Lessons from Enid

I read a lot of Enid Blyton when I was little.

My favourite was The Faraway Tree.  I loved the excitement of not knowing what strange world and adventures were waiting at the top.  In a random act of synesthesia, I remember the stories having a certain taste, a bit like a moist sponge cake.  The bits about Moonface’s slippery-slip to the bottom of the tree taste the best for some reason, even though that’s not my favourite part.

It’s definitely influenced what I enjoy reading as a grown-up.  I love books that write a world so real I can picture it perfectly, particularly worlds that are different from my own.  I think it’s why I love dystopian novels – the authors take a lot of time creating a new world and its rules and there isn’t an assumption of things being a certain way.  However, I don’t like sugar puff books where everything is sweet and works out lovely. In fact, at secondary school I used to freak people out with the horror stories I wrote (I was adamant that the bad guy should win otherwise it wasn’t ‘real’).  A reaction to the sugary world of Enid? Maybe.  But more likely due to the beginnings of a cynical personality and also secretly devouring Stephen King novels in primary school.

I learnt some useful life lessons from the Famous Five.  Apparently you can make yourself a really comfy bed out of bracken and heather.  I discovered it’s important to remember that there will always be smugglers in a cove or cave.  But, never fear, you can defeat them as long as you are a group of children (preferably with a dog) and they don’t seem to carry loaded weapons.  I really enjoy wandering about getting lost in the hope of adventures and assume all will end well (sometimes to my detriment…).  I blame Enid for this.

Strangely, I don’t think I’ll ever read them again.  They definitely feel like childhood books that I wouldn’t enjoy as an adult.  I’m not sure why that is, as I have re-read and still enjoy Roald Dahl and Harry Potter.  I think I’ve been tainted by learning too much about Enid and how maybe she wasn’t all that nice.  I also fear reading them through adult eyes, seeing all the 1950s racism and gender stereotyping, and ruining childhood memories for myself.  I don’t want to take away the taste of sponge cake!

As an aside, apparently my favourite film was Dumbo, which I watched constantly.  This is probably why I’ve never been tempted to do acid.

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