Title: Famous Five #3: Five Run Away Together by Enid Blyton
Summary: Who’s been on George’s island? And what is locked in the mysterious trunk hidden on Kirrin Island? The Famous Five think they’re on the trail of smugglers – until they hear a child scream…
This is the book I’ve been waiting for, and I was really happy it landed with me. It made sense for Wing to try the first book, and it was a happy accident that Necromommycon was happy to take the second. I love this book. The entire series, really, but for some reason, this got re-read by baby!Dove more than most. Possibly because I’ve got issues and it again – just like The Secret Island – tapped into them.
[Wing: I know I keep saying this, but I did not expect to love this book so damn much. Blyton books in general, and this series in particular, just get more and more charming and entertaining. I am delighted by this book and can’t wait to reread.]
The story opens with George waiting for her cousins to arrive. Julian, Dick and Anne have been on holiday with their parents. George was invited, but her parents wanted her to stay with them, so they’ve been apart for several weeks. After mildly irritating her mother because she can’t sit still, she takes Tim, the dog, down to the beach and stares out at her island.
She talks to Tim and asks him if he can remember the adventure they had last year. So in theory, this should age them all up one year: Anne: 11 George and Dick 12; Julian 13. [Necromommycon: I’m so glad someone is keeping track of this. I’m reading Five Go Off in a Caravan now and have NO IDEA how old anyone is in it.] [Wing: Thank you for keeping track of the ages! I find it useful.] She tells Tim of her plans that all five of them should live on the island for a week, like Robinson Crusoe. And she muses that it’s much more fun sharing her things with her cousins, rather than keeping to herself.
It is a vast change from the girl who refused to wait and meet them politely last year, to the girl who is climbing the walls the day before they arrive because she can’t wait to see them. George, you’re adorable.
The next day she takes the pony and trap down to the train station to pick up her cousins. She worries a little about her mother, who wasn’t feeling well enough to come with her, and wonders if it’s the hot weather that’s bothering Fanny. (Heh. Fanny.)
The kids reunite in a barrage of hugs and a dog nearly exploding with joy. And I wish last year’s George could see herself now. She’d be so confused. The porter loads up their luggage on the pony cart, and off they go. I’m not sure if this is just a sign of the times, and porters were a lot more helpful than their modern-day counterparts, or if this is a sign that the kids are upper-middle class.
On the way home, the kids discuss Aunt Fanny being ill. They’re all upset that she’s not well, which is sweet. Anne asks how Uncle Quentin is doing, and George says he doesn’t really notice when Fanny’s well, but gets very upset if she’s ill, and he’s very worried about her at the moment. [Wing: I spent a great deal of this book thinking Fanny was pregnant.]
They then move on to Kirrin Island, and George reminds them that it belongs to all of them, not just her – adorable girl – and suggests they camp out for a week over there. This delights everyone, as they’ve not been back to the island since last summer as the weather was too bad over Christmas and Easter holidays.
When they get back to Kirrin Cottage, the cousins meet Mrs Stick for the first time, she is a “sour-faced woman” who George tells them is their new cook while Joanna, their usual cook, is away taking care of her mother, who broke her leg. George adds that Mrs Stick had a dog too, all mangy and moth-eaten, and Tim hates it. The dog has to be kept in the kitchen so that Tim doesn’t eat it. [Wing: Tim is a dog after Monster Dog’s own heart.]
I feel sorry for this dog. It really is pathetic, in the saddest sense of the word. But we’ll get to that later.
She doesn’t say it here, but the dog is called Tinker. I’m not sure if the secondary meaning of that word is used outside of the UK, so I’ll quickly explain that tinker also means a traveller who makes their living by mending things. Just in case anyone read this and thought, “Why have they called their dog ‘fiddle’ or ‘fix’?”
The next morning, the kids all rush down to the beach to swim before breakfast. Once again, Tim’s tail is wagging “nineteen to the dozen”, a phrase that baffled Wing last time. I told you you’d see it in every book! [Wing: And I’m still baffled!]
When they get back to the cottage, they see a boy of about thirteen or fourteen, in their garden. He is a “stupid, yet sly-looking youth.” The joy of Blyton is that everyone bad is ugly. [Necromommycon: The bad guys are always ugly and bad tempered. Oh, if only they were so easily spotted in real life…] He’s singing “Georgie-porgie pudding and pie!” and sticking his tongue out at them. Clearly a genius. [Wing: I took this as him having a crush on her at first and pulling that whole “boys tease girls they like” bullshit.]
George says he’s called Edgar and he’s Mrs Stick’s son. Julian tells Edgar to shut up, he starts again, but flees in terror when Julian takes step towards him.
“Shan’t stand much of him,” said Julian, in a decided voice. “I wonder you do, George. I wonder you haven’t slapped his face, stamped on his foot, bitten his ears off and done a few other things! You used to be so fierce.”
“Well – I am still, really,” said George. “I feel frightfully fierce down inside me when I hear Edgar singing silly songs at me like that and calling out names – but you see, Mother really hasn’t been well, and I know jolly well if I go for Edgar, Mrs Stick will leave, and poor old Mother would have to do all the work, and she really isn’t fit to at present. So I just hold myself in, and hope that Timmy will do the same.”
Bless George. She’s feisty yet sensible. She’s awesome. She then leaves Timmy with Julian and says she’s going inside to see if her mother wants breakfast in bed. As soon as George is out of sight, Tinker walks out of the kitchen. Timmy bounds towards him, knocking over Julian. Mrs Stick swings a frying pan at the dogs, and Julian says she’ll hurt them. Edgar then picks up a rock to throw at Tim, but Anne screams at him. Then out comes Uncle Quentin, quite pissed off by the fracas, George arrives shortly after and tries to separate the dogs with her bare hands. Quentin tells her to get out of the way, everyone knows you should separate fighting dogs with water.
Julian runs to attach the hose and separate the dogs. Once that’s dealt with, he can’t help but splash Edgar with the hose.
