I caught the most contagious cold in the world in Bristol (probably due to all that walking around in the rain), and now everyone I know has it. So I have stayed at home all week reading Enid Blyton books (it's for work! I promise).
Me and my sister were raised on Enid (a children's author who wrote hundreds of books). I always maintain that you can tell people who read Enid B as a child because as adults they have better manners, a more grounded sense of morality and slightly unfashionable hair. Poor old Enid has come under a lot of criticism in the last couple of decades, with her books being seen as racist, sexist, classist and the like. For example, the Famous Five books were about four boisterous middle-class children who solved adventures (usually involving gruff foreign smugglers or working-class villains). Here's an excerpt from Five Get into Trouble: “Good old Anne. Look she’s got all the food ready. Proper little housewife aren’t you Anne?” You are silly Dick” said Anne. “You ought to be glad I like messing about with food and getting it ready for you.” The other girl character, Georgina - was a budding lesbian and insisted that she was "as good as any boy" and should be called Georgina.
My favourite books though, were the St Clares and Malory Towers girl's school stories - another unacknowledged clue that little Lubin was going to grow up gay. Set in a boarding school (again for posh girls), and with a large cast of characters (firey French teachers, spoilt brats, brave heroines) and plot-lines (midnight feasts, pranks, people getting lost at sea, whodunnits involving catty anonymous notes, Head of Form power struggles) etc, they always managed to be thrilling - like a little mini-soap opera (and no flying broomsticks in sight). My favourite character was Gwendoline Mary - a pampered, bratty only child who whines and schemes her way through six books. She still has her Nurse living at home, and her mother and father are completely under her thumb. But in the last book, in a chapter called "A Dark Day for Gwen", her father falls seriously ill, the family loses all its money and Gwen has to leave the school in order to get a menial job and support the family. Of course, nobody gloats openly about it, but this sort of moral come-uppance was always on the cards. No wonder Blyton fans are so well-behaved as adults. We know that if we misbehave, there's always the chance of a karmic fuck-up round the corner, even if it takes 6 books in coming!
Although Blyton's books are viewed as somewhat simplistic and unorginal, I do remember the school stories as having rather complex, almost tragic characters. The heroine of the Malory Towers stories is a very capable upstanding young lass called Darrell Rivers. However, her "flaw" is a terrible bad temper. And when faced with a act of treachery from some bitchy girl, rather than turning the other cheek, she usually responds with a huge slap! Darrell is always struggling against her temper and its consequences - in the fourth book in the series, it's one of these slaps that means she has to step down as Head Girl (and there's no greater disgrace to my mind). Darrell has a more "level-headed" best friend Sally. However, Sally's flaw is that she's a passive-aggressive cow who goes cold and silent rather than talking about her problems. Even the nasty characters are shown to be multi-faceted (apart from Gwen) and usually redeem themselves by scoring the winning goal at the Lacrosse match or rescuing some mousey character who's fallen off a cliff.
I haven't read any of the Malory Towers books in about 20 years, but it goes to show what an impact they've had. I can practically recall every detail, plot and character in them!