The Enid Blyton Society
The Family at Red-Roofs
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Book Details...

First edition: 1945
Publisher: Lutterworth Press
Illustrator: W. Spence
Category: Family Stories
Genre: Family
Type: Novels/Novelettes

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Reprint Covers
Artwork
Review by Jen Wake
Further Illustrations

Reprints


Frontis from the 1st edition, illustrated by W. Spence



Wraparound dustwrapper from the 2nd edition, illustrated by Barbara C. Freeman



Frontis from the 2nd edition, illustrated by Barbara C. Freeman
I have a lovely second edition of this book and its been a favourite of mine for some time — I always get more pleasure from my early editions than my paperbacks! The house, Red-Roofs, is introduced before the family and is described as a "little white-washed house" which "seemed to smile in the warm sunshine".

The family consists of Mr and Mrs Jackson, Molly aged 16, Peter aged 14, Michael aged 11 and Shirley aged 9. Mr Jackson has evidently done well at his work because the family are moving from a three bedroom house in a neighbourhood which "has gone down and down" to the five bedroom Red-Roofs although it is rented rather than owned — "He took from his pocket the paper that gave particulars of the house and its rent and rates."

Having moved into the house Michael announced that "Miss Wren was coming to see his mother at six o'clock that evening" because he thinks Miss Wren would be ideal to help in the house. Mrs Jackson is not keen and, when she arrives, neither is Miss Wren who does not want to give up her independence. However, eventually an agreement is reached and Miss Wren — soon to be called Jenny Wren — moves in with the family. The next addition to Red-Roofs is a dog called Bundle who finds the Jacksons having a picnic and attaches himself to them. The Jacksons all chip in to buy him so that he belongs to them all.

More help arrives in the form of Jackdaw (continuing the bird theme), a boy of very few words, who comes to tend the garden. Enter Prudence, Molly's rather stuck-up friend from school, who visits Red-Roofs and looks down her nose at everything. Mrs Jackson advises Molly to feel sorry for Prudence who "knows the meaning of riches and good food, a car, servants and things of that kind, but does she really know the meaning of kindness, loyalty, humility and charity? I don't think so".

Life is good for the Jacksons until Mr Jackson comes home with some news "I've been offered very good promotion again — but I have been told that it entails going to America for six months, to represent my firm." After a family discussion it is agreed he should go but after his departure Mrs Jackson becomes ill and is taken to hospital for an operation.

As if this is not bad enough for the children, they hear on the news that their fatherís ship has "collided with another ship...we regret to announce that both ships sank within three hours. Many lives have been lost" which throws the household into turmoil.

Molly and Peter decide they must both finish school and get jobs even though they had chosen their careers some time before — Molly wanted to teach and Peter wanted to be a doctor. Now they must take any work they can find. Michael, not wanting to be left out, starts to earn money by mending people's clocks although Molly initially forbids this when she finds out about it.

Mrs Jackson is considered too poorly to hear about her husbandís ship sinking, especially when Jenny Wren discovers Mr Jackson's name is not on the list of survivors or the missing. It is left to Jenny Wren to hold the family together and indeed it is Jenny Wren who eventually tells Mrs Jackson the news. Before he went away, Mr Jackson gave Jenny Wren some money and she uses this to pay for Mrs Jackson to stay in a nursing home.

Prudence has also fallen on hard times and comes to live at Red-Roofs — she soon settles in and stops looking down her nose at things. Jenny Wren gets her involved in cleaning the house ready for Mrs Jackson's return. She had "never in her life been so busy, but somehow she found enjoyment in it".

I don't want to spoil the ending so I'll suggest instead that you read the book for yourself. Some of it is very unbelievable but on the whole it is a good, heart-warming read, a story of triumph over adversity and a nice study of the children maturing while their mother is ill and their father missing and then reverting to how they were before at the end of the book. These illustrations are hidden by default to ensure faster browsing. Loading the illustrations is recommended for high-speed internet users only.