First Term at Malory Towers : Enid Blyton

First Term at Malory Towers (Malory Towers, #1)First Term at Malory Towers by Enid Blyton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

And so my Blyton marathon reaches another great classic, her series of school stories set at the deliciously described Malory Towers. It’s a school set nebulously on the Cornish coast somewhere, but the detail is what makes this school sing. Turrets. Towers. A swimming pool that’s crisp and refreshing on the hottest of days. A central court with a sunken theatre, roses, and Arcadia found. It’s Darrell Rivers’ first term and, as is the way with the school story, we follow her on her journey into acclimatising into her brave new world. It is an acclimatisation full of pitfalls, of temper, and of high-jinks and of friendship, surprisingly, enduringly formed. It is lovely.

Malory Towers is so, so good. Blyton can write, she writes with what I can only describe as a ferocious readability. There’s not much artifice here, no narrative dodging or sleight of hand. This is story, handed out wholesale, and it’s great. Blyton can write and she can give story, and she will give you story whether you want it or not. There’s something quite brilliant about her when she gets like this. It’s unafraid, unabashed, unrelenting storytelling that’s equally terrifying and equally addictive.

It’s worth nothing that, in the edition I read, the slapping incident between one pupil and another now involves shaking, though the attempted drowning beforehand remains curiously intact and unedited. I’m struck, really, about the tone of editing here. I don’t know if there’s a right or wrong decision to this incident, but I’m conscious really of how I read the original incident when I was a child. It was so dramatic to me, so gobsmackingly awe-inducing, precisely because of the slapping. And whilst I’m so very conscious of that, I’m equally conscious of the necessity to understand the needs of current readers and different sensibilities. A quandary. What would you do with the relevant incident? I’m not sure it’s a call I can easily make.

But enough of editing and of nerdly niggles, and back to this wonderful book. It’s epochal, really, because it does what it does with such genuine aplomb. There’s almost too much to enjoy. Everything and everyone feels rooted, real. This is storytelling, pure and simple, and because Blyton is so determined to make this work, she does. There’s such latent power in literature like this.

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5 thoughts on “First Term at Malory Towers : Enid Blyton

  1. Yes, the slapping scene stayed with me, & I never really liked Darrell because of it. I always identified with GML because I’m a crybaby and would have cried if my mum left me at school, and I hated games & swimming. Darrell would have found *some* reason to slap me at some point.

    I don’t know how I feel about the shaking. On one hand, Enid Blyton clearly approves of the slapping. On the other, Darrell learns to control her temper, and it isn’t supposed to be a good part of her character. But it’s true, too, that a few decades ago most children saw being slapped as a fairly inevitable punishment from their parents, and now they don’t, so it doesn’t mean the same to today’s kids. However, my inclination would always be to treat Blyton as period writing. When it isn’t, it feels awkward. Even as a kid I was annoyed about the discrepancy between some of my Naughtiest Girl editions that had pocket money in shillings while others had twenty pence. I preferred shillings because I preferred it not being perfectly relatable to my life.

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