers friends. At school, she is keen to make friends and is initially drawn to the intelligent but sharp-tongued and somewhat nasty Alicia and Betty, but finally finds a friend in the more sensible Sally Hope, who after getting over her sibling-jealousy turns out a good friend indeed. In the later books (Upper Fourth), Darrell’s sister Felicity, and Alicia’s cousin June also join the school. We also meet various other students like the mathematics and musical genius, but scatter-brained Irene (always misplacing her health certificate, a standing joke in I think all of the books), Belinda, equally a genius but at sketching, Willhemina (Bill), and Clarrisa, who are crazy about horses, and also various others.

Being set in Cornwall, one aspect that stands out in the books (though not all of them) is the Cornish landscape–the school pool for one, amidst the rocks, filled with sea water by the tides. The beach which is out of bounds, and also the rather dangerous waves have a role to play in one of the books, as do the cliffs and gales in another of them, both resulting in some of the girls getting into trouble, for different reasons.

As I have been writing in most of my reviews of these books, the characters in the books stand out for their different temperaments, dispositions–some brave, some reckless, arrogant, kind, spiteful, self-centred, reserved, cowardly, and such. Also, there is, as in real life, no one who is ‘perfect’; even our ‘heroine’ Darrell, has to deal with her own bad temper which gets her out of control from time to time, and is not something she can always manage to keep in check; even towards the end of the series, though she does get better. But of course, while characters like her and Sally do manage to face their flaws and work on them to an extent, there are others like Gwendolen Mary Lacey, spiteful, self-absorbed, selfish, who remain so till the end, only to be shaken into their senses the hard way. So are some others. One student is even expelled from the school, which I don’t remember happening in any of her other stories (though I may be wrong about this). But as in real life, Darrell must also learn to deal with the fact that one will meet all sorts, and have to live with them. Blyton also brings up issues like pressure to excel at exams in one of the books, which is again something one faces in real life.

And also as far as characters go, in this series, like the St Clare’s books, there are also many ‘stereotypes’ (that one gets to see, often in Blyton’s books). For instance, Zerelda, the American girl, is typical, interested more in her appearance–her complexion, hair, and nails, than anything else; much like Sadie from St Clares. But Zerelda does want to become an actress, unlike Sadie, but soon realises that this too requires hard work rather than simply talent, and what she thinks is the way to act. Similarly we have the french girl, Suzanne, Mam’zelle Rougier’s niece, who like Claudine from St Clares, speaks in an exaggerated way (‘Police’, and ‘piggihoolear’, and such), and doesn’t have the same sense of morals and such as the English girls do. Though of course, in both cases, they are good-natured and likeable. And of course, the Mam’zelles (the stricter Mam’zelle Rougier, and the more good-natured Mm’zelle Dupont) too have a tendency to use the wrong English expressions, and are often at the receiving end of the girls’ tricks though Mam’zelle Dupont plays one of her own too–involving a set of false teeth, no less! In Bill and Clarissa’s love of horses, there are shades of St Clares’ ‘circus girl’ Carlotta, who is also a whiz with them! And in Gwendolen Mary Lacey, though she is self-centred and spiteful, there are shades also of Alison O’Sullivan, fawning over some new students if they happen to be beautiful or rich, mostly the latter. In a sense, her ideal students too (even if realistic) have a certain stereotype attached to them, which are her own views of what the ideal child is like–fond of sport, strong (or at least not weak), honest (and able to own up even where he/she has done something wrong). While there is nothing wrong as such with these ideas (of the ideal child I mean), she does seem too hard at times on people who are ‘weak’, and unable to speak up for themselves or know their own minds.

Compared to her other book series, I think over all, the structure of these books, even the characters are a lot like her other six-book series St Clares, which feature Pat and Isabel O’Sullivan, Twins who initially want to go a more exclusive school but finally find St Clares to be the place for them, sensibly picked by their parents of course. But while the Malory Towers girls play tricks like the St Clares ones, they don’t I think have any midnight feasts in any of the books, which the St Clares girls most certainly do. Also, in the Malory Towers books, there are sometimes characters who are supposed to have joined in terms that we were never part of (the ones not in the books), and we’re are introduced to them later, which again, if I remember does not happen as much in St Clares. Whyteleaf school in the Naughtiest Girl stories is more radical in terms of how the student body functions and such, and is also different in other respects.

But, similarities and differences aside, Malory Towers turned out to be an enjoyable series to revisit, for me especially since I haven’t read these as much as a child as I did the St Clares books. It gives a fun picture of school life but also a realistic one with ups and downs, lessons and sport, study and tricks, different people, but most importantly, of the journey itself.

