The Famous Five #9: Five Fall Into Adventure by Enid Blyton
Title: Famous Five #9: Five Fall Into Adventure by Enid Blyton
Summary: Julian, Dick and Anne are really worried – George and her devoted Timmy have just disappeared! Not only that, somebody has broken into Kirrin Cottage. Could there be a connection? The Famous Five think so, but it’s going to be tough getting to the bottom of this mystery when there’s only three of them…
I have literally no idea which one this is. I used to read these religiously but that title really couldn’t be more generic, could it?
So let’s instead talk about the cover, in which George is winching Tim up some rocks. That looks painful, for George as well as Tim.
(For reference, the kids’ ages should be roughly: Anne: 14; George and Dick 15; Julian 16.)
We open with George collecting her cousins from the train station. They’ve come to stay for the last two weeks of the summer holidays, since Julian, Dick and Anne spent the preceding six weeks in France. This brings up something that Blyton whole-heartedly believes: a holiday in France = fluency in the language. This happens more in Malory Towers, but it comes up a lot. [Necromommycon: If only it worked that way. So much less painful than all those years of French.]
As it turns out, Quentin and Fanny have been to America, and now they’re off Spain, so the kids will be home alone. Wasn’t it just this Easter that Fanny was worried about leaving them alone?
When they get back to the house, Fanny feeds them her best scones and tea cakes. Quentin walks in, apparently not noticing the children, despite Fanny pointing them out, because he’s furious about a newspaper article. Apparently some genius has specified that all of his top secret research is conducted and kept in his study in Kirrin Cottage. That really is a special brand of stupid, isn’t it? And Quentin specifically said not to mention where he did and kept his work.
Fanny placates him, saying even if reporters descend on him, he’ll be in Spain.
Surely that’s not the main issue. This is a man who is quite often blackmailed and kidnapped over his ground-breaking work. I would say the issue is that the Daily Mail has basically constructed a neon sign above their house that reads “SCIENTIFIC GROTTO HERE! HELP YOURSELF!” with an obnoxious flashing arrow pointing to his study.
Fanny informs him that they’re leaving for Spain tomorrow. This is not the first time she’s mentioned it, but Quentin is astounded, just like he was every time before this. Also, Fanny says tomorrow is 3 September. How long were the school summer holidays back then that they’re still on holiday now and they’ve got another two weeks. Currently they run from the last week or so of July to the end of August, with the kids going back usually the first Tuesday or Wednesday in September. [Necromommycon: Wait, what? My children get all of July and August off (in theory; in actual practice they got an extra ten days in September too because we dragged them away for a trip), and when I was a kid we got half of June as well.]
No. A quick google says that it’s basically as it is now, give or take. Blyton just made an error. [Dove: On reflection, it might be a boarding school thing, where they have lessons on Saturdays for longer holidays overall.]
The next day, while they’re trying to get Quentin to leave the house before they “lose” the plane, a reporter calls. George tells them that Quentin will be away in Spain for the next few weeks, and they ask if they can print that, she checks with Fanny who says yes, as soon as it’s published that nobody’s home, the papers will stop pestering them.
So we’ve just added a “SERIOUSLY, NOBODY’S EVEN LOOKING!” bit to our neon sign, have we?
The taxi keeps honking the horn, and Quentin storms out of his office demanding quiet while he’s in the middle of important work. Fanny takes this moment to usher him out of the house.
Once he’s in the taxi, George comments that she will never marry a scientist. Julian and Dick concede that he’s got a brilliant mind, and their science teachers are cross-eyed over how amazing he is. They also expect great things from them. And it’s implied that, despite these kids being so awesome at everything, they are disappointing on the brilliant scientist front.
Joan, the cook, walks in and informs them that the larder is locked, because they eat such a lot. I’m not even slightly worried about this. Joan will provide food porn – just on her terms, not theirs.
The kids go down to the beach and dig some holes to sit in. I don’t know why this is a thing. I’ve never done it. They notice some poor people, a man and a boy, checking the high tide line for anything that might have been washed up. Naturally, Dick comments that he hopes the filthy mudbloods don’t come too close, as he feels he can smell them from here. [Necromommycon: I’m cringing already, both because I remember this book and because mocking poor people for smelling bad was a regular feature at my school. A girl I liked a lot in grade school (and her brother) ended up MOVING because they were being bullied so regularly over this.] [Dove: That’s genuinely horrible. And the thing is, the book portrays these kids as doing the right thing. These are nice kids. By random chance, they were born to parents who can afford new clothes, and lots of hot water – not by the kids’ own skills – and it’s totally ok to berate a kid who, again, purely by chance, was born to a family who couldn’t afford these things.]
Unfortunately the smelly people approach and sit down close to them. The kids are so offended that they have to run off and have a swim. When they get back, the boy is sitting in George’s hole. She drags him out and he intends to fight her. Dick naturally intervenes, saying he will fight on her behalf. So the boy punches Dick. Dick hits back so hard the boy goes flying.
The boy then calls Dick a coward for hitting someone smaller than himself. He says he’s willing to fight George (thinking she’s a boy), but not Dick.
“You can’t fight him,” said Dick. “He’s a girl. You can’t fight girls – and girls oughtn’t to fight, anyway.”
“Ses you!” said the dirty little ragamuffin, standing up and doubling his fists again. “Well, you look here – I’m a girl, too – so I can fight her all right, can’t I?”
George and the ragamuffin stood scowling at one another, each with fists clenched. They looked so astonishingly alike, with their short, curly hair, brown freckled faces and fierce expressions that Julian suddenly roared with laughter. He pushed them firmly apart.
When Julian’s done laughing at them, he tells the other girl-who-looks-like-a-boy to “Clear off!”, which makes her burst into tears and run off, which Dick takes as confirmation that she’s a girl. Uh, didn’t the Sticks’ son cry? Can’t remember his name, but I’m pretty sure he cried a couple of times. Martin definitely did.