Julian, are you trying to piss me off? I’m not blaming you for letting go of Tim – if he’s big enough to scare adult smugglers, he’s too big for a 12 year old to hold when he really wants to go – but George literally just told you she plays nice with the Stick family, because she’s worried about her sick mother being left with no help around the house.
Quentin tells the Sticks that he’s told them to keep Tinker in the house, and George tells Tim off for not ignoring the “mangy-looking dog”.
And this is where I feel sorry for Tinker. It’s not his fault that: 1) he is scrawny; 2) he is owned by dickheads; 3) that Tim hates him. It’s actually really sad that he’s so moth-eaten and skinny. It reads very much as if the Sticks aren’t feeding him well enough, grooming him often enough or taking him to the vet when he needs it. I know George is fiercely loyal to Tim, who was her only friend for the longest time, but you’d think Anne at the very least would get a bit soft over the poor animal. Hate the family, sure, but don’t blame the dog. [Necromommycon: One of my least favourite things about these books is that the bad guys always have Bad Pets and Bad Children. I mean…yes, sometimes you meet awful children (and it IS usually because of their parents), but it feels a bit too much as if she blames them for not escaping a situation they can’t help being in.] [Wing: I agree, at least RE the Bad Pets. I feel bad for Tinker, and I was hoping that the kids would take him in and rescue him too.]
Breakfast is rather awkward without Aunt Fanny to keep things light. Quentin is snappish, Mrs Stick bangs plates down, until Quentin tells her off, and the kids are always nervous of him anyway. He notices they’re quiet and tries to engage with them by asking what their plans are this afternoon. George says probably a picnic, if Mrs Stick will make them sandwiches. Quentin jokes that she probably won’t make much effort, but he’s actually right.
“I do wish she hadn’t brought Stinker,” said George, gloomily. “Everything would be easier if he wasn’t here.”
“Is that the name of her son?” asked Uncle Quentin, startled.
I’ll not lie, that actually made me snigger. I love the idea that Quentin’s so oblivious to everything that goes on around him that he finds it plausible that the Sticks named their kid Stinker. [Wing: It made me laugh the first time I read it, and it made me laugh here, too.] George explains that she meant the dog – Tinker – but it would make sense for Edgar too, since he rarely bathes. Quentin says he doesn’t think that’s very nice, but the kids giggle anyway. And this might be the nicest exchange I’ve seen with Quentin and the kids. Considering all their previous chats, this one is almost relaxed.
Aunt Fanny goes to see Mrs Stick about making sandwiches for the kids, who immediately has a moan that she didn’t count on three other kids being present. Fanny points out that she did tell Mrs Stick they were coming, and she will help out as much as she can. And fuck off, Mrs Stick. If it’s that much of an inconvenience, raise your rates, if not, shut your noise.
As the kids set off, Edgar follows them and says they should take him to the island. George says it belongs to all of them, and he’s not invited. Edgar calls her a liar, and I’m honestly surprised that George doesn’t flatten him for that, because she hates being called a liar. Instead, she just shrugs it off, and Julian is the one who intends to go back and flatten Edgar. For the third time in a single page, George has to remind him of her ill mother and how they can’t upset the Sticks. [Wing: So … Julian has reached his SHOUTY HARRY POTTER stage, has he?]
George’s boat isn’t ready yet, the paint is still wet, so instead the kids have a picnic on the beach and the food is not good, stale bread, not enough butter, and the slices of bread are too thick. Gosh darn it, Blyton! I’m here for the food. After they eat, the kids walk along the beach and look at the island. George nearly explodes with rage when she suspects that someone is on her island (“our island” – Dick keeps correcting her). [Wing: This annoyed me a lot. She very clearly remembered that earlier, and was in fact the first to bring it up, and now that she’s all verklempt, she’s not taking it away from them, she’s just naturally saying “my island” because that is an easier thing to say. It’s like when I say “my parents” when talking to my siblings, I obviously don’t mean they’re only my parents. Chill out, kids. There are way bigger things to worry about.] They can’t see any people, and Dick says it’s probably a steamer boat. It’s not. Of course it’s not. It’s smugglers. Probably foreign ones at that.
When they get back, Edgar is sprawled out reading one of Julian’s books. The kids are cross about this, and George says at least he didn’t go in Quentin’s study, otherwise they’d really be trouble. Edgar says he has and he’s had a look at all “those funny instruments” in there. Julian decides it’s time to Tell An Adult. Edgar is utterly undaunted by this. George tears around the house and finds that neither of her parents are there. She asks Edgar where they are, and when he refuses to answer, she slaps him. Edgar leaps up to fight back.
“You’re not fighting George,” he said. “She’s a girl. If you want a fight, I’ll take you on.”
“I won’t be a girl; I’m a boy!” shouted George, trying to push Julian away. “I’ll fight Edgar, and I’ll beat him, you see if I don’t.”
This is in no way unclear, George is not a girl, which makes me feel awkward about which pronouns to use. It’s probably best to stick with her/she, since the book does. Blyton wasn’t writing a progressive trans story, but was simply writing a character who didn’t conform to gender expectations – George doesn’t like to play dress-up or collect dolls, she doesn’t like wearing dresses, etc. – much like Blyton herself at that age. But if this was a different kind of book in a newer era, I would respect George’s decision about pronouns. [Necromommycon: Right? Me, too. Also, to digress slightly, I would marry George, which I’m pretty sure was BabyNecromommycon’s life goal. ] [Wing: It’s adult!Wing’s goal too, really, once she’s of age. George is brilliant. We could always go with a singular “they,” but I don’t mind using the book’s pronouns, too, considering everything.]
Anyway, the fight diffuses by Tim growling, so they use Edgar’s fear of Tim to get an answer. Aunt Fanny was suddenly taken ill, the doctor was called, and she and Quentin rushed to the hospital. Presumably called Kirrin Hospital. [Wing: Dove, this isn’t Sweet Val–oh, I’ve just remembered that it basically is when it comes to naming things.]