Have you read this series or any of the individual books? How do you find them in comparison to other school series (by Blyton or other authors)? Which are some of your favourite school series/books? Looking forward to you thoughts and recommendations!

My reviews of the all the books in the series are here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Find some interesting Malory Towers posts (there are plenty) on the World of Blyton blog here and here and on the Blyton Society Page here; a fellow-blogger’s review of a stage adaptation of the books here

Malory Towers Challenge: Last Term at Malory Towers by #EnidBlyton

The final Malory Towers book, and thus the final part of my revisit of these books, which I ended up picking up many months after I’d read book 5. In this one Darrell and Sally, and the rest of their form are returning to Malory Towers for their last term. Darrell and Sally and also Alicia and Betty are headed after that to college—St Andrews in Scotland, while Irene will go on to study music and Belinda art. Bill (Wilhemina) and Clarissa also have plans of their own to the others’ surprise. Being their last term, Sally and Darrell want to savour every moment and Darrell, now the head-girl, takes in the new students to Miss Grayling to hear once more the wise words she says to every new student. Being in the sixth form, they don’t think there will be any new students but there are in fact two—the domineering Amanda, a genius at sport who has come to Malory Towers because her own school Treningan Towers was destroyed in a fire, and is inclined to turn up her nose at the fact that Malory Towers isn’t as focused on sport as her old school was. And there is Suzanne, a French girl, Mam’zelle Rougier’s nice who speaks as all EB’s French characters too—with an exaggerated style but is still likeable and good fun. The term is as usual a mix of work and play, with some conflict thrown in.

Now that the sixth formers’ time at Malory is coming to an end, the only question before them is what they have made of their time at the school. While some like Darrell and Sally have learnt to overcome their flaws or at least be more in control of them, others like Alicia continue to be as they are but perhaps in a milder form. But of all of them, it is Gwen (Gwendolen Mary Lacy) who has gained absolutely nothing from her time there—and continues to be as she always was, no longer even listening to her governess Miss Winter who seems to be talking some sense rather than simply pandering to her now. Amanda too is difficult and clashes with the equally headstrong Moira, but when she decides to coach June, Alicia’s cousin, in tennis and swimming, as she sees a lot of potential in her, the project turns out to be good for them both. But there is also the inevitable clash of two rather strong personalities. Among the younger ones, the spoiled Jo Jones is a misfit, encouraged by her brash father to do just as she likes, and she ends up not just putting off her fellow students but taking steps from which there can be no return. And on a lighter note, since the sixth formers are now no longer in a position to play tricks, this too falls to the younger ones with the Mam’zelles once again being at the receiving end.

This was an enjoyable close to the series with both light moments as well as grave ones. Many of the girls have their certificate exams to take though Darrell and Sally don’t find it as hard since they have been putting in work consistently. But academic issues apart, there are plenty of dilemmas and crises in some of their lives. Gwen for one refuses to see sense, even though Miss Grayling charges Darrell to try one last time, and continues to pursue her own path. But lessons must be learnt in life and poor Gwen has to end up learning the hard way. Amanda too has to learn hers when she thinks certain advice is inapplicable to her. Among the younger ones too, this is the case for some of them. But whether the hard way or on their own, most of them at the end learn to face up to their flaws and perhaps try to work at being better. Of course (while not defending all of the characters), EB does have certain preconceptions or fixed ideas of how children should be to be ‘good’ or ‘appreciated’ as against being looked down upon which sometimes may be isn’t so accepting of difference; at the same time, I like the fact that even her main characters like Darrell and Sally are not without their flaws, and realistically, these don’t magically vanish or are magically overcome either but must be faced again and again, and dealt with.

But of course all is not as grave and bleak as I may have made it sound, there are plenty of fun moments too—no plays or performances but there are tricks, this time played by the younger ones—Felicity and June’s form—one involving a magnet and the Mam’zelles’ hairpins, which turns out so much fun that they decide to give the sixth formers a chance to enjoy themselves as well, finding excuses to play it in their form too, not once but twice, and with something further added on. Suzanne, the French girl, is like Claudine from St Clare’s, with ‘piggyhoolear’ English, and an outlook much like EB’s notion of ‘foreigners’ (and why she faces criticism) adds a further touch of humour.

I liked how the series wrapped up with us being told what lies ahead for all the students, even ones who’ve left, though overall, it was perhaps on a graver note than the rest of the books.

I’ll have a review of the full series up soon as well.

Shelf Control #60: The Caravan Family by #EnidBlyton #Children’sLiterature

Wednesday the 25th of September–time again for Shelf Control. Shelf Control is a weekly feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and celebrates the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains. To participate, simply pick a book from your TBR pile and write a post about it. Link back to Lisa’s page, and do also leave your links in the comments below as I’d love to check out your picks.