Dick also adds that she gave him a good thwack – good for you, Jo. I’m guessing it’s Jo, and I can’t be bothered to keep typing “other girl-who-looks-like-a-boy” when Jo is a pleasingly short word.
Oh my god, Dick’s on fire today:
“Girls can’t go about fighting,” said Dick. “Don’t be an ass, George. I know you make out you’re as good as a boy, and you dress like a boy and climb trees as well as I can – but it’s really time you gave up thinking you’re as good as a boy.”
I don’t have to respond to that. I can just sit here with my jaw on the floor, and Wing and Necro will comment. Or they’ll join in with my “Fuck you, Dick!” chant. [Necromommycon: If by comment you mean “swear loudly at the computer screen,” then yes, here I am reporting for duty.]
He then says that it’s the first time he’s hit a girl, and he feels bad for it.
Anne, as ever, cools the tension between George and Dick, saying they’ve only got a couple of weeks together, so don’t ruin it.
They laze around all morning and head home too early for lunch. Joan is very cross that they’re 50 minutes early. But here comes the food porn:
“Cold ham and tongue – cold baked beans – beetroot – crisp lettuce straight from the garden – heaps of tomatoes – cucumber – hard-boiled egg!” recited Anne in glee.
“Just the kind of meal I like,” said Dick, sitting down. “What’s for pudding?”
“There it is on the sideboard,” said Anne. “Wobbly blancmange, fresh fruit salad and jelly. I’m glad I’m hungry.”
Tongue. I’ve never investigated. I think it sounds horrible. But otherwise, LETTUCE FOR EVERYONE! [Necromommycon: I have tried tongue. It was tender and tasted fine, but I couldn’t shake the morbid (and completely ridiculous, I know) thought that it was tasting me back, and that made me gag. Never again.]
Then it’s back to the beach, where nothing happens, then home for cocoa and biscuits… uh, what about dinner? Did you miss dinner? I think you missed dinner.
Joan offers to lock up, but Julian insists he do it because it’s “the man’s job”. You’re sixteen. Here’s a story about a sixteen year old boy I knew: one night, while sober, he idiotically blundered through a sliding patio door. Without opening it. Cost god knows how many thousands of pounds to replace.
I absolutely would not trust a sixteen year old boy over an adult woman who is paid to take care of my house – or is Joan only a cook, and someone else does the cleaning/caretaking? Mrs Stick seemed to be a housekeeper, as well as a cook when she did the role – anyway! I would choose the adult, the one who had for years been trusted in my employment.
But of course, Joan just agrees. She hears him trying to shut the small window in the pantry and calls to him to leave it, it’s too small for anyone to get in (famous last words), and it’s swollen open. [Necromommycon: I sympathize. It’s constantly damp here, and the wooden door frames and window frames swell and warp all the time. We’re having them replaced, one by one, but the “original windows!” (as the realtor enthusiastically euphemised) are a major pain in the arse.]
They all fall asleep quickly, after a day of doing not much – not judging, just envying. These kids do not have insomnia – and Tim wakes up in the middle of the night to realise that someone is climbing up the wall of the house. Then Anne wakes up wanting a drink of water, and switches on her torch – so… is this one of those things where they don’t have electricity upstairs or something? Or do the Kirrins just not like bedside lamps? – and screams her head off because she sees a face looking in at her.
This alerts the household. To be honest, I was expecting them all to tell Anne she was being a silly babyish girl and to go back to sleep, but they investigate. Julian actually uses the word “hark”. Hark. I’m not sure I can get past this.
“Hark – I can hear someone running quickly down the path,” said Julian, who now appeared with Dick. “Come on, Timmy – downstairs with you and after them!”
It’s actually stopped being a word because I’ve said it aloud and typed it so many times. [Necromommycon: All I can think of right now is Hark! A Vagrant.]
They let Tim go bounding out of the house after the would-be thief. Julian asks what the face looked like, and Anne says she only saw for a second, “It had nasty gleaming eyes, and it looked very dark – perhaps it was a black man’s face! Oh, I was frightened!”
*winces* Or the night was dark, Anne, not the person’s skin. Or you were frightened and your whiteness is showing.
Dick wonders why Tim didn’t growl, and that’s a very good question.
Julian decides it was probably a tramp, having found all the downstairs doors and windows locked, he climbed a wall to get in. Yeah, no, that’s not really what homeless people do. Being homeless is not synonymous with breaking and entering.
Tim comes back with his tail down, and the kids are surprised he didn’t catch the ruffian. He’s also wet, so they guess Tim chased the person down to the beach, where they got into a boat and fled. (This homeless person now has a boat?)
Julian reassures them that now that person knows they have a big dog, they won’t be back.
Apparently Joan slept through all of this – then again, do they have servants’ quarters that are away from the main family bedrooms? – and they decide not to tell her about it, otherwise she’ll telegram Quentin and Fanny.
The next morning they have bacon, eggs and tomatoes – I’m sorry, but food porn is less enjoyable when they’re in a house. Why do I keep getting stuck with the house books? Or do they just not holiday as much as I originally thought?
Anne feels embarrassed in the light of day and wonders if she had a bad dream. Julian says she probably did, but the truth is that he has already inspected the ivy and found that it’s broken off from the night climber. Who must weigh about the same as a butterfly. Ivy is not really known for its weight-bearing strength. Also, Anne’s fourteen. She has a right to know the truth. Don’t coddle her because of her ovaries.
The kids grab a picnic (home-made lemonade, plums, sandwiches and buns) and head down to the beach. The “smelly girl” is there again – I’m going to call her Jo, because that’s her name, and I’m not going to keep using the Five’s insulting way of referring to her. Julian leads them away and George quickly sees what he’s doing and says she won’t have anything to do with Jo.
Dick reads a mystery story, Anne feeds the sea anemones in the rock pools – which sounds delightful – George lazes with Tim, and Julian starts sketching. George suddenly jumps up, thinking Dick threw something at her. More things hit her and she realises they’re plum stones.
