Bookshelf Travelling in Insane Times – 1st November

I’m a wee bit later than I had hoped to be with Bookshelf Travelling in Insane Times which was originally hosted by Judith at Reader in the Wilderness, but at the moment I’m gathering any posts.

My bookshelf this week is another one in my sewing/crafting/ironing room and this bookshelf is home to a variety of children’s books, I suppose they could all be described as being classics.

Books Again

As a youngster I adored Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers series and had all of the books, but my mother gave my books away to a boy who was certainly not going to appreciate any of them and I now only have a few of the books, I intend to gather them all and have a re-read at some point. These were the very first books that I read with a Cornish setting, not long after Malory Towers came Rebecca another favourite and ever since then I’ve loved to travel to Cornwall in fiction. My one holiday there (it’s a long drive from Scotland) was a very damp one. The BBC recently dramatised Malory Towers and I really did enjoy it although I wish they hadn’t updated it to appeal to more modern viewers, it’s always a mistake to remove the period charm of any books.

I have quite a few books by Rosemary Sutcliff, she really was a very good historical writer.

I started buying Angela Brazil books whenever I saw them going cheap, some can be eye wateringly expensive online, I must admit that I haven’t read all of them and I’m not even sure if I ever read any as a child. I was more of a Chalet School (Elinor M. Brent-Dyer) girl, I think I preferred the more exotic locations.

I sometimes buy books by particular publishers, namely Blackie. They were a Scottish firm and Blackie commissioned Charles Rennie Mackintosh to design Hill House in Helensburgh, including all the furniture, lighting, fabrics and clocks. It’s just about all that’s left of the architect/designer’s work now so I have a soft spot for Blackie and their books which often had book covers designed by Mackintosh. I doubt if For the Sake of the School was designed by Mackintosh but I really like it anyway.


I bought another Blackie book just for the dust jacket which features an aeroplane flying above a Zeppelin on fire. I haven’t read The Corsair of the Skies yet and hadn’t even heard of A.Guy Vercoe, have you?


Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster is one that I read for the first time recently. I like to catch up with children’s books that I missed as a child. My copy dates from 1929 and cost me all of £2.

Some of the books lying flat on top of the shelved books are American and were kindly sent to me by Jennifer, a blogpal that I met up with in Edinburgh, remember those lovely days when we could do that? Fingers crossed we can do that again at some point in the future. There’s also A Parcel of Patterns by Jill Paton Walsh. I noticed that her obituary was in the Guardian this week, you can read it here.

Other Bookshelf Travellers this week are:

A Son of the Rock

Bitter Tea and Mystery

Staircase Wit

In the Fifth at Malory Towers by Enid Blyton

I thought it would be interesting to read an Enid Blyton book again after watching the BBC biopic about her which was screened fairly recently. So I decided to read this one as part of the Flashback Challenge.

In the Fifth at Malory Towers was first published in 1950 but I read the whole Malory Towers series in the summer of 1969 when I was 10 years old. I remember that I was completely engrossed in the whole thing, I absolutely loved it, it was my alternative life.

In the Fifth is all about the girls in the fifth form being given more responsibility as they grow older, and being expected to work hard on their own. The beginning is the usual catching up with friends and the introduction of a new girl. Each girl’s personality is spelled out for us, there seems to be one of every sort of person.

They are given the task of producing an entertainment for the whole school and their families at Christmas. After some thought, they decide to put on a pantomime. Darrell writes a version of Cinderella, which as you would expect goes down a storm. There isn’t very much of ‘cool and steady’ Sally in this one, who I seem to remember was my favourite character.

Blyton obviously saw herself as the Darrell character and she is always the heroine of the day. There is no doubting the fact that Blyton was a pretty nasty person herself in reality, completely delusional. Well there’s a lot of it about.

Anyway, people tend to be a bit sniffy about Blyton nowadays, but I don’t really think it is fair. After all they are meant for young children and I certainly loved Malory Towers and The Famous Five when I was even younger.

I think that her writing was probably a bit dated even in 1969 but that probably just added to the charm for me. I went straight from Blyton to Agatha Christie then to other vintage crime writers and on to the classics from about 11 or 12 years old and I haven’t stopped since. Anything that gets people reading can’t be bad.

I had always been a member of the local library. But when my parents took me to Morecambe in Lancashire for a fortnights holiday in 1969, and it seemed to rain for the whole two weeks, Malory Towers was a lifesaver to me.

I bought the full set of six at the Morecambe branch of Woolworths, which of course, is sadly no longer with us. Having visited Morecambe last year for a day, (it didn’t rain) we decided to take this photograph of the old Woolies store for posterity.

Old Woolworths Morecambe