Friday, February 01, 2008

Hot scones and boarding schools and fairies and adventures

Enid Blyton. I pretty much grew up on what she wrote. My fantasy world was peopled with aunts who baked the yummiest cakes, moms who packed the best picnic lunches of sandwiches and lemonade, sumptuous meals of homemade bread and strawberries and cream, dogs that obeyed when you said “heel”, beautiful boarding schools, holidays at Welsh villages and quiet beaches, adventures, secret passages, ruins of castles, caravans, camp fires.

I didn’t grow out of those for a long, long time. Who would want to? The British countryside and all the lovely food would have anyone hooked. But then, one discovered Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys.

Anyway, why I am rambling about all this today is because after several years, I picked up an Enid Blyton. A mystery story with two boys and a girl. I was enjoying it till I read this:

“Pam, you may only be a girl but you have some great ideas.”

Whoa!! What? Did I just read that? And it went on – the girl was very pleased at the compliment. The book was full of such remarks and instances.

And then one sat down and recalled all the characters one could. It was appalling. It was always the girls who brought the lemonade, Anne loved to “keep home” for the rest of the Famous Five while George(iana) had to have the excuse that she wanted to be a boy in order to wear trousers and keep her hair short and generally do everything the boys did, the aunts did nothing better than bake. Did I really grow up on such stuff??

I am just so slow in realising these things… A quick internet threw up a lot of information on controversies and revisions, on how her writing promoted negative stereotypes regarding gender and even race. But will this stop me from reading her books? I certainly was disgusted with this one instance, but I still love Malory Towers and all those farms and the magic Faraway Tree.