Julian says he wishes he could draw the frown on her face, which is very Belinda from Malory Towers, and then he’s very satisfyingly shut up when a plum stone hits him on the ear. Go on, Jo! NOW USE A ROCK!
George spots Jo and angrily demands to know why she’s throwing stones at them.
Jo says she isn’t, and right after George calls her a liar, she proves otherwise. She wasn’t throwing them, she was spitting them. She proves it by spitting one so it hits George on the nose.
Dick and George find this hilarious. Because they have no respect for George (or Anne, for that matter). Jo offers them some of her plums and bets that she can spit the stones farther than anyone else. Dick agrees to the bet. If Jo wins, they’ll buy her an ice cream; if she loses, she has to go away and never bother them again.
Jeez. Kind of harsh. But Jo’s not fussed, she knows she’ll win.
From this point on, Jo is very other in the text. She doesn’t have hands, she has “brown paws”, she’s a “little monkey”, etc. I wasn’t entirely sure earlier that she was a gypsy in the Romani context, because the kids often use that word to cover anyone whose clothing is ragged, but later it became very apparent that it wasn’t used in a catch-all situation. And believe me, pretty much every thought the kids have about her animalises her and judges her hard.
And George is shocked at this uncouth behaviour, apparently. I really would have thought Anne would be the one to draw the line, but no, apparently George’s ovaries kicked in and reminded her that a 1940s girl is offended by spitting. Julian reassures her that Dick is excellent at spitting. Well, he actually says “that sort of game”, but to-may-to/to-mah-to.
When Anne comes back from the rock pools, the stones rain down on her. Nobody bothers to explain why this was going on, or apologise for doing so. We just move straight on to Jo winning and demanding her ice cream.
Anne thinks they are “dreadful” – I guess she means both Jo and Dick – and tells Dick to buy her an ice cream and tell her to go away.
Jo says she’ll eat it here and looks obstinate, which causes Dick to say that she looks like George, which pisses off both of them. George snaps that Jo is nasty, rude and tangly-haired, and Dick tells her to shut up. Gosh, isn’t everyone just so lovely in this scene?
Jo asks if she’s really nasty, and points out (rightly so) that everyone else is just as rude as her. See, Jo, the problem is that they’re middle class. They’re called the Kirrins, and you’re in Kirrin, they have an island. Basically, they’re wealthy and you’re homeless. So their rudeness is just fine, whereas yours is an indication that all poor people are wretched wastes of humanity. Do you get it now?
Julian whistles to the ice cream man, who is clearly part dog, if that’s how you summon him, and tells Jo to eat her ice cream and fuck off. Which actually wasn’t the agreement at all. If she lost, she had to go, if she won, she got an ice cream, with no details given about where she had to go after that.
Jo gives some of her ice cream to Tim, which doesn’t soften George at all. Hrmm. In all previous books, George has adored any boy who mistook her for a boy and/or made a fuss of Tim. When a girl does that, George hates her.
Dick decides that he finds Jo amusing. While they’re eating, he notices a big bruise on her chin and asks if he did that. She says yes. Funny how he didn’t notice it earlier, isn’t it? Still, Jo says she’s had plenty worse from her dad. *sigh*
They ask her name and she tells them she’s called Jo. They say she can’t be called Jo, it’s a boy’s name. She says so’s George, but she’s a girl. They decide Jo must be short for Josephine, and all internally agree such a pretty name doesn’t suit her, whereas Jo does. Just fuck off you stuck up toffs.
Then they start discussing the little mudblood as if she’s not there, saying that she looks a lot like George. Except, y’know, she’s dirty, tangle-haired, and smelly. Dick says she’d be just fine cleaned up, but she probably doesn’t have soap or a hairbrush. Goddamnit, SHE’S RIGHT THERE, YOU FUCKING ASSHOLES.
George asks when Jo is leaving, Anne wishes she would go – jesus Christ, am I going to start hating the pair of you as well? Julian and Dick are lost causes, but Anne, you’re supposed to be nice? Remember the kidnapped girl, who you made feel so at home in your cave? I take it you’d have wanted her to fuck off if she hadn’t been a millionaire?
Jo compliments Tim and George tells her to get the fuck away from her dog, because Tim hates her. Jo says no, all dogs and cats like her. George challenges her to call Tim if she’s that certain. And obviously, he does go to Jo and licks her.
Dick is astounded because Tim doesn’t make friends with people who George hates and Jo says that it might be a family trait as her mother was in the circus and had trained dogs. Her mum died and her dad left the circus because he hurt his foot and that was the end of his acrobat career. They live in a caravan. The kids all consider their position on Jo:
- Julian: dirty, smelly, probably a thief and a liar, hope she goes soon, despite being “plucky”.
- Dick: Deeply regrets hitting her, wonders what she’d look like cleaned up, and thinks a little kindness would do her good.
- Anne: pities the poor little mudblood, but doesn’t like her.
- George: doesn’t believe a word Jo says and is angry with her dog for going to her.
So… everyone can get in the fucking sea except Dick? Is this an alternate universe? I’ve been disliking him for books and books now (not quite as much as Julian, but nearly), and now he’s going to redeem himself? [Necromommycon: I’ve always read this as Dick being attracted to Jo, which (given how often the book tries to convince us that Jo looks just like George) is all kinds of wrong. But she’s basically an even wilder George, only–importantly–one he can condescend to, and who looks up at him worshipfully for small kindnesses instead of arguing with him.] [Dove: The explanation works perfectly. And creepily. I’ll join you on that head-cannon.]
Julian asks about her father, and she says that he’s gone off to meet someone, and she’s glad of it because he was in a temper this morning, so she hid under the caravan. She offers to have a wash if they’ll let her stay with them. [Necromommycon: That just flat out breaks my heart.]
George says no, nobody likes her and drags Anne in. Anne agrees (welp, I’m done with you, Anne). Julian says that she really needs to go, “You’ve had a long time with us.” as if being insulted to your face for an hour straight is some kind of treat? You classist asshole.
