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MikeAlx

Enid Blyton

So did anyone watch the BBC4 short biopic about Enid Blyton, starring Helena Bonham Carter? I'd heard before that Blyton could be rotten to children, but hadn't realised quite how rotten she was to her own daughters! Or to her first husband and brothers for that matter - not a pleasant character if this portrait is to be believed. Though you could see some of the reasons she became that character.

It struck me that many "driven" women of yesteryear bonded strongly with their fathers (and not particularly with their mothers) in childhood - besides Blyton, Vera Brittain and Margaret Thatcher spring immediately to mind.
TheRejectAmidHair

I was amused to discover that for years BBC had a sort of unofficial ban on broadcasting readings or dramatisations of Enid Blyton books, on account of their perceived lack of literary quality. While this does strike us, quite rightly, as somewhat silly, it is nonetheless heartening to think that there was a time when literary quality was perceived as an important criterion in these matters.

Personally, I can’t help having an affection for those Enid Blyton books. I don’t think I could read any of them now – even out of nostalgia – but they were a great help to me when I was first learning to read English.
Caro

I don't know how old I was - perhaps early teens - when I read some sort of autobiography of Enid Blyton.  I remember she talked about her girls - Imogen and Gillian - quite a bit, and I feel that she got on better with one of them than the other.

It's interesting how people can see things in way that support their own hypotheses, isn't it?  You, Himadri, see this as proof that the BBC standards have gone down; I see it as proof that people always loved sub-standard popularist writing.  I would think that Enid Blyton's writing was not a patch on JK Rowling's, who has been so popular in recent years.

People (or at least I am) are quite influenced by the first ideas they read on a subject and in Blyton's autobiog she talked about the process of writing quite a bit.  The one thing that has stuck in my mind all these years was that she said plot-writing fell into two camps.  One was to plan what was to happen carefully and the other was to write not knowing what the end would be.  She fell into the latter camp which she obviously felt was the better way as it gave spontaneity and she said readers could tell this and prefer it.  (Why is it that I can look up something on Google and have forgotten the spelling before I get back to my typing, but I have remembered this for some 45 years?)

For years I thought that was the right way to write, but now of course I think a really good writer would know where their novel was taking them.  I do still read though of novelists who say their characters take over and do things they don't expect.  But I find that a little odd.

Cheers, Caro.
TheRejectAmidHair

Caro wrote:
It's interesting how people can see things in way that support their own hypotheses, isn't it?  You, Himadri, see this as proof that the BBC standards have gone down; I see it as proof that people always loved sub-standard popularist writing.  I would think that Enid Blyton's writing was not a patch on JK Rowling's, who has been so popular in recent years.


Oh, there has always been bad writing around - although I don't kno wthat I'd class Enid Blyton's writing as bad, as such: it's just very simplistic. I don't doubt there are many fine children's writers these days who are far superior to Enid Blyton - JK Rowling, Philip Pullman, and a whole lot of other writers I haven't read - but the point I was making is that children nowadays aren't expected to read prose as challenging as that written not that long ago by the likes of Rosemary Sutcliffe or by Leon Garfield. The ethos has changed from "This is too easy - try something more challenging" to "This is too hard - try something easier".
Green Jay

Caro wrote:
People (or at least I am) are quite influenced by the first ideas they read on a subject and in Blyton's autobiog she talked about the process of writing quite a bit.  The one thing that has stuck in my mind all these years was that she said plot-writing fell into two camps.  One was to plan what was to happen carefully and the other was to write not knowing what the end would be.  She fell into the latter camp which she obviously felt was the better way as it gave spontaneity and she said readers could tell this and prefer it.  (Why is it that I can look up something on Google and have forgotten the spelling before I get back to my typing, but I have remembered this for some 45 years?)

For years I thought that was the right way to write, but now of course I think a really good writer would know where their novel was taking them.  I do still read though of novelists who say their characters take over and do things they don't expect.  But I find that a little odd.


Cheers, Caro.


I think both those methods are equally valid, but I don't agree with Blyton that readers can tell and prefer the more open-ended way of writing. One writer - okay, populist and popular, - the crime writer Minette Waters,  claims not to know whodunnit for a long way into her novels, whereas I'd have her books pegged for a "plan it in advance" type. Very hard to write crime novels without doing loads of rewriting to make it hold together once you finally work out who the perpetrator is to be.

I'm sure there are many "good" writers who write and feel their way into their novels; they write about character and explore motivation and action through that, so may not have a strict outcome in mind at all at the start. Or may have an outcome but not a defined route in mind. I think I probably prefer this type of writing, though if my thesis is that one can't as a reader tell, I can't prove it anyway!  Very Happy

And there might be a 3rd way - spontaneous and unplanned resulting in a shapeless muddle which doesn't add up in the end.  I haven't read enough Blyton to know if this is the case.
Green Jay

Re: Enid Blyton

MikeAlx wrote:
So did anyone watch the BBC4 short biopic about Enid Blyton, starring Helena Bonham Carter? I'd heard before that Blyton could be rotten to children, but hadn't realised quite how rotten she was to her own daughters! Or to her first husband and brothers for that matter - not a pleasant character if this portrait is to be believed. Though you could see some of the reasons she became that character.

