I used to enjoy reading some of the books of Enid Blyton when I was a little girl, though she was far from being among my favourite authors. Even at the age of seven or so, when I began to discover her for the first time, I could see that there was something not quite right about the way she presented the world, something belonging to a past age, both in her use of language and her depiction of character.
Still, there was something sumptuous about her child-centred world, the world of the Famous Five and the Secret Seven. Five on a Treasure Island, the very first in that series, was my favourite, appealing to an insatiable romantic thirst for ruined castles and remote places, a thirst that has stayed with me to this day!
I knew the books, at least some of them, though nothing at all about the author. Now, I do; at least I do if the depiction of her in Enid, a BBC Four drama, is anything to go by. In this Blyton is played by Helena Bonham-Carter, a brilliant and convincing performance. But my, oh my; what a monster she creates, a self-absorbed, self-centred woman; a woman who loved her devoted fans but neglected her own daughters, a woman who behaved abominably towards her first husband.
I can’t say how much accuracy there is here as one has always to assume a certain amount of poetic license and dramatic foreshortening, but I assume the outlines of what purported to be a biopic were broadly correct. If so, she comes across as a kind of literary Cruella Deville, at least that’s how Bonham-Carter played her, though she also managed to capture something of her vulnerability, fleeting though it was.
At the beginning of the drama we are shown how devoted Enid was to her father, a man she continued to idealise all of her life, even though he abandoned her and her siblings at an early age. It’s possible, I suppose, that her own callousness and indifference to so many around her was born of an emptiness induced by this early trauma, compensated for in a world of eternal sunshine, of eternal childhood, of wrecks and castles, of heaps of tomatoes and lashings of ginger beer.