The Enchanted Wood (Gift Edition) (The Magic Faraway Tree) by Enid Blyton

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The Enchanted Wood (Gift Edition) (The Magic Faraway Tree) by Enid Blyton

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Buy The Enchanted Wood (Gift Edition) (The Magic Faraway Tree) by Enid Blyton at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: There are no lashings of comfort food and drinks here, but this melange of Alice in Wonderland and Pinocchio reads almost as old as those classics and relies too much on returning to homely normality in between its episodes of fantasy.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 240 Date: September 2016
Publisher: Egmont
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781405283014

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Meet Joe, Beth and Frannie. For any child the idea of moving to a completely different way of life – leaving a city for an idyllic country cottage – should be more than enough adventure, but not for these three. They soon get told the mysterious woodland nearby is enchanted – they have already noticed a slight difference in the trees, and have a suspicion they talk to each other. And it's not long before they encounter what the forest natives, animals and little folk alike, call the Magic Faraway Tree. All they have to do is climb it against all logical thought and see whatever distant, fantastical and ever-changing world is above the top at any particular time. But can the temptation of that be greater than the fear of the unknown, and of it possibly being a one-way trip…?

Of course it can. Since when has logical thought really driven any children in such a fantasy adventure? And here the fantasia is almost Carrollesque, in that the worlds they find above the tree could almost fall into the Wonderland category. They need burrowing rabbits to help them drop out of the first world, the second subverts Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and so on.

A lot about this book, however, shows a vintage that subverts the logic of the usual, more modern fiction for the young. For one thing, we really don't get any character for the three – no clues (beyond the special illustrations for these new editions, which really didn't appeal to me at all) of how they look – and no clear indication as to age, until the very end. I assumed Frannie was the baby of the three, but it's not certain. Joe fits into the pattern of having paternal thoughts about the others, while they are suitably feminine and domesticated, as the chatty, interjection-heavy narrative style tells us, but I guess he's the middle child. When they get back that first time to the logical world we know from experience there's nothing said about how time here has passed, or not. Even more heinous, for me, was a complete failure in defining all the different woodland folk – pixies, goblins, elves and more all turn up, but don't get described whatsoever.

The chief issue for me, though, was that, whatever initial fun the different worlds atop the tree provided, the book clearly fell into a pattern of linked short stories – four or five of the tiny chapters here concerning each world in turn, with returning characters aplenty, but little in the way of consequence. You can tell the threat is of no major concern when there are more return tree-climbs to be had. (And of course, hardly anyone has trouble climbing a huge, tall tree that leaves the rest of the woodland far below.)

I can find nothing to justify this style – it doesn't seem to have been published as a part-work, but in an original novel form. People who bought that will recognise alterations between these modern editions and the original – name changes, and a tweak to one character. I won't go into all the rights and wrongs of that behaviour, but I will question why people – as they clearly are – are still buying these books for their young. I came here in the knowledge of a good friend, who interrupts work on his MA with collecting and still reading Blyton. This leapt from the weirdest fantasy outside of Carroll to the most humdrum, and was too polite and anodyne as a result. Like any collections of short stories, some parts are better than others, but on the whole I failed to see why this is still a well-known classic. Still, I will happily test the waters of the first sequel, which is thought even more highly of…

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

Five on a Treasure Island - Famous Five by Enid Blyton is another chance to look back at Blyton – we have had mixed thoughts about her over the years!

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Buy The Enchanted Wood (Gift Edition) (The Magic Faraway Tree) by Enid Blyton at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Enchanted Wood (Gift Edition) (The Magic Faraway Tree) by Enid Blyton at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The Enchanted Wood (Gift Edition) (The Magic Faraway Tree) by Enid Blyton at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Enchanted Wood (Gift Edition) (The Magic Faraway Tree) by Enid Blyton at Amazon.com.

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