Series Review: Enid Blyton for Grown-Ups by Bruno Vincent

Katherine Morrison & Tania Koeferl
November 30, 2021

This spoof series is the sort that one should only consider reading if one is already familiar with Blyton’s original Famous Five series. If that is the case, these books are, on the whole, a brilliantly funny, absurd and playful look at what George, Anne, Dick and Julian are like now, dealing with the struggles of adulthood. However, if you aren’t familiar with these characters, well, you are going to be extremely confused.

(And Timmy is there too, but we are not too sure how because you’d think he would have died already, being a dog . . . but we would have all rioted if they’d killed him off.)

Each book uses illustrations from the originals to great comic effect by captioning the images with amusing new quotes.

Characterisation: Then and Now

Your reviewers think that the development of these characters into their modern, adult personalities is absolutely superb! In our view, this is the best part of the new books and the reason why this concept works so well. These novels are really quite character driven – the whole idea of the series is taking these well-known characters and placing them in different situations (the kind that every adult might have to face once they leave behind their childhood) with hilarious results.

To understand the characterisation of these characters, let’s look at the Famous Five, then and now.

Julian, the oldest, is the epitome of the strong male lead from 20th century children’s adventure books. He is sinless and never does anything wrong – although the discerning modern reader may notice his tendency to order his siblings and George around. In the 21st century, Julian is struggling (to put it lightly). He is a lazy alcoholic but sees himself as an intellectual, a leader and a visionary. Quite conservative politically, he is entirely convinced of his own brilliance.

George in the original Famous Five is the cousin of Julian, Dick and Anne. She is a tomboy and refuses to answer to her full name – Georgina (gasp!). Her dog, Timmy, accompanies her everywhere. She believes that she can do everything as well as a boy – or better – and has a fiery temper from the chip on her shoulder because she wishes she were born a boy. Now we see George (still followed by Timmy) maintain her fieriness. She still does not back away from a good argument and stridently voices her progressive political viewpoints.

Timmy is George’s dog! He loves food and is extremely loyal and clever. He will defend the children from any smugglers, crooks or evil tutors that threaten the kiddos. In today’s day and age, he is still much the same, except now he isn’t called upon to attack villains quite so often.

In the original series, Dick is kind of the understated comic relief – the annoying-but-funny kid in the class. He loves food and is kind of forgettable – we tend to think of him as Julian and Anne’s brother rather than someone in his own right. Years later, Dick is still kind of unmemorable. He would probably be the most likeable of the characters if we were to bump into them. He’s still funny, except now he’s actually funnier.

Last but not least: Anne. The youngest of the three siblings, Anne is timid, sweet and seems to end up doing all the housework, because she loves to pretend to be the mother of the group – she has great fun organising the 'larder' in the cave, for instance. Although she isn’t that fond of adventures, she always comes along with the others anyway. Now, while Anne still is inclined to her caretaking role, she is no longer the timid and shy girl we grew up reading about. The most mature and sensible of the group, she is often left to reel Julian and George in from their extremes and no longer puts up with any nonsense.

Also in the modern books, a new character named Rupert is introduced. He is a smooth-talking, slippery and self-serving cousin of the Kirrins, with a finger in every pie.

Five On Brexit Island

This book opens just after the results of the referendum to stay or leave the EU are published. Tempers were already running hot already – Julian wished to leave, George wanted to stay and Timmy wanted sausages. Upon hearing that Britain voted to leave, hot-tempered George declares that if Britain is stupid enough to leave the EU, she is going to make Kirrin Island independent!

Perfect for when you are in the mood for: a little bit of absurdity, political angst and extra-dramatic family-feuds

Illustration of the Five from the book.
There, squatting down, Timmy laid his profound expression of the democratic process.

Tania’s Rating: 3/5

Compared to the other two that we read, I felt that Five On Brexit Island was the most pessimistic. I, for better or for worse, am not the most informed on what exactly went down during Brexit, so I was struggling in some parts to understand the plot through the Britishness. The laugh out loud humour that’s present in this series was definitely there though – there were some great zingers delivered by Julian, George and, surprisingly, Anne.

