Review: Enid Blyton A Literary Life by Andrew Maunder

Andrew Maunder takes a look of one of the highest selling and, most surprisingly, controversial authors of the twentieth century Enid Blyton, in this latest instalment of the Literary Lives series. Enid Blyton rose to fame in the 1920s and by the advent of the Second World War was one of the highest selling authors in the United Kingdom and in many other Commonwealth countries such as Australia and New Zealand. Acclaim for the author soon turned to criticism with many pointing to the lack of depth in her stories and the peddling of values that as early as the 1960s were considered to elitist, sexist and racist. Following her death two biographies would draw an unflattering portrait of the author, portraying her as selfish and childish, first Barbara Stoney's biography and later, the more shocking A Childhood at Green Hedges written by Blyton's youngest daughter Imogen, in which she portrayed her mother as selfish and distant. Enid Blyton A Literary Life acknowledges these claims and does not seek to disprove them. Instead the author takes a different path, giving a very academic look at her work and places it within the context of its original time and place, and compares it to the other popular children's authors of the day. The result is a very interesting study.

While this one did not change my mind about the author, it did a wonderful job of discussing the books within their historical context whilst asking questions about their literary merit and the problems of racism, sexism and elitism that can be found in her work. (Many of the Blyton books that are in print today have been edited to address this.) Obviously, this is an academic book so the discussion is in-depth and extremely well researched, but it may feel a little long and overwhelming for the casual reader looking for a Blyton biography. 



Popular posts from this blog

Peppermint Patty: I Cried and Cried and Cried

Phrases and Idioms: Tickets on Himself

Who Else Writes Like V.C. Andrews?