Retro delights: The Famous Five

Just as the demand for 'nostalgia-lit' grows, two new films on The Famous Five are set for release. Katy Guest reminisces
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The Independent Culture

Golly, rather, and a woof from Timmy the dog: just as you thought you had left all that behind, those jolly good sports in TV and the movies are working on updates of The Famous Five! With all the smugglers on Kirrin Island long since rounded up and a dashed awkward shortage of ginger beer, a production by Twofour media will catch up with Julian, Dick, George and Anne 30 years on from their original spiffing adventures, with a descendant of lovely, licky Timmy the dog to keep them all on the straight and narrow. And what ho, even Disney is getting in on the excitement with a cartoon version set to appear this spring.

Casting and writing talent on the former are more closely guarded secrets than the recipe for Aunt Fanny's dashed tasty apple cake and the location of the sliding panel that leads to Julian's hidden passage down to the Dog and Duck. But mysterious sources with tweed overcoats and piercing blue eyes have sent a coded message that "some of the best-known acting talent in Britain is already under consideration". I say. Could this be an opportunity for Keira Knightley as the stroppy George and Anne-Marie Duff as put-upon Anne, with Jude Law and Ray Winstone taking the parts of the middle-aged Dick and Julian? Will Sir Anthony Hopkins be reprising his Hannibal Lecter in the role of the sinister Uncle Quentin? What might Dame Helen Mirren bring to the part of Fanny?

All these awfully spiffing japes come at a time of huge investment in the genre of nostalgia-lit. Published in 2006, The Dangerous Book for Boys, written by brothers Conn and Hal Iggulden, first hit the nerve with its blend of How To (build a treehouse, navigate by the stars, but not catch a smuggler in Kirrin Cove) and famous quotes and historical facts that "every boy should know". It became a How To manual on hitting publishing gold, and was copied by all the other boys and girls from The Daring Book for Girls to the repackaged classics, Don'ts for Husbands and Wives.

Just like the retro children's books designed secretly to feed grown-up nostalgia, the Famous Five are deemed to have an appeal "that crosses generations". No doubt the franchise will work best as a sort of Enid Blyton-meets-This Life, with lashings and lashings of Pinot Grigio, a will-they-won't-they sex triangle and somebody getting thumped at a wedding. Rather!

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