The Enid Blyton Society
The Wonderful Adventure (No.133)
Back Book 3 of 20 in this category Next

Book Details...

First edition: 1927
Publisher: Birn Brothers
Illustrator: K. M. Waterson
Category: One-off Novels
Genre: Mystery/Adventure
Type: Novels/Novelettes

On This Page...

Review by David Rudd
Further Illustrations

Front Cover

Back Cover

Title Page
Whilst there are some Blyton books known to exist, though their whereabouts is unknown, this volume came as a complete shock to all. It was buried treasure that no one knew about, although the elderly gentleman who brought it to Tony Summerfield's attention was unaware of the rarity of his possession. It was simply a favourite childhood book, something that he'd enjoyed so much that he'd held onto it, intending to pass it on down the family. Fortunately, the Blyton world has now also had sight of it.

In many ways it is a typical Birn Brothers book, with unevenly spaced lines, a number of typographical errors ('juttingout rock', 'se med' for seemed, 'Nann ie' for Nanny) and some rather stilted dialogue: "I wish we never need wear anything but bathing costumes" (p. 40). But it also has that raw childlike feel characteristic of the Birn Brothers volumes and, most importantly, it is typical, or prototypical Blyton, from the title onwards.

The Wonderful Adventure announces what to expect, being the first title of Enid's to include that key word 'adventure', so prevalent later in her career (both words, of course, would be used in Five titles). The ten chapter headings are equally direct and alluring, the first being 'The Wonderful Adventure' itself, followed by 'The Game of Treasure Hunting', The Secret Passage', 'The Hidden Room', 'The Finding of the Trap-door', 'The Closed Door', 'The Old Sea-Caves', 'The Smuggler's Cave', 'What we found in the Store-cave' and, finally, 'The Wonderful Treasure'.

I'm sure many of us feel we could put some flesh on this skeleton, drawing on our knowledge of the Blyton set-up. And we'd not be too far wrong there are two sets of children, one lot being cousins of the others; there is a pair of twins; and the eldest of the characters (a 12 year old) is called Peter. Altogether this gives us six children — only one short of the Seven.

There are other familiar moves. The family has been rather poor "ever since all the family jewels and money were lost" in "Great-Great-Great-Grandfather's time, and no one knows where they went to" (p. 7). You might recall that Henry John Kirrin in Five on a Treasure Island is George's great-great-great-grandfather, too, and that the Kirrins had also fallen on hard times from their earlier prosperity, which George's cousins help the family overcome. Of course, this is middle-class poverty, of the type described so well by E. Nesbit; so we also find that the family still has a tutor, a nanny, a cook, a gardener, and a few other servants! They also live by the sea, where their cousins come to stay with them (similar, again, to the Famous Five); and their parents, meanwhile, go away, as the mother is ill.

Then there is a secret spring and sliding panel, a hidden passage, and, to give all these secrets away — almost — there is the youngest member of the group (Kitty, aged 8), who has to be physically gagged by Peter (better treatment than the kicking under the table that Anne receives from the Five). Peter, in fact, is much like his later namesake, bossy and renowned for keeping girls in their place:
'...He said we girls must stay behind. We could go as far as the hidden room, but no further.
"Can't I come!" Kitty said. ...
"No, you can't," said Peter. So that was settled. We all do what Peter says, because he is the oldest...' (p. 36)
What else? Well, there is an abundance of exclamation marks — sometimes even appearing where they should not (as in Kitty's question, above); there is an old 'yellowy' document informing the children of the hidden rooms; there is food (sandwiches, peppermints, lemonade and apples), and there is a wise old informant — Old Thomas, the fisherman (a forerunner of Old Tucky from Five Go Off to Camp and Jeremiah Boogle in Five Go to Demon's Rocks). Add to this a smuggler's cave and rowing boat, which Peter commands -
Kitty was so excited that she couldn't keep still Peter got quite cross with her.
"You'll upset the boat, you silly kid," he said "Keep still, or I'll row you back and leave you behind" (P. 44)
— and we have most of the ingredients that Enid was later to fashion into her famous adventure tales.

Would this one be as famous if it were better known, then? After all, it predates what was previously thought her first full-length adventure story, The Secret Island (1938) by eleven years. It even queries the claim that Swallows and Amazons (1930) was 'the first modern story of holiday adventure', as Sheila Ray (The Blyton Phenomenon, 1984 p. 15) puts it. Although, in view of its obscurity, The Wonderful Adventure can itself scarcely be claimed to have been influential.

However, I don't think it would have been seen as a classic ahead of its time. It has the ingredients, undoubtedly, but Enid had not at this stage developed the technique of telling a full-length story. Instead, it reads as a rather over-plotted short story. But as an experimental piece, it is undoubtedly interesting, similar to several other works that she wrote around this time. In many of these she tries writing in the first person — something that she abandoned after her early years — no doubt realising that it restricted and slowed the narrative. In this story, for instance, it is one of the 10 year old twins, Mollie, who relates the tale. Indeed, for a tale with quite a similar plot, there is the short story 'The Secret Cave' from Sunny Stories January 1929 (collected in Chimney Comer Stories, 1946), also written in the first person, though involving fewer characters.

In reading this rather clotted tale we can see how much Enid developed the art of pacing her narrative. She did this in a number of ways: by building up the relationships between the characters, often by introducing some tension and, most importantly, by generating suspense. None of these elements is sufficiently developed in this story. As regards character, Peter alone stands out as having potential. Of course, some of Enid's most memorable characters have been pets, which are also absent here, as they would be in the 'Secret' and 'Adventurous Four' books, too; only with the Famous Five did she realise the potential of making an animal an integral part of the action.

The lack of tension is partly due to lack of characterisation, but it is also a result of the story's brevity: only 62 pages of largish print (some 8,000 words). There is, for instance, no respite in which the characters can enjoy simply being together, or take stock, reflecting on their situation. But most seriously, there are no villains — no hissable adversaries like Block, Jo-Jo, or the Sticks. The potential, nevertheless, is certainly there, and the work clearly provided a thrilling and memorable read for the book's original owner. Clearly an author that might go far! These illustrations are hidden by default to ensure faster browsing. Loading the illustrations is recommended for high-speed internet users only.