The Enid Blyton Society
The Secret of Cliff Castle
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Book Details...

First edition: 1943
Publisher: George Newnes
Illustrator: W. Lindsay Cable
Category: Mary Pollock Books
Genre: Mystery/Adventure
Type: Novels/Novelettes

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Review by Terry Gustafson
Further Illustrations


Tower House edition from 1947, Illustrated by W. Lindsay Cable
This is another of the Mary Pollock (alias Enid Blyton) books which would be more enjoyable to those younger Blyton fans who dote on the Secret Seven series where the endings involve Daddy and the Police. When I was in my Secret Seven phase I enjoyed The Secret of Cliff Castle because of its spookiness and the characters were ones with whom I could identify easily. The plot is strictly 'Formula' and any Blytoneer will be able to visualize certain aspects of the story before reaching Page #1. Castles are a staple of EB stories — there's Faynights Castle and the castle on Kirrin Island and the castle up the hill from Spring Cottage and Moon Castle and the Castle of Santa Claus and The Castle of the Red Goblin and The Giant's Castle and plenty of others dotted throughout the pages of Enid Blyton books.
In stories where a castle is mentioned and children are involved the action goes something like this — the first glimpse of the rambling edifice or old towered house, the decision to explore, the initial trip and then the assault on the fortress either through a window, a secret passage, a tunnel, or a door although doors always seem to be locked and the part where the key goes in is usually rusted up. There's the first look round and then more visits which might yield quite dramatic discoveries that lead to the conclusion and the children who participate in this particular story are Peter, Pam and Brock. The author used the word Brock quite regularly in her books and this time it refers to a twelve year old boy with a strong body, a red smiling face and blue eyes. Peter and Pam travel to Rockhurst for a holiday with Brock who happens to be their cousin. Shortly after they are collected from the station Peter experiences a 'feeling' very similar to those that settled on Lucy Ann in another series of books. Answering his Aunt Hetty when she says that the most exciting part of a holiday is the beginning, Peter says: " ... it isn't going to be the most exciting part of this holiday. I've got a funny feeling it's going to be exciting all the way through ... I've got a Feeling! You just wait and see!"

Cliff Castle, which can be seen from Brock's home, is on top of a steep hill with a sheer drop at one side. To be accurate, the building is not strictly a castle per se. It was built long ago by a queer old man who wanted it to look like a castle and he ended up living there all alone except for his two servants. He eventually died and when the servants passed away it seems that some great-nephew inherited the place. He wasn't all that bothered about it so Cliff Castle is locked up and stands defiant on the hill where it'll probably crumble away in time.

The children set off to explore the place (naturally) and they stop at a shop along the way (naturally). They stock up on lemonade (naturally) and the woman who runs the shop tells them that funny lights have been seen at the castle (naturally) and that she wouldn't think of going there herself. A scene swam into my mind when I read this and it comes from the satirical movie — Five go Mad in Dorset where the Famous Five call into a shop and are briefed very similarly by the proprietress ... "There’s been a lot of strange comings and goings in this village ... secrets and signs...!" It's not too difficult to see why that particular scene was included in the spoof. The children reach the castle and there seems no way to enter except by climbing a tree and getting in at a convenient window which is very narrow. This might be a problem for Pam because, as Brock says, "You're only a girl" — but his concerns are groundless. Pam manages all right with only a little help. Like Jo, Bessie and Fanny the kids seem to have no fear of heights even when they're well up in the tree and have to use their weight to bend a branch so that it touches a sill which allows them to work their way across and squeeze into the building.

You can imagine the scene quite well if you are a Blyton Follower — empty rooms, cobwebs, old furniture, decay, and dusty curtains as brittle as the ones that hung in another castle which thousands of Blytonians would remember. Peter, Pam and Brock explore some of the rooms and even find their way up into the tower where they are treated to a magnificent view of the countryside. They go back down the stairway to the hall and instead of having to find the room where they had entered they are fortunate enough to discover a little door set into a wall near the back stairway that allows them to exit with ease after a few nettles and some gorse is hacked away. They head back home babbling excitedly about their adventure.
Where is the light? There must be a light. There is a light and Pam's the one to discover it when she gets up from her bed round 12 o'clock to have a glass of water. She sees a moving spot of illumination in the castle and this of course must be investigated. Another exploratory trip is planned and undertaken and this time the children have good cause to be suspicious because evidence is found that people besides themselves have been there and they also discover that one of the tower rooms is locked and it certainly wasn't when they visited initially. Three puzzled kids leave the castle with a determination to solve the mystery.

There is a break at this point which is one of the ways that Enid Blyton kept a degree of normality in everyday life. Aunt Hetty takes them all on a picnic the next day which is a bit of a nuisance when such important investigations need attending to but Peter, Pam and Brock, despite making their slight objections felt, accompany their Aunt in good grace and manage to enjoy themselves.