Dick, on the other hand, says she should stay and share their picnic, but Jo leaps to her feet saying that she’s seen her dad. She announces that they all suck except Dick.
That night – we skip straight to night, no idea what they had for dinner – Anne worries the face will return. Julian offers to swap beds with George, but Anne says she’d rather have Tim around.
They let Tim out before bed, and it takes him ages to come back. When he does come back, George says he smells pretty bad and thinks he must have dug up an old bone from ages ago.
They all fall asleep and the next morning they find that Quentin’s study has been ransacked in the night. They can’t figure out how the burglar got in because every door and window was locked tight, aside from the pantry window. Gosh, do you think maybe it was a small person who got in? Maybe an abused girl who has no power in her life? Or even, come to think of it, an acrobat.
Also, George is upset because he won’t wake up and he’s breathing heavily – Wing, don’t worry, Blyton would never hurt the dog – Julian deduces that he’s ok, he’s just been doped so he wouldn’t wake up when someone broke in. George is naturally very worried about him, and this isn’t like Tim, he’s refused food at least once a book from a bad guy. He knows better than to take food from a wrongun.
(Of course, he’d take it from Jo, who would be forced to do so by her father.)
They call the police, and two officers arrive to take notes and fingerprints. And we have some odd reactions to the drama. Joan is proud that she was the one who found the ransacked study; Anne just wants to know when the police will leave because she wants to go to the beach.
The police find the pantry window and assume that someone must have gotten through there. They ask Anne to try getting through, because she’s the smallest, but she gets stuck.
Unless you believe the illustration, in which case, she easily fits but claims she can’t get through.
George and Anne both find Julian to be “extraordinarily grown-up” throughout. Even though he’s literally done nothing throughout. He hasn’t spoken, he hasn’t taken actions, he’s just existed. Informed attribute.
Nobody knows what’s gone missing, they assume Quentin’s work from America is gone, because he said any country in the world would want it (so… he went to America, did some research and didn’t share it with America? Can’t see that happening.) and it would have been in the safe, which is implied to have gone or been opened. Blyton is incredibly light on description here, and when I make that comment, you know it’s serious business.
Finally the kids are allowed out and they go out in a boat with a picnic lunch. They don’t go to the island – if I had an island and it was the summer holidays, I’d move there every summer without fail – just halfway and swim from the boat. Anne idiotically says she wishes she could ride Tim in the water, but he sinks every time she tries. That’s because you’re a fourteen year old human being and he’s a mid-size dog. What on earth makes you think you can ride him? And why isn’t George being scornful about this? She’s scornful about all the other stuff you say, no matter how useful or interesting it is. This is genuine idiocy but apparently the other three will let it slide.
That night, they all go up to bed, except George, who insists on taking Tim for his final walk of the day, rather than just letting him out. Julian plans to wait for her, but she’s so late that he just leaves the door ajar and goes to bed – YOU’VE JUST HAD A BREAK-IN! WHY DOESN’T SHE TAKE A FUCKING KEY? – he later hears the door click shut and thinks it’s George.
It’s not. Neither she nor Tim comes back.
Anne wakes up the next morning and assumes that George is already up, having made her bed – which is odd – and out walking Tim. Julian comments it was very thoughtful of her to gently shut the door behind her, since she usually slams it. Dick then says she may have gone fishing, since she said so yesterday – clearly off screen, why put that there, when we can have multiple sentences praising Julian for existing. You are all idiots.
They go down to the beach, see a boat, can’t make out who’s in it, and assume it’s George. These kids are meant to be smart. But it’s food time, so back home for sausages, tomatoes and fried eggs. And the three of them eat George’s share.
Anne stays home to make the beds and dust and mop, while the boys get to go out and do some shopping. The boys see Jo, who looks very upset. Dick asks her what’s up, and his kind tone makes her cry. She tries to leave, but Dick goes after her. He sees that she’s got another bruise. He asks about it and Jo says her dad did it. He went off in the caravan, and when she hammered on the door he knocked her down the steps, she’s got another bruise on her leg.
They ask if she’s got anywhere to live, and she says that her dad’s friend Jake, who’s a gypsy, will give her money for food, if she does what he wants, things like poaching and – she stops as she realises that the nice middle class kids won’t approve of things like that. She hopes she’ll get some money soon, she’s got none and she’s hungry.
Dick gives her some chocolate and biscuits and tells her to come to the house today, Joan will have some food for her, he’ll arrange it.
Jo admits that people don’t like her coming to their door because they think she’ll steal something, and then further admits that sometimes she does. Dick says she shouldn’t, but she says he probably would if he was starving. She has to stay on the beach so Jake can find her, so they leave her, but Dick gives her 5p before he goes. I used this brilliant converter, and it works out to about £2, which means she could buy a sandwich with it at least.
Julian starts to get worried at lunch when George does not return. The boat comes back in and it held two boys, not George. He checks where her boat is, and it hasn’t been taken out. Why he didn’t check this earlier I don’t know. Yes I do, the plot requires it.
They decide to wait until tea time and then tell the police.
Tea time rolls around and Jo appears with a note.
Julian, for no reason at all, suspects something is up and instructs Dick to grab her and not let her go, even before he reads the note. Dick does so, because the plot requires him to abandon his previous empathy for Jo. [Necromommycon: Or because his version of “liking someone” encompasses wanting to grab them and rough them up. I mean, they seem AWFULLY prone to jumping the poorer kids in this book. It’s making me wonder about them.]
Julian reads the note, which basically says: We have George and Tim. Give us the other notebook. Leave it under a stone at the bottom of the garden. We’ve cut the telephone wires and will be watching the house to make sure you can’t go to the police. Everyone must sit in the front room that evening, including Joan, with the lights on so they can be watched. Julian must do the drop. An owl hoot will be the signal the notebook has been collected, after that George and Tim will be released.
What kind of useless criminal uses the victim’s house as the drop-off point for the ransom payment? What you want is a nice untraceable area, surely? Although I’m sure that was much easier once mobile phones became a thing everyone had.