They find a note from Quentin and it says that he’s gone to the hospital and won’t leave until Fanny is well again. He will call daily at 9 o’clock (presumably am?) to give her an update. Mrs Stick will take care of them.
George is upset – to the point where she’s in tears, which of course is not boyish at all. [Wing: Boys can cry too, George.] Julian reassures her that Fanny will get better and come home soon. Anne indirectly manipulates George into pulling herself together by saying that Tim’s getting upset because George is. He then tries to climb on her lap, which is something Monster Dog does to Wing and her family constantly. Tim and Monster Dog have no idea they’re not lap dogs. [Wing: This is true. I’m amazed she’s not trying to do so right now; she certainly did while I read the book.]
Julian decides it’s time for tea, so goes to the kitchen to ask Mrs Stick for tea. She says she’s got a good mind to give them nothing. Tinker starts growling at Julian and Mrs Stick praises him for growling at “folks that slap Edgar”. Julian is completely unfazed by this, and says that if Mrs Stick won’t make them tea, he’ll make it himself. She grudgingly says she’ll make it, but if they give her any more nonsense, they’ll starve. Julian counters with if she gives them any more nonsense, he’ll go to the police. He didn’t mean to say it, it just popped out, but it immediately frightens Mrs Stick, and she goes about making tea for them.
And this is kind of good and bad. First of all, good for Julian. Going to the police about a guardian figure abusing their power is absolutely correct. On the other hand, since she’s terrified of the police, she’s clearly a smuggler or bad guy of some kind, so it feels like that threat only works because she’s already breaking the law in a different way to the way Julian means. Also, it’s the 1940s, so child abuse is still an A+ way to deal with kids.
After tea, Edgar sets himself outside the living room window and sings a Georgie-Porgie Pudding and Pie, only changing the words about George crying. Julian reaches out the window and yanks Edgar’s nose. Mrs Stick sees and says that Julian is a bad person. Julian is delightfully sassy here, and says that a) Mrs Stick is doing a terrible job raising her dickhead of a son; b) Tinker reeks and they will call him Stinker until he gets a bath; and c) zero fucks are given – he will sass all day long.
As a child, I thought Julian was marvellous for standing up for them, but re-reading as an adult, I’m seeing a Julian who can’t wait to bully Edgar (who is a grade-A prick, and deserves no sympathy) despite George repeatedly telling him that they have to play nice because of her sick mother, who immediately goes into fight mode the minute the adults are out of the house.
The text says he’s acting very grown up, and I’m thinking no. He’s acting like an asshat. [Necromommycon: Have you read any of the modern parody-ish ones? Because they very much take on the whole “Julian is MANLY in the worst possible ways” aspect of his character. ] [Wing: I’d say he’s acting like a privileged white boy who’s been spoiled by a family with money. I do find some of his sass delightful, and I think he could turn out to be a funny, charming adult — but he could also keep going in a bullying, horrible way that leads to privileged white men being terrible.]
He then ruefully says that they probably won’t have a nice time now he’s pissed off the Stick household.
Next up, Tim spots Tinker and leaps over. He gets the smaller dog in his teeth and shakes it like a rat – and the text again implies that this is awesome, Tim is standing up for them, but I’m again reading it as the poor, abused dog is under massive levels of stress because his owner can’t be arsed to keep a fucking door shut. Mrs Stick runs towards them and hits both dogs with a stick. As before, Julian uses the hose to separate them, and Tinker runs into Mrs Stick’s skirts and whines a lot. [Wing: UGH, I hate this so much. Monster Dog has attacked other dogs before, and even if I hate the dog’s owner, I feel terrible that Monster Dog has torn into the dog. It’s not the dog’s fault the owner is terrible. (Generally, this scenario occurs because Monster Dog is on her lead and the other dog is not; the other dog reacts to Monster Dog’s body language and attacks us first, but Monster Dog is quite a fighter and almost never ends up hurt herself. Asshole owners will be shouting that I shouldn’t worry because their dog is friendly literally as the two dogs are fighting around my legs.)]
Mrs Stick threatens to poison Tim, since George keeps “setting” him on Tinker. No, dickhead, you keep leaving the door open, your dog wanders out and they fight. Yes, Tim is much bigger, better fed and much stronger, but it keeps happening because you’re not taking care of your fucking dog.
SHUT THE MOTHERFUCKING DOOR, YOU SLACKASS BELLEND.
When she storms indoors, George asks if Mrs Stick would really poison Tim, and Julian says that just to be on the safe side, they’ll make sure Tim only eats food they give him and keep him with them at all times.
Quentin calls to say that they won’t know how Fanny is until the day after tomorrow, but he’ll call each morning to give an update. George says that Mrs Stick is being awful to them, but Quentin cuts her off, saying that surely they can live with it. He should be back in a couple of weeks, then rings off.
The kids don’t get supper that night. The kitchen door is locked. They decide to raid the larder in the middle of the night – and already my excitement is rising, this is the start of the adventure. It always starts with food.
After they hear the Sticks go to bed, Julian sneaks downstairs. He can hear someone breathing so turns on the light and sees a sleeping small ugly unwashed man with a nose like Edgar’s. Julian thinks to himself that Edgar had no hope with parents like his. And this is a very Blyton thing, there are so many books where kids say, “Gosh, no wonder Angela’s such a nightmare, her parents let her behave that way.” And on the other side of it, kids are mortified when they realise any bad behaviour reflects on their parents’ ability to raise them.
He’s hungry, so he snaps off the light and tip-toes past the man and heads into the larder in the dark, where he finds a meat pie and some jam tarts. On his way back he gets it slightly wrong and bumps into the sofa, and drops a jam tart on the sleeping man. The man wakes up and turns on the light and asks what Julian is playing at. Julian asks what the man is doing here, sleeping in his uncle’s house. The man – Mr Stick – says that it’s all been ok’d with Quentin, his ship is in and he’s allowed to stay with his wife and son.