Katherine’s Rating: 3.5/5

Like Tania, I went into this book not knowing a great deal about all the kerfuffle surrounding Brexit politics. However, despite the fact that parts of the political comedy went over my head, I found it very funny and supported George in her bids for independence. So if you like politics (and if you find them a bit, or a lot, ridiculous) and know about Brexit, this is the book for you.

Five Get On the Property Ladder

After Uncle Quentin blows up part of his house in a science experiment, he and Aunt Fanny are in need of some money to rebuild. This spells trouble for the five, who have been living in a London flat owned by Fanny and Quentin. With George’s parents wishing to sell the flat to get money, the five need to find somewhere to live . . . With the help of their slippery cousin Rupert, a real estate agent (amongst other 'professions') they go on the (elusive) hunt for the right property available at an affordable price.

Part of the book that interested us both was the portrayal of Cousin Rupert – was he self-serving or was he actually trying to help them find a house? We will never know – maybe both. You will have to read the book to find out for yourself.

Perfect for when you are in the mood for: endless and very funny catastrophe, realising how little money you have in the bank and preparing to leave the nest (or when you can’t afford your rent)

Illustration of the Five from the book.
She felt pretty sure that the previous occupant had died here, and she wasn’t at all convinced they would have been unhappy about it.

Tania’s Rating: 3/5

Mixed feels for this one. I loved the first half of this book where the Five are on the hunt for their new house. Rupert’s ability to talk up terrible real estate options was really astounding. He was probably my favourite character in this book (we love a good villain). For this reason, the second act of the book felt like it was dragging for me because they ditched Rupert as their real estate agent and we didn’t see as much of him. Quick shout-out for the Burger King scene on the car trip.

Katherine’s Rating: 4/5

I really enjoyed this book! Watching George, Anne, Julian and Timmy try (and fail, and fail, and fail) on their search for an affordable place to live was very amusing. Cousin Rupert was a favourite here, in all his slimy glory and sleaziness.

My favourite scene was when they found what seemed to be a great home on a houseboat . . . and then threw a party to celebrate finding it and set the whole thing on fire by accident. It took some fast talking for Rupert to get them out of paying the damages.

Five At The Office Christmas Party

Julian has joined the rest of the five in working for Cousin Rupert’s shady company after being fired. Morale has recently been rather low in the office as there have been job cuts, with a few more on the way (sugar coated as the Resource Realignment Project). To boost everyone’s mood, Rupert assigns the five with the task of planning the annual Christmas party. A simple task . . . but how will they achieve it after 'researching' their budget away?

Perfect for when you are in the mood for: getting festive or being a Grinch and laughing at workplace ridiculousness

Everyone tensed and leant forward, wondering who this could possibly be. A stripper? Surely not. A musical act? Please, no. What, then?

Tania’s Rating: 5/5

This was the first Famous Five adult adaptation that I read and I enjoyed every minute. It probably helped that I got it around Christmas as well, so reading it felt very seasonal! The hilarious scene in the beginning where Julian gets fired after unsuccessfully applying for a promotion with a fake resume (listing accomplishments such as playing tennis in the French open, spending two years on an underwater expedition etc.) . . . too much. Like the others, this book is laugh out loud funny as it delves into the pleasures and sorrows of working at an office.

Katherine’s Rating: 3/5

Another very funny book. I particularly enjoyed the first half, but by the time we were actually at the Christmas party the plot began to feel a tad contrived, so the ending rather jarred me. Up until that point, I really could see everything happening, but I hadn’t actually thought that George’s apocalyptic-style daydreams about avoiding work might actually come true in a way . . . I mean, there were hints that Rupert was not exactly, well, shall we say, above board, but I don’t think they were quite good enough in leading up to that event at the end. Of course, that doesn’t mean this book isn’t good – on the contrary, it’s extremely funny and some parts of it just make me want to read it out loud to my long-suffering family – but there’s something about using explosions as a dramatic device in a plot that just rubs my fur up the wrong way. I would have been content to stick with the office disasters.

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