They turn to Jo and ask her who gave her the note. She describes a tall, beardy foreigner, and they decide she’s lying and ask who really gave the note.
Anne tries a bit of kindness, but when she takes her hand, she phrases it, “taking Jo’s brown little paw in hers” because this poor child is an animal. Even so, Jo refuses to give any details. She says that someone paid her 15p to deliver a letter. Also, George was rotten to her, so why should she care?
Julian and Dick wash their hands of her, and call her a “savage little cat – all claws and spite” – which is a bit fucking rich from the kids who have been non-stop horrible to her. Well, Dick had a few kind moments, but for the most part they’ve been horrible.
They check the phone, which has indeed been cut off. They don’t know how to get to the notebook because the safe has been mended and locked and the police have the key – WHY do they police have the key? It’s not their property. They realise a paper boy will be delivering the papers this evening, so Dick will swap places with him and get the authorities [Note from the future: No, I misread that. Wing, Necro, just breeze past this moment and comment at my realisation about this genuinely stupid plan.]. Anne is sent to find any notepad to wrap into a parcel with a note saying they hope it’s the right one. Which is the most British thing in this entire series of British nostalgia.
“Dear thugs and ruffians, I do hope the book enclosed is the correct one and that you are not inconvenienced in any way by your inability to locate it on your previous attempt to loot the house. If you have any further queries, please do not hesitate to contact us with further mischief and extortion. Kind regards, The Kirrins.”
Just FYI, this chapter is called “Sid’s Wonderful Evening”. Sid is the paperboy that they’re about to kidnap. I’ve not read the chapter yet, but it reeks of middle class privilege, doesn’t it? Oh, that working class paper boy, I bet he’ll find it smashing to be forced to sit in a middle class living room, incapable of completing the job he is paid to do, in a world that does not yet have minimum wage and a fair hiring and firing policy, while some toff takes off on his bike.
When Sid arrives, Julian and Dick grab him and drag him inside the house. Julian holds him “firmly” and tells him it’s all just a joke. Sid doesn’t like jokes (it doesn’t say, but I can’t help but add the unspoken “especially when they fuck with his main source of income, and he doesn’t own an island like these toffs”), and tries to wriggle away but Julian is “big and strong and very determined.” Dick “snatches” Sid’s cap and his paper bag is “torn from his shoulder.”
I’m actually rather uncomfortable with this description. It… has layers. [Necromommycon: See? There’s something very off about this.]
Sid watches Dick take off on Sid’s bike with his papers, and Sid carefully ventures that someone bet Dick he wouldn’t deliver Sid’s papers. Which is an absolutely stupid thing to bet, and it just feeds into the, “I’ll go along with it. I don’t want to make them angry, so I’ll just nod and smile and pretend I’m not scared.”
Julian says that Sid is very clever, and invites him to stay and have supper with them. Sid hopes Dick will finish his round (I’m certain he won’t) and then nearly explodes in shock at being invited to tea with the Kirrins. It is referred to as an “unexpected treat”. If I was nearly done with work and dragged into a house by people richer and more powerful and whose surname is the name of the village I live in, I would not feel this was a treat. I would feel that, at best, I was suckered into being late home in order to play nice with people who want me to bow and scrape for them, rather than getting home and having a lovely cup of tea with people I’m actually comfortable around. At worst, I’d be imagining every horror movie or true crime documentary I’ve ever seen.
It’s only now that Julian explains the plan to Joan. Really? You’ve had all afternoon and now it comes up? She goes along with it and comments that Sid is “simple” and they’ll never hear the end of it down the village, him being invited to tea here. Get fucked all of you. She suggests they play cards in the front room, and Julian says they can play Snap! and let Sid win.
Here comes the food porn. They have ham, egg and chips (although it’s called “chip potatoes”, which I’ve never heard in my life, and my family is old old fashioned.), with jam tarts and a chocolate mould, and apparently Sid eats a lot. (Gosh, it’s almost like rationing is still a thing and he’s not got enough money as you, and is rather shocked at how well you live, guys.)
Anne finds Sid hilarious, and notes that he doesn’t mean to be. Nice. He constantly says thank you and tells his hosts he’s having a wonderful time. After dinner, he offers to wash up, because he always does at home – take that, Dick and Julian. It’s not woman’s work, you’re just living a privileged lifestyle where everyone lets you slack off because you have a peen!
At 11pm Julian drops off the notebook – Anne managed to find one that didn’t seem very important and they hear hooting owls not long after. They stay up until gone midnight with Sid – no talk of how Anne needs an early bedtime because of her youth and vagina tonight! – and Dick still isn’t back with his bike.
They turf Sid out and Julian tells him to run for his life if anyone talks to him on the way home. He sees a policeman on the way back, who asks what he’s doing out so late, so he tears off for home, where he finds his bike, cap and bag. The house is dark, so his mother is already asleep, so he can’t tell her about the brilliant evening he’s just had. (Or tell her those Kirrins are weird, and should she ever need to drop something off there, do it quickly and don’t get close enough for them to grab you.)
Now we find out what Dick did, which is finish Sid’s route (ok, I approve, I guess this is the book I actually don’t want to set Dick on fire), drop off his bike, etc., and then go into town to hang out at the cinema until it gets dark and he can creep back to Kirrin Cottage.
Wouldn’t it make sense to go immediately to the police station? This is a tiny town, what if someone else called the police if you go in at the last minute and nobody’s free? Also, shouldn’t you maybe talk to the police about the plan and have them use their knowledge? For all we know, there could be an elaborate sting operation in place. (Of course there’s not. Who needs an elaborate sting operation when you’ve got the Famous Five?)
So he climbs a tree near the paving where Julian’s going to drop off the notebook. If the clouds clear, he’ll hopefully be able to see the man – he assumes it’s a man, and because this is Blyton, I’m certain he’s right. Actually, because this is Blyton, I’m certain it’s Jo’s dad and his friend Jake – and he can follow him to see where George is.