Julian says he’ll speak to his uncle tomorrow morning, but for now he’s going to bed. Mr Stick blocks the way and accuses Julian of stealing from the larder. How exactly do you steal from your own larder? (I mean, I know he’s not Quentin and Fanny’s kid, but he’s family, with full rights to be there.) Tim turns up and growls at Mr Stick, who slams the door in Tim’s face and asks what Julian plans to do now. Julian says he plans to throw the pie at Mr Stick’s face. For some reason, this works, and Julian is free to go on by. [Wing: Dude, he’s already dropped a jam tart on your face, what’s the meat pie going to do, really?]
The next morning, Mrs Stick makes them breakfast, and they deduce that she’s worried they’ll report back to Quentin. At 8:30, they all reason that there’s enough time before the 9:00 call to run down to the beach and back. The kids are idiots. I know Wing’s going to point out that I consider anything less than 30 minutes early to be late, so I can’t really deal with this last-minute-cram-stuff-in mentality, but given that this is serious business, I wouldn’t chance it, even if I was less anxious than I am in real life. [Wing: I mean, that is true about your idea of late, but also the kids made a terrible choice. And I’m not sure that I buy George would take off like that, as worried as she’s been.]
They get back and Mrs Stick is on the phone to Quentin. She says that everything will be fine, and having her husband around will help the running of the house. George snatches the phone from Quentin and asks for an update. Fanny is the same, they won’t know for sure until tomorrow. (What’s wrong with Fanny? I don’t know. I doubt we’ll ever be told. Don’t worry about it. It’s just Plotitus.) George asks if they can get rid of the Sticks and take care of themselves, and Quentin chastises her, saying he’d hoped she’d be sensible and helpful. George hands the phone over to Julian, hoping he’ll get it done.
Instead, Quentin railroads Julian, asking if he can “manage” George, and if he can’t, he and his siblings can go back to their parents, but George must stay at Kirrin Cottage, and he is not going to sack the Sticks because he wants to be able to come home to a well-run house when Fanny’s better.
I think George would have done better if instead of angrily bursting out how “horrid” the Sticks were – very emotional, which Quentin doesn’t like – she had calmly told him that Mrs Stick was withholding food and threatening to kill the dog. But to be honest, that’s not George. And at eleven years old, I couldn’t make well-reasoned arguments all the time either. And her father’s not the greatest of listeners.
Julian reports that Quentin hung up on him before he could get a word out. Mrs Stick smugly points out they all know she’s staying, and they’ll have to behave. Or else.
The five convene in the living room and George asks exactly what her father said. When Julian tells her, she says they should go home, she’s got a plan and they’re not part of it. Julian says they won’t leave her, of course, and she shrugs it off. Go, stay, her plan is going ahead either way. (Triple homicide?)
They have a rubbish day. George is very distant, and keeps insisting they go home. The others understand that she’s upset about her mother, but they’re still hurt by her aggressive insistence that they go back to their parents. She won’t share her plan with them, and by the end of the day Julian – budding murderer that he is – snaps that he doesn’t think she even has a plan. George says she does, but she still won’t share it.
Julian once again has to face the Sticks to ask for food. Mrs Stick says they don’t deserve it because they took the meat pie and jam tarts. Mr Stick tries to intimidate, Mrs Stick is grumpy and Edgar is insolent through the whole exchange. Julian keeps a polite tone, but is impolite to them. Mrs Stick particularly hates this because he’s being far too clever for her.
Basically, the Sticks are like Ms Scribe’s sockpuppets. [Necromommycon: HA. There’s a reference I was not expecting.] They say the stupidest things to ensure that our hero can hit back with a witty zinger, and we can revel in his cleverness. Julian, unlike Ms Scribe, does not drop the C-bomb though.
They are offered dry bread and jam for lunch, so decide to walk to the village to buy sausage rolls instead. Julian suggests they go over to the island for the day, hoping to cheer George up, but she says no, she doesn’t want to be out of reach in case Fanny’s condition changes.
When they get back, they’re given bread and butter and jam, no cake (WHAT FRESH HELL IS THIS? GIVE ME THE FOOD PORN!), and sour milk for their tea. As they eat, Edgar tries to feed Tim outside, which they see through the window. George leaps to her feet, and pulls Tim away – he had sniffed it, but not eaten it. George instead offers the food to Tinker. Edgar panics and says Tinker only eats biscuits, George says she’s seen him eating meat before. Edgar snatches the bowl and runs off.
[Wing: It is at this point that I’m ready to toss Edgar into the fire with his parents. FUCKING TRYING TO FUCKING POISON A FUCKING DOG YOU FUCKERS.]
George tries to follow him, but Julian stops her – why is Julian being so annoying in this book? – saying that the meat is probably in the fire by now. Maybe it wouldn’t have been if he hadn’t stopped her. He says that Tim was too clever to eat poisoned food.
George worries that he might if he was hungry, which is a very valid concern. There is a very solid reason along the same lines my cats were never allowed outside in my old neighbourhood. Anne then worries the Sticks will poison them, and Julian calls her an idiot when he says that they only want Tim out of the way because he guards them.
Why is Julian being such a cock in this book?
As is becoming the routine, Julian has to go down to the kitchen with Tim to get food. Mrs Stick offers him bread and cheese, and that’s her final offer. Julian is unimpressed with this and helps himself to a roast chicken, fresh tomatoes and a treacle tart. The Sticks complain that that’s their dinner. Julian tells them to have the bread and cheese they were going to give the kids.
As he walks out, Mrs Stick swings for him, but Tim jumps to his defence, snapping and growling but not biting. Mrs Stick complains about Tim, and Julian says that he’s thinking of going to the police tomorrow, considering they tried to murder the dog today.
The next morning, the kids are back from the beach by 8:30 to wait for the call – Dove and her obsessive time-keeping approves – and because of this, they are able to demand a nice breakfast from Mrs Stick, saying they would mention it to their uncle if she gives them dry bread. Mrs Stick’s fear is very real, despite the fact I’m pretty sure Quentin would tell them to stop moaning and wave off any concerns.
The call comes in and it’s all good. Fanny had the operation, and she should be home in about ten days. Ah, the old days, when you convalesced in the hospital, rather than at home. I went home the day after my entire hip was replaced.
