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Thursday, 5 January 2017

Book Review: Enid Blyton for Grown-Ups

I'm a big fan of Enid Blyton's original Famous Five books, so when I heard there was going to be a spoof series about the Five as adults, naturally I was horrified. However, I've since read three of the 'Enid Blyton for Grown-Ups' series, and I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised. The author Bruno Vincent has done a fantastic job of updating the stories for a modern audience while preserving the charm of the originals. The books are entertaining, funny, and enjoyable, making them the perfect quick reads to brighten up a dull January day.

Five on Brexit Island

Books, Review, Enid Blyton, Famous Five, Enid Blyton for Grown-Ups, Five on Brexit Island, Bruno Vincent, Quercus, The Writing Greyhound, Lorna Holland
Image: Bruno Vincent / Quercus
It is the night of the referendum and the Five have retired to Kirrin Island to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine, fed up with the rancour of public debate. George is firmly a 'remainer,' whilst Julian, who is in the 'Brexit' camp, is tolerated on the grounds that Anne cannot bear to go camping without him. (Timmy, largely apolitical but not keen on cats or rabbits, joins them too.)

The night is tempestuous in more ways than one. George has managed to rig up a satellite link with the mainland so they can keep abreast of the news, and they sit huddled around the fire, amidst some tension, as George's initial hope that the 'remainers' will triumph proves premature...

Meanwhile, a violent storm whips up. The damage is apparent as the new day dawns and George declares a new meaning for Brexit: Kirrin Island is exiting Britain... that is until the red tape becomes too much of a challenge and their happy life together is under threat.

Five on Brexit Island is hands-down my favourite of the three I have read so far. The humour, storyline and characters are spot-on the entire way through, and it's laugh-out-loud funny in places. Despite being about Brexit, it steers clear of being overly political (though the obvious comparisons between Julian and Boris Johnson are amusing) and instead focuses on the impact the vote has on the Five.

However, it's that one quote from Timmy that really makes the book for me:

"Timmy was considered to be neutral, although if he had been capable of understanding the variety of sausages available on the European mainland, that could probably have been a deciding factor. "

Rating: 4 stars

Five Give Up the Booze


Books, Review, Enid Blyton, Famous Five, Enid Blyton for Grown-Ups, Five Give Up the Booze, Bruno Vincent, Quercus, The Writing Greyhound, Lorna Holland
Image: Bruno Vincent / Quercus
Give up alcohol you say? Why, of course they can! Talk about an easy challenge! Five old friends set about this simple task and find all of a sudden that: the days are longer; they get to see each other for who they really are; the empty laughter of ordinary conversation is so much harder to fake. Yes, they're saving money and losing weight, but the world itself seems to take on a slow, dreary inevitability. Soon they begin to snap at each other, and then fight - until they begin to wonder, have the Five at last found the challenge that will defeat them?

The biggest problem for me with Five Give Up the Booze was believing the concept. In my mind, there's just no way that the Famous Five, even as adults, would be this addicted to alcohol, even verging on being classed as an alcoholic in Julian's case. This made the entire story seem implausible to me, meaning I couldn't quite engage with it as much as I'd have liked to have done.

Still, it's a fun read, especially suited to this time of year as many people endeavour to give up the booze for their New Year's resolution!

Rating: 3 stars

Five Go Parenting


Books, Review, Enid Blyton, Famous Five, Enid Blyton for Grown-Ups, Five Go Parenting, Bruno Vincent, Quercus, The Writing Greyhound, Lorna Holland
Image: Bruno Vincent / Quercus
Bringing up a baby would surely be kid's play for The Five. How hard could it possibly be?! When the doorbell rings one Saturday afternoon, the last thing the Five were expecting to find on their doorstep was a baby... But the Five are next of kin to Cousin Rupert and his wife, so when they find themselves in a spot of bother and are destined for a short spell behind bars, Anne, Dick, George and Anne are the first port of call. First, it's the fear and the tiredness that kicks in. They are terrified at being responsible for this new life and have no idea they're doing it right. Why is it crying? They use Dr Google constantly, who whatever the situation offers the same range of advice from 'don't worry about it' to 'rush her to the A&E'. 'Why is she crying?' they constantly ask. 'Why?' It keeps them up all night every night, until they are reduced to walking ghosts, haunted by a numb and impotent fury. Is this an adventure too far for our Five?

Firstly, can I just say that I love the idea that the Famous Five are still out their solving mysteries well into their adult life? The beginning of Five Go Parenting is fab for that exact reason. However, then we get to the real meat of the story.

I have to admit that I really couldn't see the Five basically being landed with a baby completely out of the blue - even if she is family. It is a novel concept, though, and it's interesting to read about how each of the characters reacts and finds different methods of coping. Dick is a real gem in this one - I always felt he got overlooked in the original series so it was nice for him to be the best at something for a change!

Rating: 3 stars

Are you an Enid Blyton fan? Will you be reading the books? Let me know in the comments below!

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