It struck me that many "driven" women of yesteryear bonded strongly with their fathers (and not particularly with their mothers) in childhood - besides Blyton, Vera Brittain and Margaret Thatcher spring immediately to mind.


Still aiming to watch it on catch-up TV (blessed i-player, it's changed my life)  - doesn't stop me from shoving my oar in though!  Wink
Evie

My mother wouldn't let me read Enid Blyton when I was a child - she, like the BBC, didn't think she was of adequate literary quality.  I always felt I missed out, and still do to an extent, though a friend did give me one of her books when I had German measles - called The Adventures of Binkle and Flip, about two rabbits.  It was rubbish, but has stayed in my memory, clearly!

I have my mother to thank for all my literary, musical and artistic interests, though, so I have never held it against her!

I didn't see the programme, but remember reading that HBC was going to play her.  Was it well done?
Ann

[quote="Evie"]My mother wouldn't let me read Enid Blyton when I was a child - she, like the BBC, didn't think she was of adequate literary quality.  I always felt I missed out, and still do to an extent,
quote]

I was not allowed near Enid Blyton for similar reasons but I've been unimpressed by what I've seen of her work and don't really regret it. Nevertheless I do feel I missed out a bit by not being part of the childhood culture of the time. I did get bored to death reading her to my children (not wanting them to miss out) and I was quite pleased when neither of them took to her.
Green Jay

I've now watched the programme, and, wow, it was quite a demolition job on Blyton. Helena Bonham-Carter seemed brilliant in the part, swapping from charming to chilling with convincing ease. I knew Blyton was a workaholic but I didn't realise she had written quite so much. Whether fair or not, the script sharply juxtaposed certain bits of her writing with what was going on in her private life at the time.

I am so nit-picky. It had high production values, lovely to look at, but I wish they could have spent some of HB-C's costume budget on a few hairslides and ribbons for the girls, not to mention authentic short-back-and-sides for the boys. It was messy modern hair all round for the under-10s, while the adults looked very effective.  Oh, and however powerful Blyton's reputation might have been, even she would not have got away with a house with no sign of black-out on its mutiple windows in wartime!
Green Jay

[quote="Ann"]
Evie wrote:
My mother wouldn't let me read Enid Blyton when I was a child - she, like the BBC, didn't think she was of adequate literary quality.  I always felt I missed out, and still do to an extent,
quote]

I was not allowed near Enid Blyton for similar reasons but I've been unimpressed by what I've seen of her work and don't really regret it. Nevertheless I do feel I missed out a bit by not being part of the childhood culture of the time. I did get bored to death reading her to my children (not wanting them to miss out) and I was quite pleased when neither of them took to her.


I was a voracious reader as a child but I read very little Blyton, apart from a stack of Noddy books my mum got from a jumble sale, and which I read in bed on weekend mornings when I was about 5. I think it was for lack of much else in the way of reading matter in our house at the time. I never read the Famous Five or Secret Seven, but I do remember reading a few of her short stories for little children and feeling - even at a young age - that she was snobbish. Mention of "rough children" and so on. Not thinking that her readers might be amongst those kids!! I did enjoy a couple of her --- of Adventure series, again from the scouts jumble, but didn't seek out any more, as when I read bits aloud to my mum, she was quietly dismissive.

I never read Blyton to my children, and they showed no interest in her books. We preferred Joan Aiken's exciting books, and I preferred Just William but found the language was rather above my children, except in the great audiobook versions by Martin Jarvis, which we listened to in the car.
Castorboy

Mike, your mention of ‘driven’ women brought to mind a radio series I am listening to about Beatrice Muriel Hill Tinsley (1941 - 1981) who was a New Zealand astronomer and cosmologist and whose research  contributed to the understanding of how galaxies evolve.
The series features extracts from her letters interspersed with the classical music she enjoyed. Married with two children her work took her around the world to so many conferences that it appears her husband ran the family home. She wrote letters so frequently to her husband in the United States and her parents in NZ that I wonder if she had an inkling of the cancer which led to her early death. She seemed to cram a lifetime of achievement into a few years.
Although born in Chester, England we like to claim her as a New Zealander because she was educated here from the age of five.
Her biography Bright Star: Beatrice Hill Tinsley, Astronomer was written in 2006 by Christine Cole Catley who lives in Auckland and is well known as a writer and publisher.
Castorboy

A report in the NZ Herald last Thursday has an article from the Telegraph Group on the discovery of an early Blyton novel found in a collection of manuscripts auctioned after the death of her eldest daughter Gillian Baverstock. The Seven Stories centre in Newcastle upon Tyne was the purchaser. Does the centre specialise in children's books?

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