With the worry over, George is now vehement the others should go home. She can handle the Sticks herself. [Necromommycon: Oh, George. You are so brave and ridiculous and lovely. ] They push her on explaining her plan, but she won’t say a word. They have a fairly nice day, and George says she has some shopping to do. Julian thinks she’s setting up her grand plan, so says he’ll tag along. Actually, they all tag along to see George buy matches and methylated spirit. She’s clearly going to burn the Sticks to death. [Wing: COME THE FUCK ON, JULIAN, YOU AT LEAST SHOULD HAVE FIGURED OUT HER PLAN BY NOW. (I am speaking in his shouty puberty language.)]
Tea is on the table when they get home, which is a surprise, but supper does not appear later. There’s another confrontation with Julian, and again the police get mentioned – just go to the police anyway, your guardian type is withholding food, that’s abuse. Mrs Stick brings them food, including a plate of meat for Tim. George says take it away, but Julian says leave it, he’ll take it to the chemist for analysis. This makes Mrs Stick take it away in a hurry.
Later that night, Julian wakes up in the night not sure what he just heard. He thinks it’s not the Sticks, because otherwise Tim would have barked and woken them all. He realises that George is probably running away to see her mother. He goes into the girls’ room and finds a note from George saying she can’t stay any longer with the fear of Tim being poisoned, so she’s running away to the island, and please can Julian asked Jim (who? I guess some fisherman?) to sail near Kirrin Island flying a red flag when it’s time for her to come home.
Julian is exasperated and worried – what if George hits a rock on her way to the island? – and runs after her. He finds her on the beach, pushing out her boat. He tells her to stop, but she won’t have any of it until he says that if she waits until tomorrow, they can all go together.
She’s delighted by that – she didn’t ask because she thought they’d be worried about getting into trouble.
They head back to the house and wake the others up to explain the new plan. Anne, predictably, exclaims loudly. They wonder about food until George remembers that mother has a cupboard in her room filled with tins of food in case they get snowed in over the winter. You know who also kept tins of food in their bedroom? Cathy Dollenganger/Foxworth/Marquet/Sheffield. I now worry about Fanny’s childhood, especially after they open the cupboard and find at least two sacks’ worth of food in there. Sacks. Two of them. [Wing: They didn’t keep it in their bedroom, but my parents used to keep a big stock of tinned food around, both in case of a massive storm, but also, I think, because they both grew up painfully poor, in part because of the Great Depression and in part because of generational poverty. We kept our stores in the basement. Actually, Ostrich and I have a decent collection ourselves. Some mindsets don’t disappear across generations.]
Next up they get some containers of water and raid the larder. Then they get candles, pans, cutlery, and finally some ginger beer stowed away for the Sticks. George is offended that they’re spending her parents’ money on it, and not sharing it. Yes, George, that and literally every comestible in the house. It’s not just ginger beer they’re hoarding. They take some rugs and cushions for their bedding, then wheel everything down to the boat in a wheel-barrow.
As their entire plan hinges on having all of these things ready for them, un-nibbled by rats and un-stolen by urchins, they leave Dick on guard for the rest of the night.
They also remember to pick up a tin and bottle opener in the morning, and make plans to buy bread from the baker and a bone for Timmy from the butcher. [Necromommycon: And once again, children in books manage to be better organized than I am. ]
They decide to leave a train timetable on the dining room table to imply the four have run away to Julian’s parents, so that nobody will come after them. They decide to ask Alf, the boy who looked after Tim before George was allowed to keep him, if he’ll get in contact with them when it’s time to come home.
They get Dick to take the boat to the next cove, so they’re not spotted by the fishermen, and then the other three make a great noise while leaving the house via the moors, which is the way to the station.
And then they’re free!
I remember saying to Wing on the first recap that after book 1, it appears to get to the adventure a lot faster. I appear to have lied to her, because it has taken 10 chapters to get this far – I’m just under halfway through the book by now. Then again, when you can read these books in around an hour or so, it’s easy to think you get to the adventure very quickly.
They start rowing towards Kirrin Island, and it’s at this point I realise that nobody seems to have brought clothes. It’s all been food and tin openers and ginger beer. You kids are going to reek if you’re staying there for a week. [Wing: You’re a poet and you didn’t know it. Yes, yes I went there. This book is bringing out the childish glee in me. Oh look, I’m also a poet and I didn’t know it.]
Once they get to the island, we get to what we’ve all been waiting for: food porn. They have breakfast of: freshly baked bread, ham, tomatoes and a pot of jam, with ginger beer to wash it down. What, no lettuce? I guess tomatoes are playing the role of lettuce in this book.
After breakfast, they all fall asleep, what with having been up half the night organising their escape. When they wake up, they’re sunburned, and nobody thought to bring sun cream. (Nobody thought to bring fresh underwear either. That would worry me more.)
Julian chivvies them into action, saying they need to organise their stores and beds, since it’s nearly 3:00pm, they slept for a long time. When they visit the castle and look at the last standing room – the one they stayed in last time – they find the roof has fallen in and it’s unsafe. Nobody particularly wants to sleep in the dungeons (don’t blame them, I bet it’s cold and smelly down there), so they decide to visit the shipwreck that was underwater for years, but dislodged by the storm in book 1 and stuck on some rocks. It’s doubtful that they’d be able to stay on it, but since they don’t have any better ideas for now, they head off to see it anyway.
The wreck is more battered than last year, but they might be able to store their food on it. They need to wait for low tide to wade out to it. I’m not sure that’s a great idea – don’t you want to be able to easily access food, not be beholden to the tides?
They find the well and peer down it. They find that someone has pulled heavy stones across the entrance to the dungeons, and they wonder who did it. George says she wants a sign that reads “Trespassers will be sent to prison”.
By now, the tide is out, so the kids head back to the wreck. It becomes quickly apparent that it’s not suitable for anything – it’s damp, rotten and not really trustworthy. All but Anne have a quick look below decks, but they are called back by Anne, who has found a small black trunk on the deck that wasn’t there the last time they saw the wreck.
