The Enid Blyton Society
Holiday House
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Book Details...

First edition: 1955
Publisher: Evans Brothers
Illustrator: Grace Lodge
Category: One-off Novels
Genre: Mystery/Adventure
Type: Novels/Novelettes

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Review by Julie Heginbotham
Further Illustrations

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Wraparound dustwrapper from the 1st edition, illustrated by Grace Lodge



Endpapers from the 1st edition, illustrated by Grace Lodge
There are quite a few Blyton books I haven't read (this was one) and it was nice to read a Blyton book not knowing what to expect. Being a good story teller, Enid immediately took me into the pages of this book not wanting to put it down until the final page was read.

It begins with twins, Pat, short for Patrick and Mary, having been ill. Between them, they'd had one broken arm, sprained ankle, chicken pox and measles and so in true Blyton fashion their Mother arranges for them to go to Holiday House, a place by the beach in Devon, run by a Mrs Holly, whilst she and her husband take a trip to America.

Mother puts them onto the train, instructing the guard to keep an eye on them, and we learn that the journey takes quite a while until the children finally arrive at the seaside and are met by Mrs Holly herself and her daughter Ruth.

We learn that Holiday House takes in children mainly and already in residence is a young girl called Maureen, her nurse, a baby called Tessa, who Ruth unkindly describes "as the ugliest baby you ever saw." Then there's a fifteen year old boy called Graham, who Ruth nicknames as Gloomy Graham, then there's John, who was being too much of a nuisance and was leaving the following day.

It becomes clear as you read the book that Ruth's unpleasantness is due to jealousy, because her Mother looks after the children who are under her care. I have to say, that I automatically felt Enid had based Ruth on her own daughter Imogen. I don't mean this in an unkindly way, but having read Imogen's own book I could see traces of Imogen in Enid's character of Ruth. Fortunately towards the end of the book, Mrs Holly speaks to her daughter Ruth, sorting the problem, and explaining that she has to be nice to the children as Holiday House is their living, and that she wouldn't change her own little girl for any other child in the world. Anyway, back to the book.

Holiday House is perched on a cliff edge and to one side of the building is a tall square tower covered in ivy. Graham is staying in one of these tower rooms, and the very top one is used just for junk. From here there is a good view, and you can also see another cliff top house, which is almost falling into the sea and is deserted. It is from the window of this junk room, that the twins discover a light shining from the top room of the old deserted house.

Whilst having a picnic on the beach, the twins decide to explore and find a cave which has a secret passage, and this passage actually leads to the cellars of the derelict house on the cliff. Once inside the house, the twins make their way to the very top and discover a room which is in use, they automatically think that it could be used by a tramp.

The twins also learn from Ruth, that Graham has a brother, who is a thief, and had to be sent away. Ruth also informs the twins that Holiday House has a thief in residence and she suspects its Graham.

The twins decide to investigate, and learn from Graham himself, that he does have a brother, who had escaped from where he was being held and Graham himself had hidden him in the top room of the deserted old house. There was also a secret passage from Holiday House to the deserted house, which made it easy for Graham to come and go. We learn from Graham that his brother is actually innocent of the crime against him having been framed by a boy named Wilfred, who has a sister working at Holiday House as a chamber maid, and she turns out to be the thief stealing from the residents.

This book is well worth a read if anyone hasn't read it. It describes the secret passages, behind the fireplaces in the tower rooms, and the one in the cave to the deserted house high on the cliff. The twins of course, help Graham's brother Peter, to prove his innocence and the real culprits are taken away.

As I mentioned, we learn a lot about Ruth, who many of the children take a dislike too. Blyton describes her as 'a little nuisance, a big bore, a dreadful nosey parker and a boss.' But as one nurse says to another, whilst Ruth is organizing some playroom games. "I donít like her a bit in the ordinary way, but it's certainly a rest to sit back and let her boss the little ones. Just look how they obey her."

I felt those words were rather unkind to use against a small child who was obviously having problems trying to adapt to her Mother's working life, but as I've written, these problems were sorted thankfully.

Other phrases in the book could be described as un-PC these days, but then again, this book was written in 1955 , long before political correctness.

One such phrase amused me rather, when Blyton was describing Wilfred. She writes:-

"I didn't like him," said Mary, "Horrid long hair and dirty finger-nails."

"Yes, Beware of young men with long hair — that's what Dad says, isn't it?" said Pat, remembering. "He says he never met a long-haired young man yet that was any good — so we'd better beware!"

A little bit of stereotyping here, but as I say, this was published fifty-three years ago.

Taking all the issues aside though, this is a lovely book. I enjoyed reading it. These illustrations are hidden by default to ensure faster browsing. Loading the illustrations is recommended for high-speed internet users only.