Did I thoroughly misread his earlier plan about the police? Yes, I totally did. There was no police involvement. This is their grand plan. These kids are fucking stupid. [Necromommycon: This really is astoundingly dumb. And it’s not like they have any reason to feel afraid or embarrassed to go to the police. The police fall all OVER them, especially Julian, at the drop of a hat.]
So, Dick follows the criminal, down the road to a field, where the man drops off something to a man in a car, the car pulls away and the crim sets off again, with Dick in pursuit. They wind up heading back to Kirrin Cottage, where Dick rages that how dare they come back for another punt at stealing something. He decides that he and Julian should kidnap the criminal and keep him hostage until they get George back.
He pounces on the criminal and is surprised at how small the person is. Anyone want to bet it’s Jo? But they fight hard, so he calls for Julian, and it’s not long before they’ve done their second kidnapping of a younger, poorer person that night. [Necromommycon: We Need to Talk About Dick.]
And guess what? It is Jo. And she’s covered in another set of bruises from the Kirrins. Julian says he wouldn’t have hurt her if he’d known it was Jo. Jo says she wouldn’t have bitten Dick if she’d known it was him. And Dick calls her a lot of names for claiming to know nothing about the kidnapping of George. Then he accuses her of coming back to steal more.
Jo says no, she came back to tell them where George was, if they promised not to tell on her.
Jo nodded again. “Yes I will. You’ve been mean to me, but I’ll show you I’m not as bad as you make out. I’ll take you to George.”
Dear Kirrins, Jo is better than you. You, my brats, have the luxury of making all the right choices as a matter of ease because your life is perfectly comfortable and emotionally uncomplicated. Jo lives with a man who abuses her, starves her, and leaves her behind, with nowhere to live and no money to her name. She makes the best choices she can out of limited options. And you, the apparently nice kids, have hit her, made her feel unwelcome and laughed at her. And that’s before the beating and kidnapping you just performed. Maybe some empathy wouldn’t go amiss?
Joan says it’s 1am and everyone needs bed. Jo can barely stand up. Julian agrees, but wishes he could fetch the police. Jo says if they do, she won’t tell, because she’ll be put in a home for bad girls, and she does do bad things, but she’s never had a chance.
Julian patronisingly says everyone gets a chance sooner or later, ignoring the fact he gets nothing but chances, but agrees to not contacting the police.
Joan insists on giving Jo a bath and some food, and before she falls asleep (in Joan’s room), she says she wants to tell Dick and Julian something. Anne is incredibly background in this book. Although I can’t blame Jo for not wanting her around. Jo says that she got through the pantry window and let the men in. She was told to befriend the dog so that she could dope him later.
“And slept all night long so that your precious friends could break into the house,” said Julian. “All I can say is that you are a hardened little rogue. Aren’t you ashamed of anything?”
Fuck off, Julian. If she wasn’t ashamed, she wouldn’t be trying to make things right. She offered this information, you’re not beating it out of her. And see above about your fucking privilege and her difficult life where there’s not a whole lot of good choices. You judged her damned hard for being dirty and smelly, just think how much dirtier she would have been without the scraps of support from her horrible father. Just get fucked you snobby fuckwit. (And that pretty much goes for everyone involved.)
She adds that she couldn’t give a fuck about George and really wouldn’t care if she stayed kidnapped forever – at which point Julian is again an absolute shit – but adds that she likes Dick. He was nice to her, so she wanted to be nice back.
Dick says he’ll like her if she takes them to George, but if she deceives them, he won’t. They swap into good cop/bad cop here, which is pretty much how it was going before, but Dick’s being even nicer.
George is actually in their caravan, which is why her dad took off in it. It’s in Ravens Woods (just like Wing and Janine, I have questions, should there be an apostrophe here somewhere?), and only Jo knows the way and she’ll take them there.
Dick thinks she’s a “savage little monkey”, but then notes all of her bruises, and apologises. Jo then looks at him, “as a slave might look at a king” and waves it off because she adores him. Even though he thinks she’s basically an animal, something very other. [Necromommycon: I am so, so uncomfortable with the way other children are not only portrayed as “less,” but are also shown hero-worshipping Dick (here) or Julian (in the last book). It adds an extra layer of… something to the already thickly-spread classism.] [Dove: Also, a slave looking at a king is probably a look of well-concealed hatred for the lifetimes of oppression of their people… so not really a look one wants to receive.]
The next morning, there’s more Jo-judging. She sleeps like an animal with her face on her paws, she eats in the kitchen away from the kids because of her awful table manners, etc. Jo adores Joan because she’s forthright, and happy to dole out scoldings and slaps, which Jo understands. Holy fuck, no. On a better writer, this would be a sad highlight that abused people quite often repeat their patterns because it becomes ingrained that they are deserving of the ongoing “correction”, but no, this is Blyton’s comfortable cluelessness at work. It’s exactly the opposite of awesome.
Jo can’t read or write, so she can’t show Julian where they’re going on a map. Joan comments that she’s like a dog and she’ll smell the correct route. Anne asks if that’s literally true.
When they set off, the let Jo go ahead of them because she’s very worried about being seen by her father or Jake. And if you think the Kirrins are sympathetic to her plight, you’ve clearly not been paying attention. Maybe you should have a nap and come back to this?
Almost immediately Jo is grabbed by Jake and dragged into a hedge.
Somehow, in a way that makes no sense, they both completely vanish. The kids decide to head to Ravens Wood anyway. They’re going to get a bus so they can get there before Jake, because they’re sure Jo will tell on them. Anne viciously spits out that she hates Jo and she thinks Jo didn’t come back for good reasons last night, she came back to snoop and pry. I thought Anne was supposed to be the nice one.
The bus is full of fat women with big baskets, so it’s a squash (damn those fatties) and the bus conductor warns them of the “hordes” of gypsies in the woods. It’s a tiny paragraph filled with stuff that annoys me.
