Split from 'What Enid Blyton book are you reading NOW!'
I just read The Island of Adventure, to take a short rest from the Famous Five audiobooks. As a child, the only Enid Blyton books I read were the Famous Five and the first half of the Adventure series, and I remember the Adventure books very fondly too. Probably they are even more thrilling than the better-known Famous Five, and the characters are quite vivid and likable too.
Anyway, this is my review, in a less detailed manner than my reviews of the FF audiobooks:
** spoiler alert **
Enid Blyton's best-known series is the Famous Five but, as much as I love the Five, if we had to say what's her best series, this would probably be it. The idea is rather similar to the Famous Five (a group of children having thrilling adventures), but the danger here seems more real, the situations grittier and a bit more "realistic" (as far as a group of children getting into so many amazing adventures can be realistic), the bad guys scarier.
The introduction of the characters is a real pleasure. The two pairs of siblings do not know each other yet, and the book opens with Kiki the parrot, Jack's pet, scaring Philip as he hears a mysterious voice when there's no one around, scolding him for the most absurd things. From there, the children become friends and come up with a daring scheme to try to spend the holidays together.
Let's talk a bit about Kiki. She plays the same role as Timmy in the Famous Five series: beloved pet who is part of the group, as much as the children. She's not as efficient as Timmy the dog at protecting the children, but she has her moments. Also, she has a comedic vein that Timmy lacks. Kiki is a riot in all senses of the word, always rudely scolding people in the most absurd manner, particularly stuffy adults, and making all sorts of noises and imitations. I was surprised to find out that some readers do not like her, finding her a bit overbearing, but I love her. Her cheekiness adds welcome comic relief to a world where children were not allowed to be cheeky or disrespectful to adults. With a parrot, though, what can you do?
The settings and the adventure are described in a most vivid manner, Blyton at top form, and the presence of an competent adult as ally allows for the dangerous moments to be believable. In the Famous Five, the children are mostly on their own, and while that's thrilling, it comes at the cost of making it a bit more difficult to suspend disbelief, with adult criminals routinely defeated by a group of children.
In this book, Blyton also has an ambiguous character, Bill Smugs, and you spend a lot of the book wondering whether he is a good guy or a bad guy (reading this for the first time I got it wrong!).
The ebook I have is the "modern" edition, edited to remove political incorrectness. Therefore Jo-Jo, the sinister black servant, is no longer black, his name is now Joe and he doesn't roll his eyes. Even though I agree that having a black character rolling his eyes is a no-no nowadays (racial stereotyping and all that), this political correctness business is still a bit absurd. The rest of the bad guys are white and way more stupid than Jo-Jo. Racism is very real and despicable, but this is not it. However, it's not like the changes make much difference, apart from some slight atmospheric element. If this is the price to be paid to avoid hearing from the PC police, then it's worth paying as far as I am concerned.
“I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?”
― Stephen King, The Body