They quickly decide the trunk must have been left by smugglers. They open the straps but it’s still locked. They can’t smash it because that would tip off the smugglers, and Julian has a plan that they should try to catch them.
But for now, they’re going to head back before they get stuck on the wreck by the tide. On the way back, Dick spots a cave. George does a double-take because she was sure there weren’t any caves on the island, but they realise that it could only be seen from this angle, because it’s hidden by a rock, so it’s no wonder they didn’t know about it before. Blyton loves this trope. And to be honest, I love finding out where she’s going to hide our plucky heroes next, so you do you, Blyton.
They make their way over to it, and it’s a perfect living space – not least of all because there is a stone ledge running around the edge, which functions as a shelf, which delights Anne, because if she doesn’t have a space to make homey, she gets cranky. The floor is covered in white sand. I believe I have mentioned Blyton’s peculiar belief that sand is as soft and comfy as a mattress.
They notice a “skylight”, a hole in the roof. Julian decides they could drop their supplies through the hole, rather than trekking across the rocks to the opening. And if they add a rope, they can use it as a simple entrance and exit. I bet there’s a nice sturdy gorse bush above it that they can attach their rope to.
Oh, we don’t get to see what they tied it to, the rope is just there now. I bet it’s a gorse bush.
George goes down first and they plan to pass their supplies to her. Tim can’t wait to be lowered down, so just leaps. Thankfully, the THIN LAYER OF SAND on the HARD ROCK FLOOR was like a “velvet cushion” that broke his fall, and he did not break a leg.
They get all of their stores down into the cave and the other three join George inside the cave for another fabulous Blyton meal: sandwiches made with tinned meat (spam? Gross) and pineapple chunks for afters. [Wing: Spam is amazing, you hush. Especially with pineapple.] They are still hungry so they have a tin of sardines and some biscuits.
After such a busy day, they are exhausted, and they do not have time to fetch heather (heather and bracken, just like sand, make excellent bedding), but Dick points out they need not bother, as sand atop rock is as soft as marshmallows. Dick is an idiot.
They wake up the next morning and all agree that heather might improve the bedding situation. Anne even admits that the sand gets a bit hard after awhile. That’s because it’s fucking sand atop rock, you muppets.
They decide to have a quick swim before brekkie, and George has the bright idea of leaving the kettle boiling while they do this – I do like multi-tasking when it comes to hot drinks.
“Look! There’s a simply marvellous pool in the middle of those rocks over there!” called Julian, pointing. “We’ve never spotted it before. Golly, it’s like a small swimming-pool, made specially for us!”
“Kirrin Swimming Pool, five pence a dip!” said Dick. “Free to the owners, though! Come on—it looks gorgeous! And see how the waves keep washing over the top of the rocks and splashing into the pool. Couldn’t be better!”
Um… what’s Malory Towers’ swimming pool doing at Kirrin? I suppose both are set on the Cornish coast.
After their swim, they head back to their cave for a breakfast of ham, bread, pickles and cocoa. Anne wants to organise the cave, nobody else wants to do that, so they offer to get heather for the beds, and Julian offers to sit on the cliff above and watch out to see who collects the trunk from the wreck. He will hide behind a gorse bush.
See. I told you there was a gorse bush. Oh, and we get confirmation that the rope is attached to it. Gorses fucking rock, dudes. [Wing: Okay, I’ve held off this long, but what the fuck is a gorse bush?
That does not look strong enough to take all this rope and climbing and hauling things around.]
Dick takes over the watch of the wreck, and Julian comes down to the cave to tell Anne she’s “a good little girl” for tidying everything so nicely and making their nice heathery beds. Even Anne resents being called a “little girl”. [Necromommycon: I’m having a familiar urge to punch Julian right in his smug nose. ]
When it’s her turn to watch the wreck, she falls asleep and Julian tells her off, and that she’s too little to do what the others do – ignoring the fact that Dick and George were her age last year, and that didn’t hold them back at all. But Blyton loves this trope too – the girliest of all the party will always cock up something like this and need a scolding. [Necromommycon: I…probably shouldn’t say what I’m thinking. That has weird overtones, is all. ] [Wing: … the plot itself or how Dove worded that? Because Dove worded that diiiiiiirty.]
That evening, Anne wants a fire, but Julian says no, there’s no chimney. Anne says the skylight will work. Julian says no. She says how about in the mouth of the cave. Julian says no, someone might see. George says unlikely, she wants one too. Julian says yes, but they can’t be bothered to get sticks to make one. Anne says she already collected them.
“Isn’t she a good little house-wife!” said Julian, in great admiration. “She may go to sleep when she’s look-out, but she’s wide-awake enough when it comes to making a house for us out of a cave! All right, Anne—we’ll make a fire for you!”
Fuck off, Julian. You could just let the earlier bit go – she said sorry – and not be a dick about it.
That night, Julian and George wake up to Tim growling. They head up the rope to the cliff top and see a light glowing about where the wreck should be. They guess that someone is collecting the trunk from the wreck. They hear the faint splash of oars, and when there’s nothing more to see, they head back to the cave and go back to sleep.
The next morning when they tell the other two about it, Dick is cross they didn’t wake him up. When the tide is low enough, they all clamber over to the wreck to see what’s new. The trunk is now filled with food, plates and cutlery, as if someone’s coming to the island to stay. They all feel rather excited, safe in the knowledge that their marvellous cave won’t be found and they can spy on the smugglers.
George says they need to hide their boat, in case the smugglers see it. What do you know, there’s a large rock that is just about the right size to hide a boat, so they pull it behind that, and drape the prow in seaweed.
On the way back to the cave, they spot three people, who go down to the dungeons. They decide to head back to the cave, just in case Tim barks and gives them away. When the others are back in the cave, Julian goes up the rope to spy, and Timmy runs off, disobeying George for the first time ever. Why? Because he smells another dog and wants to kill it.
