This is the second Enid Blyton I’ve read this year and this one, like the Adventurous Four, is a nostalgic throwback but with some things that have not aged well.
The 1949 novel features a different set of four children than in Adventurous Four, but still follows the same pattern: unsupervised children ‘having an adventure’. These particular four children are two sets of siblings- Philip and his sister Dinah and Lucy-Ann and her brother Jack. The four are on a summer vacation in rural Wales, initially with two supervising adults, Philip and Dinah’s mother, Mrs. Mannering, and their family friend, Bill. The group plan to take an overnight camping trip, led by a local guide, David, and his donkeys. When Mrs. Mannering injures her hand, the children are left under David’s supervision and adventure breaks out. The mystery the children discover once they are alone in the woods involves a mountain that puffs crimson smoke, a runaway African American parachutist treed by Alsatian dogs (!! And yes, you read that right), a mad scientist lab and some evil Germans.
The mystery itself is fine, and when I first read this I thought ‘about what I was expecting’- the evil Germans and the outdated gender stereotypes are similar to the Adventurous Four and par for the course for a 1949 novel. When I read this about a month ago, my reaction to the African American parachutist being treed by dogs felt incongruous (what is an American parachutist doing in rural Wales in this children’s novel?) and also unsettling, but I didn’t think too much about it- things seemed to even out a little when the white protagonists were also eventually treed by the dogs. Having now had some time for additional reflection, plus the BLM lens to filter things through, I’m more aghast. The associations are all bad- runaway slaves being chased by slaveowners, police dogs at civil rights movements, black bodies up trees- yikes. I’m not sure how to feel about this one and I’m thinking about what we as a society do with the generations of art that are similarly problematic.
It is, however, about friendship, so I’ll check off that cbr12bingo box.