Book name: First Term at Malory Towers
Author: Enid Blyton
Genre: School stories, vintage children’s fiction
Publication Date: 1946
Star Rating: 5/5
Enid Blyton wrote many school stories as part of her immense repertoire of children’s books during the twentieth century.
I am reviewing the Egmont Press 2015 edition.
First Term at Malory Towers sees three new girls boarding the train to the school: Gwendoline, Sally and Darrell.
Sally is curiously unforthcoming, whereas Gwendoline immediately marks herself out as being very spoilt. Darrell is the most promising of the three.
Darrell is befriended by Alicia, who is full of the kind of energy that easily leads to trouble.
Darrell is happy enough about going off to boarding school and starts off well. She’s determined to work hard and do well, and she also wants to fit in and make friends.
By comparison, Gwendoline is annoyed at being removed from home and makes little effort to fit in.
Sally keeps herself to herself, and outwardly gets along okay but inwardly is struggling with the decision to send her to boarding school.
During First Term at Malory Towers, we learn that Sally is struggling to adjust to having a new sibling whose illness is taking much of her mother’s attention.
Darrell’s challenge is to control her temper. She loses it during a swimming lesson and also shoves Sally viciously on a separate occasion.
She also needs to learn to resist the challenge of following Alicia’s naughty lead and getting into mischief.
Of the three arrivals at Malory Towers, Gwendoline is the archetypal school story new girl.
She resents being there, she makes no effort with her studies and she doesn’t care about making friends.
It is very common for school stories to feature someone of this kind, whose personal journey during the narrative leads them to become one of the school and fit in.
However, instead of focusing on just one new girl Enid Blyton splits that narrative function into three.
Darrell is the part of the new girl who will eventually learn to get along and be a success. Sally is the part of the new girl whose struggles at boarding school stem from external factors. Gwendoline is the part of the new girl that resists changing for the better.
It was intriguing to see these elements personified in three different girls.
In terms of plot, First Term at Malory Towers was very straightforward. There were none of the big external events that often drive a school-story plot, but this gave plenty of room for the exploration of the psychology of going to school, in particular going to boarding school. I liked that about the book.
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