BOOK REVIEW: "The Real Enid Blyton" by Nadia Cohen, published by Pen & Sword, Barnsley, 2018
Having been a life-long fan of Enid Blyton’s children’s stories, I was fascinated to read more about the woman who practically invented this genre of youth fiction. I had seen the BBC drama about her life and was, presumably like many other people, shocked to learn that her own family life was not quite as idyllic as those in the stories she told. That made me even more interested to read a less subjective account of her life. If you are a fan of Enid Blyton’s long-running series of children’s series – be it the Famous Five, Secret Seven, Noddy or, my own particular favourite, the Diana, Roger and Snubby books (which a lot of people refer to as the "Barney books") - then, like me, you will find this book a really interesting read.
Without giving too much away, Enid had a turbulent childhood and this had a profound effect on her relationships in later life. But also drove her to want to create an idealised world for her story characters to live in. She trained as a primary school teacher during the First World War and started off working in a small, private school. She discovered that she had a special way of interacting with children and devised special teaching methods centered around play and story-telling with which she gained a lot of success. Having only ever known her children’s stories, I was interested to discover that Blyton had been very highly regarded within the teaching profession and had contributed lots of strategic instructional articles to the professional teachers magazines over many years.
Like a lot of famous writers, Enid actually started off writing poems in her youth and enjoying the excitement of seeing them published in magazines. In fact, the first thing she had published was in fact a volume of poetry and it was only after her experiences of working with young children that she began to write children’s books. During the 1930s and 1940s, Enid became a prolific writer and set up her own companies to manage her affaris. She was such an important figure that during the Second World War she was able to command priority for paper for her books and magazines that was denied to most other authors due to war-time shortages.
In later years, she was criticized by libraries and teaching organisations for becoming out of touch with the real world. All I can say is that when I was a young child, I didn’t go to boarding school, didn’t go on camping/cycling trips with my cousins and didn’t keep finding baffling mysteries to solve. However, the escapism of being able to read about children who did, whether they were completely realistic or not, was a great pleasure to me then and still is today. If you have ever read any of Enid Blyton’s books, or want to know more about the woman behind them, this biography will be just right for you.
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Product details"The Real Enid Blyton" by Nadia Cohen, published by Pen & Sword, Barnsley, 2018
- Hardcover: 155 pages
- Publisher: Pen & Sword History (4 Oct. 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1526722038
- ISBN-13: 978-1526722034