They come to the camp, and there’s plenty to be offended by here. The children are specified as brown, the caravans are dirty, a perfectly nice woman who gives Julian directions to Jo’s caravan (and says her dad is called Simmy) looks like a witch, etc.
He rejoins the other two and comments that it’s a funny life living in a caravan – uh, didn’t you lot beg your parents to let you go on a caravan holiday? Didn’t you all have a lot of fun?
Dick goes on ahead, and decides that if he finds the caravan, he’ll unlock the door and let Timmy save the day. They find the caravan in the clearing, absolutely deserted, and Dick comes back to the group, wondering why Tim isn’t barking. Helpfully, the door is not locked. It’s dirty, untidy and smelly inside, but there’s no sign of George and Tim, except for the words “Red Tower” written several times in small writing on the wall. They decide it must be important and that they should tell the police now.
They’re all too upset to eat, and then a storm starts. Anne worries they’ll be struck by lightning, so Julian leads them to a clearing, where they shelter under bushes. Because lightning discriminates in Anne’s mind. To be fair, Julian does say that it’s no more dangerous than anywhere else, it’s only sheltering under a lone tree that’s a problem, but Anne is very dim or horrible in this book. And it’s the one book nobody’s being rotten to her. Everything’s all lopsided in my world. *sigh*
They get lost in the woods, which is really hard to do in the woods in a village in England. We just don’t have enough space filled with woodland. Eventually they settle down and eat, and Anne falls asleep afterwards.
It gets dark and they bed down for the night there – Dick insists that Anne cuddle up between the two of them, which doesn’t squick me at all. Julian doesn’t fall asleep immediately and worries about the situation, then he hears someone approaching. If you didn’t guess it was Jo, you still need that nap to clear your mind.
Dick doesn’t wake up, he just joins the conversation as if he didn’t fall asleep, because editing is for wimps! Jo explains that Jake caught her and locked her up in his cottage, so she broke the window to escape. Then she headed for the caravan. At this point, Anne joins the conversation, without waking up first too. She asks if Jo knows where George is. Jo says she thinks her dad put George on Blackie (the horse) and took her away. And he probably killed Tim. Everyone is suitably sickened by this.
Jo says it took ages to find them because they went all over the place, going in circles, etc. Anne squeezes her hand because all of a sudden, now that Anne needs Jo (and she’s had a wash and is wearing clean clothes), they’re friends. Jo is emotionally touched by this, but also doesn’t like to be physically touched, so moves away – although she’d like to hold Dick’s hand.
They tell her about Red Tower and she says it’s not a place, it’s a person. Even though she’s made all this effort to find them, they accuse her of lying and say that it’s her fault they don’t trust her. Just fuck off.
They sleep, and the next morning Jo leads them home. When they get back, Joan says if the phones weren’t down, she would have called the police. Uh, everything in Kirrin is a two minute walk, haven’t you been paying attention? You could have walked to the police station.
Then she feeds them, and sets a fire going for the bath. When Jo doesn’t want one, she runs after her with a carpet beater. This is treated as if it’s a jolly old lark. Jesus fucking Christ. A lot of my mother’s childhood, and her subsequent parenting choices are making a bit more sense on reading this.
The kids discuss Red Tower. Jo says he’s basically the head bad guy, and her dad and Jake do his dirty work, like stealing, but Jo doesn’t ask questions because it results in violence. She knows the way, but only by boat. Again, Dick and Julian think she’s lying. For god’s sake, this awesome girl keeps showing up, despite the fact her dad will hospitalise her for this, and offering you information, and every time she opens her mouth, you scream, “Liar, liar, pants on fire!” at her.
They decide to leave Anne behind because she’s just got no purpose in this book. Joan is cooking, and chores are not piling up, so I’m sorry, Anne, but creative has nothing for you.
So, Dick, Julian and Jo head off in George’s boat, which now has a sail. It never has before, but I guess if it’s two hours away, a sail is helpful. They find the cove, and they have to climb the rock face to get up to the small castle-like building.
Next up is a cave/tunnel system, which Jo says is full of bats. They reach a point where Jo doesn’t know the way any further. This is where she and her dad waited for Red, and he would seem to just appear.
After a few moments of exploration, a voice booms out of nowhere demanding to know why they’re here. Jo immediately hides behind a rock. The boys shout back that they insist on seeing Red right this second, because they want their cousin and her dog back.
A gigantic man with red hair drops from the ceiling. You can tell he’s irredeemably evil because Julian notes that he has a cruel mouth and mad eyes.
Julian threatens him with the police, and Red is unnerved and snappish in response. Julian recounts the adventure before, but he does not require over 8,000 words to do so. Julian is not as interesting as me.
Red then calls for Markhoff, one of his flunkies, to go down to the cover and smash their boat to pieces, and tie the boys up, as they need to leave quickly. Markhoff doesn’t realise he’s in the presence of the Famous Five (or two of them) and quickly blurts out that they can’t leave yet, they’re waiting for the helicopter to be ready. Red orders him to hurry up and while he’s at it, shoot the dog.
I don’t get why they don’t just shove Dick and Julian off the cliff? I mean, why bother tying them up, and letting them give the police a full description of Red and Markhoff when they’re inevitably found? Just let them splat like eggs on the rocks below, and it’s not your problem. They shouldn’t have been trespassing on your land – especially on the dangerous rock faces.
They head up the path together, and eventually find themselves in a paved yard surrounded by high walls, with a helicopter in the middle.
They are dragged to a shed – they’re in a fort, and the only place suitable for prisoners is… the shed? Ok then. As they cross the courtyard, they see George’s face in a window of the tower. They also spot Tim sprawled out in a summer house, doped off his tits.
Of course, Jo sneaks around and saves the boys, so it’s all good.
I wonder if this will be the first time they encounter her without calling her a liar. Shocking, isn’t it? When they don’t depend on her, they can be as rude as they like, but when she’s necessary, Jo’s just the best little pet in the universe – because you know she’s not a human, not when she’s described in animal terms throughout.
