Following on from my previous post where I blogged about how much I was looking forward to BBC Four’s Women We’ve Loved series, I have just found time to sit down and catch up with Enid, which aired last week.
I have to say, I found this programme absolutely beastly (for lack of a better word!).
Now, I say this not as a reflection of the programme, nor the quality of it – which was absolutely superb and first-rate! – but because I feel that I have had my story-book vision of Enid well and truly shattered! It was horrible to watch and see someone as beloved as Enid Blyton depicted in such a way.
Now of course, I am not disputing that she may very well have been like this – I know that the BBC did a lot of research before hand with the people who knew her best (including Imogen, her daughter) – I just found it so hard to watch, and so terribly sad to see this side to her; a side that I never thought would have existed.
For those who missed it, the programme explored the abandonment of a young Enid (and her family) by her father, and the rose-tinted spectacles that she saw his life through (as a side note perhaps there is a parallel with the audience and Enid, and in both stories the shroud of this perception dropping?). It showed the difficult relationship that Enid had with her mother as a result of this. From there the programme quickly moved onto Enid becoming a very strong-willed woman and, rather than focusing on her public success, the programme focused on her private life, especially on her relationship with her two husbands and her children.
It was awful to watch Enid shunning those around her, including her own children, who were portrayed as being nothing more than an inconvenience to her. One of the low points of the programme was when Enid was having a tea party for some competition winning children, and she deliberately excluded her own children, sending them away before the other children arrived, and then lying about the fantastic life she led with her own children.
Ultimately, the story went full circle, with her own children dismissing her and Enid ultimately became her own mother in many respects.
I suppose that it was a different era back then, women had to be strong and have a stiff upper lip if they wanted to be successful, and without doubt Enid Blyton was the most successful female of the first half of the last century. I have recently read online that the BBC refused to have Enid Blyton on their programmes for over thirty years, dismissing her stories as ‘small beer’ and not believing her worthy of air time. They finally permitted her an interview shortly before her death. It is therefore quite fitting that the BBC should be airing this series forty years on I think.
I think that this surprise side to Enid Blyton is what will make the programme such a success. Many people, myself included, were expecting tales of sandy beaches and lashings of ginger beer, whereas in reality Blyton’s life was as far removed from this as could be. I think that ‘Enid’ successfully managed to tell a completely different story, and I applaud the cast and crew on this production for doing so.
It was fantastic to see Helena Bonham Carter in such a different role to those we’re used to seeing her in, and I though that the entire cast were very strong, and very believable.
There is a wonderful article in The Telegraph where they talk to Bonham Carter about her role, and the programme itself – well worth reading if you want a more structured/traditional collection of thoughts of the programme and the characterisation.
Without doubt, Blyton was the best author that has ever existed in my opinion – if nothing else, her sales statistics say it all – and I can only hope that, if her personality was as was depicted in ‘Enid’, that on the inside she was as happy in life as she managed to make the countless readers across the World who picked up / continue to pick up one of her stories.
As a child, I spent many a happy hour lying on my bed reading about the stories of the Famous Five, the Secret Seven, of goblins and fairies, of the Magic Faraway Tree and the Wishing Chair, and I still read these books to this very day. They are simply put some of the best stories ever written.
The Enid Blyton Society has a collection of quotes that their forum users believe show a sense of Enid’s personality and morality coming through in her works, and again, I’d recommend my readers to have a look around their website if you have an appetite for further reading on Enid Blyton and her stories 🙂
My favourite thus quote thus far is for when things are going wrong in life – “The best way to treat obstacles is to use them as stepping-stones. Laugh at them, tread on them, and let them lead you to something better.”