It’s really got to me, this editing of Enid Blyton thing – so much so, that I’ve made the point of picking up some early copies of her works so I can read the original publications. The Malory Towers books are a case in point – I would have read old 1960s/1970s paperbacks which were *probably* ok, but in any event I found a couple of early hardback versions – and since they have a lovely map and diagram on the endpapers, they were irresistible!

first-term-at-malory-towers

Alas, my volume is not quite so lovely as this one…

Though I’ve revisited other Blytons, I don’t think I’ve re-read the Malory Towers books for years. So “First Term at Malory Towers” seemed in many ways like a new read! I remembered the heroine, Darrell and her best friend Sally – and the foolish French mistress! – but not a lot else. Of course it’s possible I didn’t have the complete set – after all these years, it’s impossible to tell.

“First Term” introduces us to the series and the girls, when Darrell goes off to boarding school for the first time. Refreshingly, Darrell is no saint – although basically a nice girl, she has a flaming temper and a tendency to laziness, both of which are displayed here. We meet a variety of girls, all with their different characteristics and problems – from Alicia the class prankster through timid Mary Lou to Gwendoline the spoilt brat. Sally obviously has something more serious going on, as she seems emotionally locked away and indifferent. And all these elements are played out and resolved against the lovely background of a boarding school by the sea, with its own sea water bathing pool.

Revisiting Malory Towers was beautiful escapism – I *so* wished I could go to a boarding school when I was young! There are jolly japes in class – a spider meant for Mary Lou in the French lessons causes havoc with Mam’zelle! – but also deeper problems. Darrell receives a real scare over her temper, and the issue with Sally reaches a dramatic climax. And then there is the slapping incident…

I had a look at one of the modern versions of this book in Foyles to see if I could spot any modernisations – and wished I hadn’t. At one point while swimming, nasty Gwendoline ducks Mary Lou and gives her a real scare. Darrell loses her temper spectacularly and gives her such a slapping you can see the handprints on Gwendoline’s leg. This is obviously considered so politically incorrect nowadays that the modern, watered-down, wimpy version has Darrell simply shaking Gwendoline. No, really….

But this removal of Darrell’s action completely undermines the foundation of the book. The girls are seen to have a very strong moral code of behaviour – no sneaking to the teachers, but a justice all of their own. Darrell herself realises instantly what a terrible thing she’s done and apologises, even before the head girl of the year tells her to. When the other pupils think that Darrell is guilty of damaging Mary Lou’s pen, they deal with it themselves – sending her to Coventry until the truth is discovered. This gives them an inward strength and we see them develop their characters. Shaking Gwendoline simply doesn’t work – it’s wimpy, weak and doesn’t demonstrate Darrell’s character trait of an uncontrollable temper at all. I’m sure that the line from one of the teachers about the girls dealing with sneaks by spanking them with a hairbrush has gone too…

000580-ap222I loved renewing my acquaintance with the girls of Malory Towers – partly I suppose because I was rekindling my youth, but also because I was delighted to rediscover what a fun book it was! I shall definitely be returning to more of Blyton’s work – and *always* in the original versions!

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