Monday, September 26, 2016

The return of the original Famous Five

This edition, composed on the JoBook is part of a restoration theme I touched on on Friday being linked in part to getting back in touch with some people I was close to a few years who may have some different reasons for their interest than I but is a place where I can discuss that side of reading that for me is rooted as much part with my past and present child-like sense of being as much as a love of reading, my difficulties with reading aside.
Enid Blyton was as no doubt for many of us in the British Commonwealth the author we were introduced by schools and parents keen for us to reading something other than comics and preferable to the big threat of our era, the TV in the corner which was feared for turning us into passive unthinking consumers.
She wrote for all ages although there was a age-range guide for each series so we'd start with something like Noddy or Mr Twiddle which I loved and move through to a series like Malory Towers and the Famous Five to the very top end Junior Fiction and the cusp of Young Adult Fiction and adult fiction often tied to what we studied for English Literature around our mid teens.
I'm revisiting the Famous Five series after talking about them in 2012 mainly because of they way chunks of the situations around the lives of George, Dick, Julian, Anne and Timmy the dog have been altered dramatically that they no long ring true even if the basics of the plot remain.
What I'm in process of doing is replacing these somewhat altered versions with originals from the 1950 and 60's in hardback form.
Although much of the adventure and the sense of being young are universal across each era's children inevitably it is set in the past with it starting in 1942 and ending in 1963 so as amazing as it may sound one thing is they used a different currency and with it a different sense the value of things. 
This was one of the first things to be changed following the UK adopting decimalization in 1971 was references to money and strangely enough the decision by one paperback publisher to put all the children in Jeans even though that wasn't what was worn back then  plus ignores a common theme in the novels which is how 'George' rejects femininity as expressed in dresses and ribbons in preference to the shorts of boys and boyish pursuits.
At a stroke a big part of her gender role rebellion is diminished by removing the contrast to that societies norms.

My start point in revisiting the series begins where I first met them in chronological childhood  and that's with the first three novels that were put in an omnibus edition which to be honest is how most likely I'd of been given these novels and so I got a 1964 copy of "The Famous Five Big Book".
That contains the very first story Five on a Treasure Island that sets very much the scene introducing us not just to the Island and the children but also to their families and the social order within it, not least that the adults are the Authority Figures and that the children are spanked (and expect to be) which was the norm back then.
More recent editions remove that completely and attempt to suggest a more negotiated form of parenting that simply wasn't the case and what the children  who read the stories originally would not of recognized because the lives of Julian, George, Anne and Dick where very much like theirs in that way!
Some of the copies I have do have their original dust jackets, some of which are like this - a little the worse for wear although I used transparent tape to repair a few tears on this one - that are enjoyable to look at although because so many got lost or badly damaged copies with them tend to at a premium regardless of the actual condition of the book itself.
For me then while I love the dust jackets, it's the original text and the illustrations by Elaine Soper that have never been surpassed that are the reasons why I'm replacing the other set and enjoying re-reading the stories as they were originally written as I identified with them as that child.
I don't appreciate having my memories messed with.

Famous Five 21 book set (Joanne is reading for pleasure)


  1. I think it's a trend that readers have been rejecting adulterated and "updated" versions of the FF. I only read one or two FF in my youth and I did like them; I just had mostly other books.

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