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Enid - recognition during her life?

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Enid - recognition during her life?

Postby black labrador » 24 May 2009, 18:13

One thing which particularly strikes me in reading Barbara Stoney's biography is the lack of recognition Enid received.

Both Jacqueline Wilson and J.K.Rowling - whose output is far smaller than Enid's - have received numerous literary awards not to mention OBEs, honorary degrees, etc.

Did Enid receive anything similar? If not why not?

In addition, am I right in thinking that Barbara Stoney's biography was the first biography of Enid? Isn't it surprising that no one thought to write a biography or any other book about her work during Enid's lifetime?
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Re: Enid - recognition during her life?

Postby Ming » 24 May 2009, 18:22

Barbara Stoney's biography is the first one as far as I am aware - in the foreword Gillian says that Enid expressed hopes that she, Gillian, would write it. However due to time constraints the project kept on being put off, until one of Enid's close friends died, and then "the job could wait no longer". Barbara was chosen because she was a sympathetic, mature and married woman.
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Re: Enid - recognition during her life?

Postby Anita Bensoussane » 24 May 2009, 20:29

I think the only literary award Enid Blyton ever received was in America, for Mystery Island (The Island of Adventure retitled). It was awarded a prize by the Boys' Club of America for being one of the six most popular books of 1947.

Barbara Stoney's Biography of Enid was the first unless you count Enid Blyton's autobiography, The Story of My Life (1952), which was written for children and focussed on those aspects of her life that she felt would interest her child readers.

Enid Blyton's writing was regarded by some critics as inferior, unchallenging or repetitive (we've discussed such criticisms elsewhere on the forums). The BBC wouldn't broadcast her books on the radio and publishers like Puffin didn't print any Blyton titles. That sort of attitude may have prevented her work being considered for awards.

I've know I've said this before, but one of the most boring books I've ever read - We Couldn't Leave Dinah by Mary Treadgold - won the Carnegie Medal in 1941. It tells the story of some children on an island in the war. I thought the characters were flat and the story was slow and I struggled to finish the book. When I tried to sell my copy on eBay for very little money, together with another book by the same author, there were no bids. 1941 also saw the publication of another book about children on an island (or islands) in the war - Enid Blyton's The Adventurous Four. An exciting story from beginning to end, written in a fluid, lively style which is a joy to read. Why wasn't that awarded the Carnegie Medal, I wonder? Not that literary medals mean much, long-term. My copy of We Couldn't Leave Dinah attracted no interest at all but the Adventurous Four books are still popular sixty-odd years after they were first published!

Edit: Although it wasn't during her lifetime I've just remembered that, in 1996, Enid Blyton herself posthumously became the first winner of the Enid Blyton Award for Lifetime Contribution to Children! It was intended to be an annual award honouring those who showed outstanding commitment to children's culture, welfare or education, though I don't know whether it is still awarded. Enid's elder daughter, Gillian Baverstock, collected the award (a little silver model of the "reading girl" statue that Enid used to have in her garden) at a special dinner at the Victoria & Albert Museum. The following thread contains a little more information:

viewtopic.php?f=17&t=1866&p=28070&hilit=+silver#p28070

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Re: Enid - recognition during her life?

Postby Redrachel76 » 13 Jul 2009, 19:32

I was going to post a new topic before I saw this asking does anyone else here feel a bit unsatisfied with just 2 relatively short biographys on Enid Blyton?
Only Barbara Stoney's book and Gilllian Bavistock's books seem to shed light on this person who must have influenced a hell of a lot of children. Everyone I knew read her books. Yet those 2 bios don't feel like enough to me.
There was one bio written by her agent - I've forgotton his name, it's also out of print like Gillian's. but again it was a slim volume.
Why are there so few biographies or gossipy type interest in Enid now?
It seems strange in this day and age when everyone is into celebrity things and umpteen biographys are published on people like Kenneth Williams, Elvis, Roald Dahl - well he has just has a few bios, but more than Enid's two.

Considering how many people and children read her books and how interesting her life was it's strange how nobody thought that it would be worth researching a bit more and selling a new book with more about her life to make a bit of cash.
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Re: Enid - recognition during her life?

Postby black labrador » 13 Jul 2009, 19:59

I agree - she seems to have a very low public profile by modern standards. I don't know if this was by choice or if there simply wasn't much focus on childrens' writers at that time.
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Re: Enid - recognition during her life?

