Well, I have now read this book, though I will continue to do what I normally do when I wish to revisit a review and that is to keep my older one below (normally because there are still things there that are relevant despite me having reviewed this book without reading it in like 25 years). Now I can also legitimately add it to my reading list as I have now read the book as opposed to my Dad reading it to me when I was six.
Once again the adult world seems to hang in the background. We have a new child enter the story, Dick, who was sent out to the country because his mother was sick. I initially thought that this was a euphamism for the time when British children were sent out to the country to avoid the blitz, but I do not think that is the case. I suspect Blyton is simply creating a device that could be plausible in any situation, despite the book being written in 1943. Anyway, in Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Lewis is quite specific about the children going to the country to escape the blitz though it does tend to lock the story into the early 1940s as opposed to keeping it timeless as Blyton does.
It is also noticeable that the family is self sufficient (and mother and father do not have names) but much of that self-sufficience does rely upon the existence of the Enchanted Wood and the Faraway Tree. I mentioned previously about how this could have been a reflection of the Depression in the earlier book, and in this book Dad seems to play a really minor role (Mum is more noticeable) but we do note that everybody tends to work around the house tending to the garden among other things. I also previously questioned whether there was anything that the adults would have seen in the Enchanted Wood, but in both stories we do have characters from the wood coming out to the cottage. Mother even watches the children return home flying on a table.
I should mention a bit about the children, the main characters, and maybe some of the characters who live in the tree. The children do not seem to be fully fleshed characters. I do get the impression that Jo is the oldest, and to the extent the wisest, so takes a leadership role, and Bessie is the youngest. I also get the impression that Dick is rash and does not think things through, but the children are all willing to learn from their mistakes, and thus grow (though occasionally we do see a rather nasty side to the children). The characters in the tree are a little more developed, but they are also fairy creatures. Of the fairies the one I dislike the most is Saucepanman.
Don't get me wrong, Saucepanman is a unique and interesting character, but he just really annoys me. He seems to be incredibly stupid, in addition to being partially deaf. Also he seems to cause more problems than solved, though the children seem to love him nonetheless. Moonface seems to be the wisest, though once again seems to defer wisdom to the children. Silky seems to be a pretty face that simply hangs around but has little in the way of personality. Ironically, it is the angry pixie, Mrs Washalot, and Watzisname, that seem to have the fuller characters, probably because they are flawed and have a mean streak.
Once again the children go on five adventures, four of them being them stumbling around the fairyworld getting into trouble and then finding their way out of it. There is no real antagonist and no storyarc connecting the book together. However, also like the first book, we have an invasion of the Faraway Tree that the children must step in to solve. In the first book it was the Red Goblins (who wanted a magic spell), this time it is the Land of Temper (or temper tantrums) where a couple of inhabitants imprison our friends in the tree and the children must rescue them.
Blyton's world of the Enchanted Wood is a realm of very high magic, though it is noticeable that most of the magic occurs within the wood, though all of the characters in the wood are magical in one way or another. This is obviously the nature of fairy tales as opposed to more adult orientated fantasy novels. Granted, many of the fantasy novels are set in a high fantasy world, but magic seems to take on a different form. The term high and low magic tends to refer to how common magic is in a world. A low magic world would be something like Song of Fire and Ice (Game of Thrones) though some could also point to our world. However, while I would agree that our world is certainly not high magic, my position is that it is not a no-magic world either. I guess the closest that I have seen to what magic in our world could be like would be the Eric series, however Melnibone does seem to be more magical in other senses than our world is (Melnibone would actually be considered a high magic world, but the aspects of demon summoning that permeate the world reflect some of the ideas that come out of real world literature).
The First Review (8 March 2012)
I don't really know if I can truly say that I read this book because technically I didn't, my Dad read it to me when I was really, really young, and while I cannot remember all that much about this book, I can remember that I was enchanted by it. Personally, I really cannot say whether I should include a book that was read to me, but in this case I will simply because Blyton is one of those authors that stands out from the rest as a true children's author. There have been children's books around for a long time (though I wonder if the Grimm's fairy tales were originally for kids) but here we have an author that would stand the test of time.
Blyton was never really a fantasy writer, she actually wrote a lot of other stories that were more like mystery stories for kids, however here we have a fairy tale about a magical tree that upon climbing to the top you find yourself in a new magical land. However, it wasn't just the top but also the adventure of climbing the tree as well because I remember there were lots of characters who lived in this tree.
As I said, I cannot truly remember the plot, even if there was a plot to this story. It could easily have been an excuse to go on a magical journey and visit magical places. It is interesting because looking at when it was written it was not really a time when people could have gone on holidays. It was the middle of World War II, travelling outside of the country was dangerous, and one could not go to any of the wonderful places in Europe. Travelling by sea was dangerous as well since the German U-boats had no qualms in targeting passenger liners, so instead of travelling the world, one would end up having to travel in their imagination.
I am probably reading too much into this, but it was a book that I remember being read to me as a child, and it is a real shame that I suspect that I no longer have it, however, what I might do is I might try digging through our back shed later on to see what is actually been hidden up there. Maybe, if I am lucky, I will discover that we still have these books up there gathering dust. That would be really good in my opinion.