If it’s not yet clear that I don’t do shame when it comes to my book choices, I don’t know what to say. I read books, hopefully enjoy them, and write about them candidly.
In that spirit, I can safely say that Saturday night was an absolute corker of an evening. After my rugby match (and my tutoring session…), I got home to an empty house. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, a film I really rather enjoy, was on the television. So, with a double White Lady, a bowl of crisps and a pot of houmous, I settled down to about one point eight books, unmuting the film every now and again when things were getting good or I was refilling the crisps or making another drink. After a little while, I cut open an avocado and had that for my dinner. The evening was very me.
Anyway. Second Form at St Clare’s. It’s a girls’ boarding school story, the sort that relies on romps and hijinks and all that malarkey. As you might have guessed from the title, it’s not the first book in its sequence; it is, in fact, number four. I do not own numbers one through three, or five and six. Still, school stories are designed to be accessible to twelve-year-olds (Blyton herself is supposed to have been uninterested in the opinions of anyone over that age), so I think I can cope.
Frankly, this book is great fun. It’s hardly surprising that the decent characters win through to the end, that midnight feasts and practical joke perpetrated on teachers are enjoyed, that good behaviour and an ability to laugh at oneself is lauded, that the objectionable and grumpy new girl and the miserable and shrinking one pull their acts together, or that the silly, vain girl latches onto a wholly unsuitable role model, but if you think it’s supposed to be you’re missing the point. Just read the damn book and enjoy it.
On that note, I’ve got no time for the sort of people who enjoy a good Blyton-based sneer, as if it’s some sort of a “hit” to say that a children’s author used simple language and linear plots, and didn’t go around posing fiendish moral dilemmas. Blyton’s morality is not radical, but that’s not actually a criticism. The emphasis, as always, is on honesty (concerning oneself, but not extending to telling tales), personal responsibility, loyalty and a notion of fair play, with a contempt for what is petty or spiteful. There are worse codes to inculcate; those who denounce the message as nothing but “jolly hockey [or, in this instance, lacrosse] sticks” generally just sound scared of looking deeper in case they should stumble across a principle. If you really want comebacks, talk about Jane Austen’s clear virtue ethics, or break out a Wildean “The good ended happily and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.”
So. Yeah. Two fingers to literary snobbery and a rousing three cheers for literature as entertainment. To quote GK Chesterton: “Literature is a luxury. Fiction is a necessity.”
Second Form at St Clare’s
Author Enid Blyton
Best character Carlotta, the ex-circus-girl. Presumably there’s more backstory in the earlier books, but frankly this one gives us quite enough.