Postby Anita Bensoussane » 13 Jul 2009, 21:40

Imogen Smallwood's A Childhood at Green Hedges is well worth a read if you haven't read it already, though it may be difficult to find a copy as it has been out of print for some time. Some people find the book rather negative but it also shows Imogen genuinely striving to understand Enid and is quite moving in parts as well as being thought-provoking. (I'm wondering whether you perhaps meant to say Imogen Smallwood rather than Gillian Baverstock, Rachel, as although Gillian did write two biographies of Enid they're very short and aimed firmly at child readers?)

The agent who wrote a book on Enid Blyton was George Greenfield, who only knew Enid towards the end of her life.

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Re: Enid - recognition during her life?

Postby Fiona1986 » 13 Jul 2009, 21:53

There is also Duncan Mclaren's "Looking for Enid", Bob Mullen's "The Enid Blyton Story" and Andrew Norman's "Enid Blyton and her Enchantment with Dorset".
Although these may not be truly biographical nor written during her lifetime they do recognise Enid and her work.
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Re: Enid - recognition during her life?

Postby tix » 13 Jul 2009, 22:03

On May 24th, Anita Bensoussane said: - “Enid Blyton's writing was regarded by some critics as inferior, unchallenging or repetitive. The BBC wouldn't broadcast her books on the radio and publishers like Puffin didn't print any Blyton titles. That sort of attitude may have prevented her work being considered for awards. I've know I've said this before, but one of the most boring books I've ever read - We Couldn't Leave Dinah by Mary Treadgold - won the Carnegie Medal in 1941.”

I heartily agree and it makes me wonder about the criteria when judgments are made. Like Anita, I also read a book that had received an award for being wonderful and I was bored stiff because it didn’t seem to “live.” A comparative comment can be made concerning the countrywide search for the best fish and chips which is held every now and again. My favourite outlet has the tastiest product I can find anywhere and I thought I’d like to enter it for the award. Unfortunately when I learnt how the judges go about reaching their decision I declined to bother. One shop that had received the accolade twice used frozen chips that are becoming more and more fashionable due to their convenience. Frozen chips taste like cardboard but they look good and have the required level of cholesterol or fat or whatever it is that health fanatics frown upon. The judges are far more concerned with aspects such as this, as well as how they look, and other trivialities when they make their decision. What about a delicious, old-fashioned, genuine, fish and chip taste? Sorry, that’s out! This reminds me so much of the attitude to the Enid Blyton books. “English language use as an example to the juniors, adequacy of writing style, manipulation of words, repetitiveness, hackneyed phrases, the author’s background and where he or she fits into the structure and even a bit of shoulder-rubbing” – that’s all taken into account. The fact that Enid Blyton outsells all other contenders because her books are “loved” seems of little consequence.
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Re: Enid - recognition during her life?

Postby Moonraker » 14 Jul 2009, 12:29

I take your point, Rachel, but feel that with Barbara's biography - an amazing work - and the other books mentioned, a complete record is made of Enid's life and work. Maybe it is just as well there are no more, if Duncan's book is anything to go by - fascinating a read as it is! You can be sure that if there were more books, much speculation and fiction would have to fill the pages as all the facts are already well documented.
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Re: Enid - recognition during her life?

Postby Tony Summerfield » 14 Jul 2009, 12:41

I do agree with this, every book and article written about Enid Blyton's life, particularly the early part, has been taken straight from Barbara Stoney's book. George Greenfield came and spoke about his biography at an Enid Blyton Day and he admitted then that he had taken a great deal from Barbara and without her book his would have been a very slim volume.

Even Gillian knew nothing about her mother's early life. When she read Barbara's book she was already in her 40's and she had no idea that she had a grandmother who died when she was 19 until she read it in Barbara's biography. She had always assumed that Enid had been brought up by the Attenboroughs.
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Re: Enid - recognition during her life?

Postby Aurélien » 14 Jul 2009, 15:00

Why no honours for Enid Blyton?

Sadly, and I'm actually not trying to knock the movement for the recognition of excellence in writing for children, a key component of the whole, *ahem*, 'children's literature' field is *mumble, mumble* intellectual snobbery....some books (and certain authors) being considered more equal than others....only, in EB's case, that is less equal...

Utterly maddening, isn't it? :evil:

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Re: Enid - recognition during her life?