Jo says she won’t let anyone shoot Tim, and heads over to the summerhouse to pick him up and take him down to the caves where he’ll be safe. Except… she doesn’t? Because a later paragraph implies he’s still there. I don’t know. I’m confused.
They decide they can’t get into the tower to save George, so Jo volunteers to climb up the ivy to get in the room next to George’s and let her out. I have no idea what kind of logic makes it easier to get out of a locked and barred tower that is being used to keep someone in than into it. But let’s just go with it.
Of course, this invites far more monkey comparisons. And Julian assumes that if her father’s an acrobat, it may run in the family. Yeah, that known genetic trait: gymnastics skills. Also, we have it confirmed that Jo was the face in the window that scared Anne.
So, Jo gets into George’s room and they escape. As they’re heading down the stairs, someone comes up. Jo says since she and George look so similar, she’ll let herself get captured and George can be free, and when she’s locked up, she’ll just climb down the wall. They look so similar it’s easy to get them confused, do they? So why is Jo forever being described as brown and animalistic, and lily-white George is not?
George protests, but Jo delightfully says that she’s not doing it for her, she’s doing it for Dick.
So, that’s what they do. As George escapes, she overhears the plan to shoot Tim – who is still there. She runs over to the summerhouse and frees him. He’s too doped to do anything other than lick her once, but after a bit of urging, she manages to wake him up. He can stand, but not walk.
Dick and Julian come over, and Dick mistakes her for Jo. Really? You mistake your cousin, who you spend every holiday with, for a girl whose skin tone is significantly different for it to be mentioned in every descriptor? Fuck off, Blyton.
They head down into the caves again, and during this time Tim perks up a bit. George asks why they don’t just go off in the boat and fetch help, so Julian has to break it to her that her boat has been smashed. They can’t really think of any good ideas, so they sit there feebly.
Above ground, Markhoff finds the prisoners and the dog are missing. He decides, fuck it, I’m gonna hop in the helicopter and just leave everyone. Then he realises that Red will kill him, so subserviently decides to go and tell him that shit is going down.
He finds Simmy and Jake, who report that Joan and Anne went to the police this morning.
They go to locate Red, who’s in a foul temper because the papers they stole aren’t the right ones. No idea why he hasn’t noticed this before. They head up to collect George, and Simmy is very surprised to see his own daughter in the cell.
They search everywhere in the cell for George, while Jo dances out of hitting distance and sasses them. Red, on the other hand, doesn’t believe that she’s Jo, he’s convinced she’s the same girl they kidnapped. When Jo speaks, that confirms she’s not George, so he thumps Simmy and sends him flying.
During the ruckus, Jo creeps out of the room and locks them in, then steals the key for good measure, so Markhoff can’t let the three of them out.
She then heads to the kitchen, locks herself in and opens a window if she needs a quick escape. Then she loads up on food (sausage rolles, cheese, bread, half a meat pie and two jam tarts). Then she grabs some more for the others.
She heads down to the caves to feed them and show off the key that’s locked 75% of the bad guys up. Everyone is impressed, and Dick gives her a hug, which delights her. There’s no more of the “you’re a liar” and “you’re a bad girl” in this scene. George says she’s as good as a boy. Then she pulls Tim’s head back into her lap, because it was in Jo’s and while she’s impressed by her, it’s not a feeling so strong that George will let her dog play favourites.
When Markhoff fails to set Red, Simmy and Jake free, Red tells him to take a few guys and go into the caves. They don’t find the kids because they make such a noise heading down there, which gives the kids time to hide. Everyone but Jo hides on a shelf of rock halfway up the wall (the cover image, I guess, except there’s no time to build a rope winch to haul Tim up).
Jo hides in a hole in the ground, and is found when Markoff treads on her. He demands the key on threat of throwing her off the cliff, and she hands it over. He then says he’ll put a rock over the opening in the ceiling, and they’ll be trapped in the cave.
Once the men are gone, George laments the fact that the bad guys will get out of the cell, and Jo says no they won’t. She also had the larder key on her, so she gave Markhoff that.
Dick says that once he finds out he’s been fooled, he’ll come back, twice as angry. They decide to go down the cliff face to the cove. Ah, this’ll be the front cover image, because there actually is a rope set up here.
Everyone actually finds this very difficult. Tim does not like it, George and Jo are very anxious throughout, and while Tim is doped up, he does struggle when he’s awake enough to, and bumps against the cliff face.
They actually find that George’s boat is still in one piece. Apparently Markhoff didn’t smash it because it was draped in seaweed.
So yay, everyone escapes, it’s awesome.
Anne is on the beach to meet them because… the plot told her to be there, and then they head home for food, and a recap with the police. Jo asks if she’ll go to a home for bad girls when her dad’s in prison. Joan says no, her cousin would love a “ragamuffin” like Jo around, so she’ll be well looked after.
Quentin finally gets in contact via telegram, so Julian sends back that everything is awesome.
Good gosh that was a lot of racism. I’m sorry, this recap has taken me forever, so I don’t have a whole lot of words left over. This recap is 20% of the length of a NaNoWriMo.
This one seemed better paced than the last few – although I’m aware that quite often we recappers don’t quite agree on which pacing suits us best as individuals – but Anne and George were non-existent. Admittedly, they were both assholes to Jo, so I didn’t really miss them, but it was a break from the formula. [Necromommycon: My theory is that George and Anne are so absent because they’ve been replaced. Jo looks like George, and can pass as a boy and use a boy’s name, but she’s tougher and wilder; she’s subservient and adoring, much more so than Anne at even her most girly, yet she doesn’t demand even a shred of human respect and you can actually tackle her/beat her/whatever. Even Tim prefers her to George, apparently. So the text erases the two girls, and gives the boys someone they can work out all their darkest impulses on.]
I did like Jo though. She’s actually quite awesome. But I really hated the way she was written about, talked about, discussed as if she wasn’t there, described in animal ways, etc. Just everything about her was in at best infuriating and at worst offensive.