Why is India in love with The Famous Five?

—Scones? Rocky Islands? Leaky Boats? Suzy investigates…

I loved reading Enid Blyton adventures as a child living in an English village and dreaming of having an island I could go to with no grown-ups to get in the way. I still get a thrill when I so much as hear a seagull and a wave or two. But Enid Blyton adventures were also tremendously popular in India, and still are, even today. Why? I really want to know, so please would anyone with friends and family in India ask them what they think?

According to an Indian grandmotherly friend of mine, in the mid-twentieth century many of the available home-grown story books, especially English language books, used to be of poor quality – mainly religious or folk tales re-hashed, often (though of course not always) poorly produced and hastily written. She said that, not me!

Families who wanted to read pleasurable new tales in flowing English started picking up imported books by Enid Blyton, among others, and the Famous Five series proved particularly popular, despite its bizarre social and ethnic references. It seems the tradition is still alive, even though India now has easy access to a world of brilliant books, home grown and otherwise. Facebook groups celebrating the stories of Enid Blyton have many participants from India.

I guess a child is a child, wherever they live, and any adventure where freedom from adults, a clear moral compass and bags of self-resilience triumph over a bunch of ne’er-do-wells is going to appeal. We all love escapism, and I loved them!

But my friend tells me that even while knowing that there are uncomfortable attitudes to “foreigners” in some of the stories, there are many adults in India who are still devoted to reading and re-reading these stories for their own pleasure.

I wonder whether good old food is really at the heart of it? In Search of Scones by Lalita Lyer explains why the scones did it for her. Read it here. And we’d would love to hear your comments, especially if you live in India! Comments to our Facebook page.

—Suzy Howlett (teacher, writer, co-author of Return to Kirrin)


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