(Disclaimer: Not only did I receive a copy from Red Fox in exchange for consideration for review - thanks! - but I'm thanked in the author's note for this one. This is one of the coolest book-related things that's ever happened to me, but in case people think that I'm biased, I should point out this review was pretty much written before I'd realised that - I finished the book with about 10 seconds to go before starting work, tried reviewing at lunchtime, and only read the author's note in the afternoon. It's just it reduced me to such a state of excitement that it's taken me a couple of weeks to edit that lunchtime review into something even semi-coherent!)
“I hope I’m allowed to like things when not all of them is perfect.”
Just typing that line, a quote from this magnificent, superb story, is making me need to bite my lip a bit, because it sums things up so beautifully. In Pea’s Book Of Holidays, (fourth in series, this post is likely to be completely incomprehensible anyway because all I really want to do is say “OMG BUY IT NOW!” so probably not TOO much need to worry about spoilers), Pea says this, referring to Enid Blyton. But it reflects so well on the novel as a whole, and opening up a wider discussion, that I wanted to lead with it.
This is outstanding because it is simultaneously a love letter to Enid Blyton and stories like hers, and an insightful critique as to the issues with reading books from her era today. But of course, more than any of those things, it’s a charming, wonderful, and beautifully written story of adventure, friendship and family.
I love everyone in these books. Imaginative, sweet, caring Pea herself, younger sister Tinkerbell, colossally daring but with the kind of mood swings that explain how she got the nickname Stinks, older sister Clover, trying to become a great actress… then there’s the girls’ mother, a loving but seriously stressed-out author who’s desperate to write her latest novel. And – even if we don’t see them as much as usual – Dr Paget and Dr Skidelsky. the two ladies who live next door with their twins Sam 1 and Sam 2, get some wonderful lines, especially when they’re talking about Blyton, taking one side of the argument each.
Pea realises herself at one point that Enid Blyton simply didn’t write about certain types of people (at least not as main characters) – mixed-race girls like Tinkerbell, families like the two Sams and their mothers, or people with hemiplegia like Ryan, who they meet on holiday. Despite this, though, Pea and Tink still enjoy the stories, and Pea’s upset when they’re criticised, wondering “were there special rules about which bits of reading she was allowed to love?”
Parts of the novel read like Golden Age stories, part read like ultra-modern tales – often the same parts, in fact! I’m not sure anyone is as good as Susie Day at making a book seem both fresh and timeless, to be honest.
I teared up towards the end of the book – partly at the last letter Pea writes to Enid Blyton, and the one she writes to Anne, which was beyond wonderful.
I loved it – it’s one of the only two books all year – the other being Far From You by Tess Sharpe – which I’ve pre-ordered even though I already own a copy, because I know that I’ll want to give at least one of these as a present.
Staggeringly huge recommendation.
As part of my Countdown to 5th June tour, Susie wrote this brilliant guest post at Fluttering Butterflies about Enid Blyton – you really should read it!