Tim gleefully pounces on the other dog, and the three people come running at the sound of the howls. What do you know, it’s the Sticks and Tinker! I’m shocked. Are you shocked? My ghast is well and truly flabbered. Julian thinks they’ve come to take the children back to Kirrin Cottage. Julian is not as bright as he thinks he is.
George whistles, which Tim always obeys (so why didn’t she do this all the other times Tim tried to kill Tinker?), because she heard the dog fight and worried about Tim. Tim bounds off in her direction, he and Julian drop down the hole into the cave (without breaking their bones), and Edgar runs after them. He only sees Tim… because… I don’t know, reasons, plotty ones, and has a bit of a look round, but gives up quite quickly.
They overhear the three Sticks talking, and this makes it clear that up until this moment, they had believed the kids had gone to Julian’s parents’ house. For the most part, they think the dog must be a stray, left behind by a day-tripper (poor hypothetical dog!) who’s gone wild all by himself. They decide to search for the boat, after all, kids wouldn’t have the sense to hide a boat. (She loves this trope too. Adults are always underestimating our plucky heroes.)
When they are out of earshot, the kids have a quick confab about the situation, and they realise that the Sticks are up to no good and in league with the smugglers. TIME TO SOLVE THAT SHIT. FAMOUS FIVE IN THE MOTHERFUCKING HOUSE!
It becomes apparent that the Sticks are not going home, this was not a day trip – do keep up kids, didn’t you find a trunk full of food that implied people would be staying on the island? – and George has a fun idea. The Sticks will be staying in the dungeons, so why don’t they go down there and make funny noises that will echo delightfully to scare them? Why not indeed, you marvellous young scamp! They deserve it.
They head off to the dungeons. Tim is left to guard the entrance, and Anne decides to stay too. The other three go down and start making general animal noises, much to the surprise of the Sticks, who argue among themselves over what is causing the noise, and get downright freaked out when George adopts a deep gruff voice and yells “Beware!”, which echoes around the caves.
When the kids re-join Anne and Tim, Anne wonders if they can go back to Kirrin Cottage, since the Sticks aren’t there now, but the other three laugh at her, say there’s no way they’re missing an adventure like this.
As they head back to the cave, Julian notices a flashing light out to see, someone signalling the Sticks. He smugly notes they won’t get the message tonight, as they’re too busy being scared of cows, sheep, horses, and other farmyard animals that they believe are roaming the dungeons.
The next morning, we finally get a bit of food porn:
The children slept well that night, and as Timothy did not growl at all, they were sure that nothing important could have happened. They had a fine breakfast of tongue, tinned peaches, bread and butter, golden syrup and ginger-beer.
“That’s the end of the ginger-beer, I’m afraid,” said Julian, regretfully. “I must say ginger-beer is a gorgeous drink—seems to go with simply everything.”
“That was the nicest meal I’ve ever had,” said Anne. “It really was. We do have lovely meals on Kirrin Island. I wonder if the Sticks are having nice meals too.”
“You bet they are!” said Dick. “I expect they have ransacked Aunt Fanny’s cupboards and taken the best they can find.”
They then speculate how much the Sticks have taken from Kirrin Cottage, not just the larder. This upsets George, because she imagines how upset Fanny would be to return from the hospital to a half-empty house.
After breakfast, Anne stays home to play house, Julian decides to tail Mr and Mrs Stick, leaving George and Dick to watch Edgar. They’re both infuriated when they see that the Sticks have taken the best cushions from the house for use on the island. Dick lobs a clod of earth at Edgar, and George quickly follows suit – hers hits Tinker, and he flees below ground (this poor abused animal…). Dick gives a great “moo” and Edgar panics, drops the cushions and runs into the dungeons.
Dick and George grab the cushions, then they see what else Edgar had been moving below grounds – a great amount of food, blankets, some silverware, basically anything a bit nice has been nicked. So they collar Julian who is on his way back, noting the adult Sticks have rowed to the wreck again, and the three of them quickly steal back everything in the Sticks’ store.
They just about get everything back to the cave and through the skylight to Anne – who, naturally, delights over having more stuff to tidy up, because gosh darn it, that girl likes to clean – before the return of the Sticks, who have rowed back from the wreck and are carrying the trunk between them.
The kids follow the Sticks to see what they think when they realise all their stores have been taken. We don’t get Pa Stick murdering his son, which seemed likely, but we do get Edgar theorising it was the cows from last night, mooing and throwing things at him.
Tinker starts howling, and while they investigate this, Dick and Julian steal the trunk they were carrying. Yeah, I don’t know how this happened either. A dog howled, making two children and the trunk they stole invisible? Well, it happened.
This infuriates the Sticks, who set out to scour the island for the mysterious stranger who keeps mooing at them and stealing all of their stolen goods. By the time they make it to the cliff top our plucky heroes are safely in the cave.
Mr Stick is convinced they’re hiding in the middle of the gorse bush – didn’t I tell you that gorse bushes are fucking awesome? – so starts ploughing his way in, while Mrs Stick holds the gun, ready to shoot some tweens. Edgar moseys off by himself and falls straight down the hole to the cave. Again, no bones are broken.
He is threatened with violence by way of Tim if he says a word. The kids ask him what his parents are up to, and he says they’re mean to him and never tell him anything. He’s actually quite surprised to find out they’re in league with the smugglers.
Above ground, the Sticks notice their son is now missing. They head back to the dungeons, thinking he’s wandered off and got lost. The kids then turn their attention back to the trunk. They smash the lock and find it filled with clothes and dolls and teddy bears. Edgar really does appear to know nothing, but says his parents mention that “Roomer” would come at night – whether that’s a person or a boat or something else entirely, nobody knows. [Necromommycon: If this were a quite different kind of book, Roomer would turn out to be something like Slenderman. And it would have EATEN the little girl the things in the trunk belong to.] [Wing: O.O Someone please write that for me oh my god. I love people in the wilderness being eaten by monsters.]
The kids decide to keep watch tonight for whatever Roomer is, after a delicious dinner of sardines, “pressed beef sandwiches” (that sounds… squashy), tinned apricots and tinned milk.
