Looking for Enid

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Duncan McLaren
Portobello Books ltd
Oct 2007
As well as being ubiquitous in the children�s literature field, Enid Blyton�s legacy has been highly influential. With around 8 million copies of her various titles sold annually and a body of work that embraces some seven-hundred-books, Blyton was and remains a true phenomenon in children�s publishing.

Purporting to guide readers through the �mysterious and inventive life of Enid Blyton�, Duncan McLaren�s �Looking for Enid� documents the geography that lay behind much of her life and attempts to place this in context of her work. The major initial problem with this line of thinking is that the hypothesis it posits is reliant upon the weight of emphasis and significance that McLaren places upon particular works and characters at the exclusion of others that are in contravention of his pre-defined ideologies, making this a curiously single-sided work. Only those out of the many tunnels and secret passages that fit with McLaren�s slightly aslant psycho-analytic reading, only those towers which fit with the autobiographical detail he feels permeates the works are granted accord, the remainder meanwhile are dismissed.

In spite of this, parts of McLaren�s work are revelatory and parts of his research � where it is grounded and does not involve flirtatious theorising that seems to serve its apparent primary purpose, the titillation of his travelling companion Kate � are to be applauded. This, however, is too dilute and embedded within too much supposition to be of major interest.

With the literary equivalent of a nervous-twitch, McLaren appropriates Blyton�s characters and lives out parts of his own thoughts, feelings and desires and those that he projects upon Blyton herself. This occurs most inappropriately when Enid and first husband Hugh have an imagined bed-time conversation as rabbits, Binkle and Flip discussing the hope for a fully-developed uterus� �Oh, it wouldn�t have to be a fully developed one. Not an arterial road running right through me! But perhaps I could wish for the uerus of an 18-year-old girl. Do you think that would be too much to ask for?� It becomes hard not to recoil!

Blyton�s position within the children�s literature world and the sheer mass of work she produced means that further consideration � and that which travels beyond the shifting trends and tectonics of political correctness � is needed, but this title is unequal to that. Barbara Stoney�s official biography is far more engaging, more precisely written and of lasting interest than the current work.

Portobello must be praised for the high-production values on this work, however, whether the self-indulgent content in its current form warranted publication is certainly questionable.

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This page contains a single entry by Jacob published on November 27, 2007 8:39 PM.

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