This time my pick is a book from one of my favourite authors, whose books I’ve loved (and which I occasionally write about on this blog) since I was a child–The Caravan Family by Enid Blyton. This is the first in what is called the ‘Family series’ , which has six books. These feature three children Mike, Belinda, and Ann who go on various adventures–in a Caravan, staying at the seaside or on a farm, aboard a houseboat, and even on cruises. In this one, as the name suggests, it is adventures aboard a caravan. The three children’s father buys not one but two caravans for them to live and travel in. The book was first published as a serial in Playways Magazine between March 1945 and February 1946.

As I said, Enid Blyton (1897–1968) is and has been one of my favourite writers since I was a child. A prolific writer, she published over 700 books (wikipedia lists 762 during her lifetime) and while she essentially wrote children’s fiction, she wrote across a range of genres–mystery, adventure, and detective series like the Five Findouters, the Famous Five, the Adventurous Four, the Secret Seven, the Secret Series, the Adventure Series, the Barney Mysteries; school series,  like St Clares, Malory Towers, the Naughtiest Girlfantasy and magic like the Faraway Tree and Wishing Chair books besides standalones featuring pixies, brownies, goblins, and other fairy and magic folk; farm stories like the Six Cousins, and Willow Farm; circus stories like Galliano’s Circus, and the stories featuring Pip and Susy-ann; nature books like the Animal Book among many many others including short stories, re-tellings, poems, and puzzles.

The family series is not one I really read as a I child, at least not one that is as familiar to me as some of her others, so I’m really looking forward to picking this one and the others in the series up, once I wrap up the final book in my Malory Towers revisits (My post on book 5 of Malory Towers is here).

Have you read this book or any of the others in the series? How do you find these? Which are your favourite Blyton books? Looking forward to your thoughts!

The book is available in public domain via fadedpage.com. Info on the book is from goodreads (here) and the Enid Blyton society (here).

Malory Towers Challenge: In the Fifth at Malory Towers by Enid Blyton

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?

My reviews of the first three books in this series are here, here and here.

Malory Towers Challenge: Upper Fourth at Malory Towers

Upper Fourth.jpg

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.

 

Upper fourth feast.jpg

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.

Malory Towers Challenge: Third Year at Malory Towers

third year malory.jpg

Book #3 for my Malory Towers Challenge, or rather of me reading through the Malory Towers books chronologically. Although this one is titled ‘third year’, as always, it deals with one term at the school. The story opens as usual with Darrell preparing to return to Malory Towers, where her sister Felicity will be joining her next term. Her friend Sally is in quarantine, and they must take along Zerelda Brass, a new American student, along as they drive down. Zerelda is Blyton’s somewhat typical American student concerned with her appearance alone, and not so much with studies or the activities (sport and such) that the English girls love. She also appears a lot more grown up than she is because of this inviting disapproval from the teachers, though admiration from Gwendolen Mary. At school, we meet two other new students, Wilhemina or Bill whose whole life revolves around horses, especially her own horse Thunder, and Mavis who is supposed to have joined last term (but this is the first we meet her—I am not reading the books Blyton didn’t write for this challenge), and whose sole concern is her excellent voice which makes her rather conceited but also somewhat adored by Gwendolen Mary. Also we find, like Sally, Alicia’s pal Betty is in quarantine so Alicia decides to team up with Darrell for the time being. While we do see what the usual cast of characters get up to, the focus of this one is the three new girls, their temperaments and problems, and how Malory Towers and the girls (and indeed teachers) they meet there change their approach to life, and to school.

 

As I wrote in my review of book 2, reading this series, I really appreciate that Blyton has made these characters very real, even the ‘good’ ones have flaws, and not ones that get magically cured, but that creep back time and again as they do in real life, and have to be dealt with, at least by the ones who are capable of recognising these in themselves. This instalment, as I said, concentrates more on the stories of the three new girls. I wonder how Blyton formed her picture of the typical American girl, but Zerelda in this one is very like Sadie from St Clares concerned with her complexion, hair, and nails, and not much else even though they are good natured people, mostly. (Incidentally, Gwendolen Mary’s habit of fawning over a new girl each term is much like Alison of St Clares too). But even so, that is clearly not her idea of what children should be like, growing up before they need to. Zerelda of course has more to her than simply being a Sadie clone, with her ambitions to be a successful actress someday. But she realises in the course of her term at Malory Towers, that there is more to being an actress than she thinks. Mavis too has ambitions, but while she has talent as well, she lets that make her conceited, which doesn’t go down very well with the others. And Bill (Wilhemina) needs to start accepting that there is more to the world than just her horses though they will continue to be an important part of her life. I know Blyton has a specific idea of what children should ideally be like and that shows through in many of her books (therefore, weaker characters don’t come through as simply one type of person, but ones that have to become stronger), but some of these ideas—especially of being good people—are definitely something that people need to learn to be, even today (and which schools aren’t much concerned with). Of course, besides these issues, and Sally and Darrell dealing with their own problems and progress in school, there are the antics of the other girls (Irene and Belinda), Alicia playing tricks which Mam’zelle finally takes good-naturedly as always and the term time staples, making this an enjoyable read in the series.