Julian and George are keeping watch when things happen. Once again, we have the light from the sea, the Sticks on the wreck, and eventually they come back to the island, and Mr Stick has a “bundle” thrown over his shoulder.
They hear a girl scream and hurry back to Anne, assuming she is the screamer – good gosh, these kids are not bright in this book, are they? – but she’s fast asleep. Julian and George wake up Dick and Anne to report what they’ve seen. Then George climbs into bed beside Anne, and makes a disgusted comment about what a baby Anne is for having all the dolls and toys in bed with her. It’s at this point they twig: girls’ clothing and toys in the trunk; a girl’s scream; golly gosh could the smuggled object in fact be a girl? In fact, everyone’s so slow on the uptake that Anne is the first person to posit the theory, and everyone around her nods slowly, realising she’s right. Ha! Take that Julian. The girl who fell asleep figured out the whole plot before you. He calls her a “clever little girl”. Urgh. And apparently, though I’ve never really investigated it, because I really don’t like incest, Julian/Anne is quite a strong ship. [Necromommycon: EWW, what the hell. ] [Wing: Though I know how fandom can be with incest ships and not surprised by incest for this series, I’m shocked that it is Julian/Anne as a strong ship, and not Julian/Dick.]
The next day, Julian spies on the Sticks, who assume that whoever took Edgar has left the island, because otherwise they’d have found him by now, and he’d have definitely yelled the place down. The Sticks decide to go to the mainland to ask questions.
Julian reports this back to the group, and they decide to rescue the girl, give her breakfast in their cave and then take her to the police station so she can go home. Anne asks what should they do with Edgar, and George suggests they swap him for the girl. This amuses everyone. Then Julian tells Anne to stay here and make breakfast because he knows she hates the dungeons.
I really don’t remember Anne sitting out so much of this adventure. I suppose it has been about 25 years since I read it though.
So, off the kids go and do just that. They rightly guess that the kidnapped child will be in the room they found the gold ingots last year. The girl is called Jennifer Mary Armstrong. She endears herself to George, first by exclaiming what a wonderful dog Tim is, then by assuming George is a boy.
They have a simply smashing breakfast.
Anne had opened a tin of salmon, two tins of peaches, a tin of milk, cut some bread and butter, and made a big jug of cocoa. Jennifer sat down and began to eat. She was very hungry, and as she ate, she began to lose her paleness and look rosy and happy.
As they eat, Jennifer tells of being taken from the garden, being blindfolded and then hearing the oars. She wonders how her dolls got here though – probably the maid she didn’t like, Sarah Stick.
Jennifer seems quite taken with Julian (why?), and begs him to let her stay on the island with them, after they’ve announced that she’s alive and no longer kidnapped. Julian says he doubts her parents will want that right after a kidnapping, but if they say yes, then that’s ok.
They head out to the mainland – Jenny gives zero fucks that she is missing, she just wants to explore the wreck. They see Alf who explains that Quentin’s back, without Fanny at the moment, and he’s furious, house ransacked, no food, etc, and is with the police now. He came back because nobody was answering the phone. [Wing: Yeah, what exactly did the Sticks think would happen? It’s not like he was going to stop calling every morning.]
They reach the police station, and George hears her father’s voice, so runs into the room. Quentin is quite cross, and George says Julian can explain, and then the policeman notices Jenny, and pegs her as the daughter of a millionaire who was kidnapped a few days ago.
The policeman and Quentin are suitably amazed by the kids. They wonder how they’re going to catch the Sticks, but never fear, Julian has a plan. If the Sticks find out that Edgar is on the island, they’ll go back there. So the police tell Julian to tell the Sticks (…wha???), and then the kids can go back to the island for a week as a reward, along with Jenny.
Back at the house, Mr Stick skulks around outside, so Julian tells him where to find Edgar. Then Jenny’s parents appear and say that they will give the kids anything they want because they saved Jenny, so Julian asks for permission for Jenny to stay with them on the island for a week. The parents agree, albeit reluctantly, on the condition that they spend a day on the island beforehand so they can be sure Jenny will be safe.
Everyone heads back to the island again, because the Sticks are on their way there. Julian leads the charge, despite the fact there are several policemen present. I guess a thirteen-year-old is simply the best person for the job. [Necromommycon: I’m assuming Julian has some mysterious characteristic, never overtly stated in the books, that causes other people to be attracted to him and inclined to follow his lead. Because the characters are always reacting to him like this, but God knows the text itself never gives any adequate reason why they would. ]
They head down to the dungeons and hide, and they hear the Sticks coming. Mrs Stick is outraged that someone has locked up her poor, innocent boy – cheerfully oblivious of the fact they did exactly that to Jenny, who is even younger. When they find Edgar inside, Mr Stick kicks Tinker (that poor animal…) and then out pops the policemen!
Arrests all round. Edgar is upset that he might never see his parents again, and be sent to a school for difficult children. The text says this may be the best thing for him, since his parents teach him nothing good at all, but I’m dubious of the kindness he would receive in such a school in the 40s.
On the plus side, Tinker may get a new owner, one that feeds him and grooms him and doesn’t kick him or put him in the path of a much bigger dog that wants to eat him.
And now the kids can enjoy the island for a whole smuggler-free week! How utterly wizard!
I told Wing that as the stories go on, they’re much quicker to get to the adventure. Clearly I lied to her. This one didn’t get going until about halfway through the book, and then it just rushed through at high speed. Maybe that’s Blyton’s style, and when you simply read it, you don’t notice, but when you recap, you do.
Overall, I liked this one, but I found Julian a bit insufferable, with all of his “little girl” references to Anne, and his backhanded compliments about her doing good things, despite the fact she fell asleep as lookout.
Still, I do actually really like this one.
[Wing: I think you might be correct, because while reading, it seemed like the adventure started right away, but it clearly did not. The things you notice when you have to take the time to recap and not just spend half an hour devouring it. And as usual in this trip into Blyton, I loved it.]