Next day it's back to the Castle and running through the required elements for a good tale it's time we reached the Secret Passage part. We're there! Unfortunately, at the end of this visit and its related discoveries, a stone that is turned is left unturned and this worries the children. Brock, who is quite fearless, decides to visit the castle in the pitch-blackness of night and turn the stone again otherwise the mysterious people who visit the castle may notice the slight change of scene and realise that someone has been there. They might lay a trap! Brock sets off and enters the dark and creepy castle to makes sure no stone is left unturned. He doesn't come back!

Will Pam and Peter sense what's happened? Will they have the nerve to set off across the moonlit fields and climb up to the castle in a valiant attempt to save Brock or will they stay in bed to sleep perchance to dream? As is the case in all these books, there is tension and many thrills to be experienced before the Secret of Cliff Castle and the amazing treasures it contains can be put to rest.
The meaning of the name 'Brock' was explained by Enid Blyton several times over the years. In Enid Blyton's Animal Lover's Book for example there was a Brockhame Village and it was explained to the children that Brock means 'badger'.

The artist for this book is familiar: I had seen similarly-styled pictures and the name 'Lindsay Cable' under the author's name means the artist is the same person who illustrated the brilliant 'St Clare's' school-story books. The Secret of Cliff Castle seems to have piles of pictures and I thought that maybe there’d been a kind of Sale on when Enid Blyton was shopping around for an artist ... One Shilling Off or Three For The Price Of One, but when I counted the illustrations in the first 50x pages of two similar books the difference wasn't all that marked. Three Boys and a Circus had nine pictures and Smuggler Ben had eight but those two particular volumes had many half-page drawings because they were reprints. The Secret of Cliff Castle has ten and all the illustrations are full-page. Lindsay Cable has done full justice to Cliff Castle and drawn it as the real thing even though the structure is a great big house built to look like a castle. The 1951 issue has a familiar-looking cover, and it should be, because the artist George Brook, who illustrated many of the 'Secret Seven' books, supplied the pictures.

The children take a picnic lunch with them on their first outing to the castle and included in it are some potted meat sandwiches. I used to wonder a little about potted meat and thought it might be a small can or jar containing bits of lamb or beef — perhaps with a modest amount of brine or something mixed in. It seems that, in reality, it's a kind of pureed meat. It may also bring to mind food such as canned tongue, meat-paste, spam or even pâté.

Sometimes, 'Enid Blyton Experts' like to supply their own answers but here they are for those who haven't read all that many of the books: Faynights Castle was in Five have a Wonderful Time and Kirrin Castle belongs to George (Kirrin) who is one of the Famous Five. Spring Cottage is in The Castle of Adventure and Moon Castle is in one of the Arnold books that star Mike, Peggy, Nora and Jack (The Secret of Moon Castle). The Castle of the Red Goblin featured in The Enid Blyton The Book of Brownies. There are many 'Castle of Santa Claus' and 'Giant's Castle' references and the former is represented in Enid Blyton's Omnibus which has a Faraway Tree story in it whilst the latter might be most remembered in Adventures of the Wishing Chair. Books of similar genre to the Wishing Chair stories also contain plenty of castles and they are usually inhabited by Wizards, Enchanters and Witches as well as Giants.

Dusty, brittle curtains and chair-covers were a feature of the immense castle that towered over the surrounding countryside in The Castle of Adventure. Jo, Bessie, and Fanny, were the main characters in the wonderful 'Faraway Tree' stories.

'Feelings' are quite important aspects of some Blyton characters. Peter demonstrated his sensitivity near the beginning of the book, then there's Lucy Ann — "I don’t know. I just don't like it," said Lucy Ann. "I've got one of my 'feelings' about it." The others laughed. Lucy Ann often had 'feelings' about things (Smugs). Bets — "Something sort of told me Fatty's in danger .. I still don't feel quite right about him ...I've still got that uncomfortable sort of feeling." (Find-Outers). Anne of the Famous Five also had plenty of 'feelings' which prophesied hard times ahead.

I don't think I'd mind all that much if I was kissed by an Indian Princess provided she was beautiful but as all Princesses are described as beautiful there should be no problem. The children didn't like it and that can be understood because kids don't really fancy being kissed by grown-ups. Yes, Peter, Pam and Brock have to accept the smooch of a Princess and they are embarrassed. They make up their minds not to like her but they alter their perspective very quickly indeed because their few moments of distastefulness are more than admirably balanced on the final page. Not only will the children treasure their memories of Cliff Castle but they will also hold the Princess Larreeanah in esteem for a very long time.

(The Princess Larreeanah is in no way related to Kim-Larriana-Tik who made a brief appearance in another Blyton novel.) These illustrations are hidden by default to ensure faster browsing. Loading the illustrations is recommended for high-speed internet users only.