Looking for Enid, By Duncan McLaren

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The Independent Culture

A biography of Enid Blyton, but a peculiar one – this is as much about the biographer as it is about the biographee. McLaren, a lifelong Blyton fan, takes to the road with his girlfriend, visiting sites where Blyton lived, worked and set her books – including, of course, her country house Green Hedges where she lived with her second husband and wrote the most celebrated of her 600 books, including the Famous Five series, the Malory Towers series and the Noddy books. Each chapter ends with a curious parody of a Five Find-Outers mystery, with Fatty appearing to represent McLaren himself, and little Bets his girlfriend Kate.

McLaren's theory that the much-mocked PC Goon in the Five Find-Outers stories is a revengeful portrait of Blyton's first husband is convincing, though the attempt to prove it by anagrams is an elaboration too far. The writing becomes childishly breathless at points: "it's ramificating like billy-oh in my mind!" or "Letters from Enid – I want to bloody well read a few!". But McLaren certainly succeeds in conveying his enthusiasm. If you enjoy either Blyton's stories or English eccentricity you are sure to enjoy this. If you don't, you won't.

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