A Top Adventure: A review of Five Go To Smuggler’s Top by Enid Blyton

I am not surprised that I liked this book so much when my sister read it to me some twenty-five years ago. It’s full of excitement, surprises and cliffhangers. Yes, even now I find it thrilling! Secret passages, underground tunnels, hidden trapdoors, smuggling, kidnapping – exactly my kind of thing. 

This is the Famous Five’s fourth adventure. The book is much better than its predecessor, which exposes Julian as a hideous bully – and equally shows our beloved Enid Blyton to be a classist snob. The third book is so full of this unpleasantness that it is hard to get any enjoyment out of it. Correct – these things matter to me, and I care little that it is “of its time”. Five Go To Smuggler’s Top is not free from its own awfulness – far from it. It’s full of sexism, as all the books in the series are, usually revolving around George (who wants to be a boy) and Anne (the youngest of the children). Consider this: “‘Oh let me come too,’ begged George. “No,” said Julian. “Certainly not. This is rather a dangerous adventure and Mr. Barling is a bad and dangerous man. You and Marybelle are certainly not to come. I’ll take Dick.’ ‘You are absolutely mean!’ began George, her eyes flashing. ‘Aren’t I as good as a boy? I’m going to come.’ ‘Well if you’re as good as a boy, which I admit you are,’ said Julian, ‘can’t you stay and keep an eye on Anne and Marybelle for us? We don’t want them kidnapped too.'” There is so much wrong with this little exchange that you don’t have to identify yourself as a feminist for it to make you feel queasy. It is quite impossible to ignore such things, in my opinion. Blyton was entirely deluded in her ideas and Julian is clearly an arse.

However, the Famous Five books succeed for many like me in both their depiction of the excitement of childhood, and in the nostalgia they conjure up. Childhood is a wondrous spectacle. A happy childhood means a happy life. Isn’t this why the works of Enid Blyton are adored so much? In conclusion, I obviously am not in love with the book but I did enjoy it quite a lot! It’s a jolly good read for a child or adult seeking an exhilarating adventure or two.

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