Malory Towers Challenge: First Term at Malory Towers

So a couple of months ago I wrapped up my Five Findouters Challenge which was all about reading the Findouters books by Enid Blyton (15 in the series) chronologically (my review of that challenge is here), and then decided to pick up next, this series of school stories by Blyton which I don’t know as well as one of her other school series St Clares which I read countless times as a child. Malory Towers is a series of six books by Blyton (there are other ‘continuation’ books by a different author but I am not going to pick up those here) and is one of her three school series (that I am aware of)—St Clares and the Naughtiest Girl being the other two.

Malory towers

Mammoth ed., 2000: Darrell in the Malory Towers Uniform

In this, the first of the series, we see Darrell Rivers (named after Blyton’s husband Darrell Waters—incidentally I also see from wiki that he was a surgeon like Darrell’s father in the book) ) preparing to set off to boarding school, Malory Towers in Cornwall, since she has just turned twelve (the youngest they take pupils), and is ready in her new uniform to head off to the station to take the train for school (The Malory Towers train arrives at platform 7 not 9¾ 🙂 ). She is nervous but also eager to get started, meet her school mates and settle in, and also to make new friends, since none of her old ones are going to Malory Towers. At the school, her friendly nature and sharp brains ensure that she begins to settle-in in no time, something that cannot be said for the other new girls in her form, the pretty but spiteful Gwendoline Lacey, and the withdrawn Sally Hope. Darrell takes to two ‘old’ students, Alicia and Betty who are also intelligent, but the kind who play tricks often in the form and are happy to voice whatever enters their mind, Alicia especially, and hopes to befriend them soon. School goes on as usual—with classes and work of course, but also games (swimming and tennis since it is the summer term), and also a few tricks. But the class is a mix of girls with very different personalities, and clashes are inevitable leading also to a fair bit of trouble. To top it all Darrell must address her own troubles, not being able to make a friend as easily as she thought she would, and more than that, to control her own hot temper which leads to more misery for herself than she ever thought it would.

Malory towers cover

1946 Methuen ed.

To start off with, a thought that popped into my mind was how this story linked with Blyton’s other mystery/adventure stories (something I’ve never consciously thought before)—while those (like the Findouters books) tell of what the children get upto during the holidays, these deal with term time, so one does get a rounded picture of children’s lives after all.

But anyway, back to the actual book, I though Blyton did a great job in this introductory story of showing us how in school (in books as in real life) we meet all kinds of people—friendly, reserved, brave, cowardly, bright, not so very bright, honest and good-natured, and spiteful (we also have the exaggerated French mistress, Mam’zelle Dupont). One may or may not meet all types in every setting and in that way one might say that these various types have been consciously put in together, but still, I found it made for a believable story. What I liked about the girls were that while many of them have likeable qualities, none is perfect, we see people who can speak their minds but equally those who are unable to and are judged harshly for that. But in this one, while the ‘cowardly’ Mary Lou is looked down upon by her peers, even considered a nuisance at times, unlike in some of her mystery stories (where in an instance or two, it seems as if Blyton herself is judging them harshly), Blyton tries to get Darrell to understand with an incident what being in such a position could be like, could feel to the person, and then she is at least able to understand her better. Darrell also learns an important lesson or two about friendship as well—that first impressions or the ‘glamour’ (not the kind related to appearance) that one associates with people may not always translate to real friendship, that requires people who are able to support you in times of need, quite like the saying goes. The various girls that we see closely have failings in one way or another, and while some are able to address them or at least to begin to address them, others are not. And Gwendoline Lacey—no spoiler that she is the ‘villainess’ of the piece—I ended up wondering about her as well, she is spoilt, spiteful, self-absorbed, and not very likeable at all, but I did end up with the question about why she really was that way—was it only her upbringing (and thus something that could perhaps be resolved unless it was too late) or something more? At the end, finishing the book, while I did read a fun school story, I found on this reading I focused more on the people themselves, on human nature and the various pictures of it that emerged. (And this was a line of thought I think that was partly sparked off by a review by a fellow Blyton fan that I read on facebook—the group Blytonia—just this morning (of different book though): The link to the group is here, sorry I have no idea how to link to the specific review but it is of the Put-Em Rights.