Yes, back to Blyton again! As I didn’t recall Malory Towers that clearly, I wanted to re-read a book I remembered better – one that was a great favourite and that I *have* returned to over the years – “The Secret Island”. This is the first in another of Blyton’s series, featuring four children – Mike, Peggy, Nora and Jack. Mike and Nora are twins; Peggy is the older sister and Jack is a boy they are friends with who lives semi-wild with his grandfather. The three children live with a cruel aunt and uncle, as their parents have gone missing in a plane crash, and they’re basically being used as child labour, slapped if their work is not up to scratch. This gets too much for them all, and when Jack says he may run away as his grandfather is going to move, the children beg to go with him. Because Jack knows of a secret island where he thinks they can hide from the world…
This is a lost landscape, one that we wouldn’t see nowadays, when there were deserted parts of the country, overgrown lake edges, little islands stuck away that no-one paid any attention to. In our modern age of overdevelopment it would be hard to get lost for any time at all. But back in 1938 all was possible… The children do indeed run away, taking what they can with them (including hens and a cow!) and set up camp on the island. They’re incredibly resourceful, learning to fend for themselves, cook and grow things, build shelter, mend their clothes, take care of their animals – like young castaways! But the outside world will not stay away for ever – will they be caught and brought back to civilisation?
This is a Blyton I obviously read and loved over and over again, because I remembered it so well and still loved it! From the escape from their relatives to the bringing of the cow to the island, to the wonderful ending, all was still fresh in my mind. In many ways this book exemplified Blyton for me – full of excitement, children being allowed to be resourceful, peril from the outside world, setbacks and triumphs and a happy ending – what more could you want?
Well, you wouldn’t want the modern version, that’s for sure. At the start of my version (Armada, 1970s sometime) Nora has been slapped six times by Aunt Harriet for not doing the washing properly, which is a pretty strong incentive to run away. In the modern version, Nora’s hands are simply red from washing – no slapping, no threat, so even if you were having to do lots of chores, why go to the extreme of running away? Enid gave her children pretty good reasons for doing what they do – it’s lost in the modernised versions. I will never, never, NEVER read a new version of an Enid Blyton book – it’s old ones for me every time.
“The Secret Island” was a great read – I can see why I loved it so much as a child, and I still love it now. If you’re going to read Enid Blyton, do yourself a favour – seek out the old editions with the REAL stories. They’re most definitely a better book and a better read!