Postby Moonraker » 14 Jul 2009, 17:54

The masses have always ruled! Because of this, critics and so-called educationalists have to make their mark by rebuking (right word?) the masses choices. That's why The Sun (a British scandal rag) sells 100 times more copies than The Times (everyone's heard of that one). Of course, Murdoch doesn't care - he owns both of them!
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Re: Enid - recognition during her life?

Postby Redrachel76 » 14 Jul 2009, 18:46

Anita Bensoussane wrote:Imogen Smallwood's A Childhood at Green Hedges ...Some people find the book rather negative but it also shows Imogen genuinely striving to understand Enid and is quite moving in parts as well as being thought-provoking. (I'm wondering whether you perhaps meant to say Imogen Smallwood rather than Gillian Baverstock, Rachel, as although Gillian did write two biographies of Enid they're very short and aimed firmly at child readers?)

The agent who wrote a book on Enid Blyton was George Greenfield, who only knew Enid towards the end of her life.

Anita



Yes Anita, you're right, I did mean to say Imogen Smallwood rather than Gillian Baverstock.

I feel Imogen Smallwood's book and Barbara Stoney's are really the only two biographys that dig deep and reveal something.

When I read George Greenfield's book I noticed that he relied a lot on Barbara Stoney's book. He added something substantial in his book but it was not a giant amount.

I liked some of the negativity in Imogen Smallwood's book. I don't want a person to be portrayed as totally perfect, I like them to have faults like everyone else. I found it facinating.

Imogen was right to feel a bit bitter about being sent away at such a young age as well as some other things. It suddenly made sense why in Enid's books boarding schools were made to look so great (even as a kid I though MT and St Clair's were a bit too nice.) Maybe she santised the idea of boarding school to herself for sending her kids away. Maybe also when she was a child she also wanted to be a boarder at her local school after her parents split up. Imogen's book explained to me how Enid managed such a wonderful gigantic output of books while having two children.

Still I feel a bit disatisfied with really just 2 proper deep bios written on her. I don't really count George Greenfiled's one.
I've never felt the urge to buy and read Gillian's "Tell Me about Enid Blyton" book like the others. I don't know why.

I'm surprised no journalist has ever gone and interviewed Hugh Pollack's children or grandchildren for more memories and insights or Enid's father's grandchildren just incase he mentioned something that could be made into a book. Even Enid's own grandchildren might remember her. Imogen has a son, I think.

in the early -mid 80's when I was a child growing up in Sheffield, I remember telling a neighbour that I liked Enid Blyton books. The neighbour said that Enid's brother lived around Sheffield and was in his 80's and I could find him in the telephone book and talk to him.
I think she was wrong on that.
I think Hanley Blyton actually lived somewhere else and it was just EB's Dad who was born in Sheffield and then moved away.
Anyway, I went and got the telephone book and saw there were a lot of Blytons in Sheffield.
I did not do it in the end because I was worrid about explaining to my parents what I was doing phoning up lots of strangers and the phone bill. Local calls were more expensive then. I also was worrid about what the earth I would say to him when I found him. Years later I got Barbara Stoney's book and after reading that I was glad that I hadn't phoned.

It just seems strange to me that some child in the 80's had more interest in it than a journalist/book author who could profit from it.
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Re: Enid - recognition during her life?

Postby Redrachel76 » 14 Jul 2009, 18:59

Moonraker wrote:I take your point, Rachel, but feel that with Barbara's biography - an amazing work - and the other books mentioned, a complete record is made of Enid's life and work. Maybe it is just as well there are no more, if Duncan's book is anything to go by - fascinating a read as it is! You can be sure that if there were more books, much speculation and fiction would have to fill the pages as all the facts are already well documented.



That's a good point about only speculation being left if another one was written.
I would still prefer more than 2 bios but maybe you are right.
You mention that you have read Duncan's book.
I've been thinking about about getting it but many of the reviews are not good.
Is it any good?
What did you think about it?
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Re: Enid - recognition during her life?

Postby Fiona1986 » 14 Jul 2009, 19:26

Redrachel76 wrote:I've been thinking about about getting it but many of the reviews are not good.
Is it any good?
What did you think about it?
Quote Redrachel76Re: Enid - recognition


I thoroughly enjoyed reading 'Looking for Enid',
The Five Find Outers story thats interspersed with Duncan's own experiences is highly amusing, I really liked reading about Duncan and his (girl?)friend exploring areas that had relevance to Enid and although much of what Duncan wrote was silly speculation they were fun to read.
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