Malory Towers by Enid Blyton
One of the joys of working in Rose's Books is rediscovering books of my childhood! Our customers obviously share this joy if the comments ("A trip down memory lane" or "I had that book") are anything to go by! One such rediscovery I shared with Katie my 13 year old daughter - The Malory Towers series by Enid Blyton. We avidly read the whole series together and would indulge in long conversations about the characters, plot and the language ('the hols', 'my people' 'school cert') to the frustration of the rest of the family who had no idea what we were talking about!
Written between 1946 and 1951, the Malory Towers of the title is a boarding school situated on the coast in Cornwall. It is made up of four towers or houses - North, South, East and West. The action mainly takes place in North Tower. The six books in the series follow the school career of Darrell Rivers from her first days (First Term at Malory Towers) to when she is about to leave to go to University (Last Term at Malory Towers).
Enid Blyton introduces us to a long list of characters in these books. Some appear throughout the series, others are introduced in later books and some appear only in one book. There is a great mix of personalities from the bossy to the 'mouse', from the intelligent to the not so clever.
Darrell Rivers is both excited and nervous as she sets out for her first term, wondering what school life will have in store for her. She is essentially a good sort but has a terrible temper which she tries very hard to control. She wants to be a success at Malory Towers and wants to live up to the words of Miss Grayling, the headmistress: "Exam results are not the most important thing at Malory Towers. The school wants to produce good strong women the world can lean on. These are the successes." In her Last term at Malory Towers Darrell is thrilled to be told that she is indeed one of the successes!
Gwendoline Mary Lacey is not, however, one of the successes! She is a spoilt only child, doted on by her mother and former governess who both think she is more intelligent than she really is. She always tries to befriend any girl she thinks glamorous and rich, often to be let down. In Upper Fourth at Malory Towers she befriends The Hon. Clarissa Carter but quickly drops her when Clarissa is picked up by a dowdy woman in an old car (not the sign of a rich person). Gwen receives her comeuppance when her father falls desperately ill - instead of attending a posh finishing school in Switzerland, she has to leave the school to get a job!
Sally Hope is Darrell's best friend at Malory Towers. They get off to a bad start as Sally is initially reserved and unfriendly. Later we find out that Sally is jealous of her baby sister and thinks she was sent to Malory Towers because her mother no longer wants her. When Sally's mother rushes to her bedside after an operation for appendicitis (performed by Darrell's father) Sally has a change of heart and becomes a pleasant girl, able to diffuse Darrell's bad temper. Another of Malory Towers' successes.
Irene and Belinda are similar characters. Both have artistic leanings - Irene is a musical genius and Belinda a talented artist. However both are inclined to be absent minded which leads to some very amusing incidents. Irene comes into her own when, In the Fifth at Malory Towers, she composes the music for the pantomime written by Darrell and performed by the fifth form. Belinda amuses the girls with her sketches of the staff and especially with her 'scowl' collection - sketches of a very unamused Gwendoline.
Alicia is not a particularly pleasant girl. She can be cruel and malicious and does not suffer fools gladly. She takes great delight in playing practical jokes on the staff - especially Mam'zell Dupont. Darrell was initially very friendly with Alicia until she learnt that this friendship could land her in trouble. Alicia is very intelligent and does not seem to have to work very hard to get good results. However she does fail her School Cert first time round as a consequence of having measles.
In the Third Term at Malory Towers, Bill (whose real name is Wilhemina), arrives at Malory Towers in style on horseback, accompanied by her seven brothers. To say she is obsessed with her horse, Thunder, is to put it mildly. She spends most of her time daydreaming until Miss Peters, the form mistress, forbids her to see Thunder. Unable to bear this, Bill takes to sneaking out and one night discovers that poor Thunder has colic. Darrell, who has followed Bill to see where she is going, wakes Miss Peters who goes to summon the vet. Happily Thunder recovers and Bill and Miss Peters become firm friends.
Mary Lou is a timid girl who finds life quite stressful. She lacks confidence and Darrell at times despairs of her. Mary Lou's big moment comes in In the Fifth at Malory Towers when she is cast in the leading role in Cinderella. She carries this off well - despite her doubts.
Clarissa Carter - or more correctly The Hon. Clarissa Carter - joins the school in Upper Fourth at Malory Towers.Gwendoline is determined to become her best friend. Clarissa has a weak heart and must avoid swimming and games - another point in her favour with Gwen. Clarissa develops a friendship with Bill as both love horses and poor Gwen is left friendless again!
Members of staff feature from time to time in the books. Most are liked by the girls. Miss Grayling, the headmistress, is firm but fair. Miss Potts (affectionately known as 'Potty') is the First Form mistress and in charge of North Tower. Miss Peters teaches the Third Form. Mam'zelle Dupont and Mam'zelle Rougier teach French. Poor Mam'zelle Dupont is often the victim of practical jokes but she loves the girls and tries to get her own back with hilarious consequences.
There are many other characters - Mavis who has a very good voice, Daphne, Amanda, Connie, Ruth, Felicity who is Darrell's sister - the list goes on... But - to find out more you must read the whole series! I hope you enjoy the books as much as I did.
Additional information for this article gleaned from www.enidblyton.net/malorytowers
Contributed by Catriona Charlesworth
(Published 10th Dec 2014)