Born in London, she began writing while still in school. Her first attempts at writing were rejected by publishers which just made her more determined to succeed. She trained as a teacher and in her spare time continued to write. Her first book, a collection of poems, was published in Her first series of books, "Old Thatch", began in and eventually encompassed 28 books. In all, she wrote over books which sold over million copies.
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Yip, Armada cover included. Did I have a clue what was really happening? And that was fine. Enid Blyton tells us how she wrote her books in chapter 14 of her autobiography, The Story of My Life. She uses her story, The Enchanted Wood as her example. You all know the Find-Outers books, I expect. There are always children, of course, or something to do with the world of children.
What do I see? Yes - five children, and I know their names - Larry and Daisy, brother and sister, aged 13 and 12, Pip and Bets, brother and sister, aged 12 and 8, and year-old Fatty, who has a dog called Buster. I can see if they are tall or short, dark or fair, fat or thin.
And more than that, in some queer way I can see into their characters too. I know if they are kind or unkind, hot-tempered, generous, amusing or deceitful!
They stand there complete before me, exactly as they would in real life, and I can see every single detail of them. I do not have to invent anything, either in their appearance of their character. They are complete. As is Buster, the feisty, black Scottie. I know their Christian names at once - but never their surnames. I have to confess that when I want those I go and look up suitable names in the telephone directory. They move and laugh and talk - they are real to me now. They will be with me all the time I write my book.
This is important too. Mysteries cannot happen without characters to experience them, and a place to happen in! I see a lovely English village - Peterswood! A broad river rolls through it. A railway line takes people from the village south into London. I am excited! This is a strange and thrilling setting. Anything might happen here! Where do they lead to? My imagination tells me at once! This village that reminds me so much of Bourne End, where I lived with my first husband and we raised our two children, now eight and twelve.
In the house itself, lives an arrogant, bad-tempered man who dislikes children. He has a cook, a house-maid, a valet, a chauffeur but no wife and each of them is a distinctive individual, with weaknesses and talents. Really anything could happen in that house. And when it happens the children will want to be there, to solve the mystery.
In the middle of the village is a police house, where the policeman lives. Goodness, he is a strange man! The battle between this policeman, Goon, and the children will be at the centre of my book. I can smell burning.
What is that? Ah, yes, you know, because you have read the book. I have to look and see what makes sense of the smell. And I see that the cottage beside the house is on fire. Not the house, but the outhouse, thank goodness. I know that my new book is going to be about five children and their dog and they are going to explore Peterswood and investigate the burning cottage.
They are going to discover clues and investigate suspects and they are going to have the most amazing adventures as they do so. Larry and Daisy can see it to the west of the village. They make their way towards it, running into Pip and Bets as they do so.
Mr Hick, who has been in London for the afternoon, is loudly lamenting the loss of his valuable papers as the half-timbered walls come crashing down. Mr Hick is tall and stooping, with a tuft of hair sticking out n front.
He has a long nose with eyes hidden behind big specs. Hick wants everyone to go away. Joseph Abbey. Timothy Banks. These images are strong and pertinent. Enid is burning with long-suppressed rage. And by writing this book she is exorcising demons.
Enid locates the action of The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage at what is effectively Old Thatch, the house where she lived for ten years. The house is about a mile west of the middle of Bourne End and a few hundred yards from the north bank of the River Thames. As already stated, he lives there with various servants. The valuable papers that go up in flames result in an insurance claim being made by Hick. Were there ever any valuable papers kept at Old Thatch?
But Burnt Cottage was typed while sitting on the swing-seat in the south-facing loggia at Green Hedges or indoors, as shown third image from top of page, depending on the weather in the nearby town of Beaconsfield. Not at Old Thatch. Given that it was published in December , it was probably written in early when Enid was having a relationship with Kenneth Darrell Waters and waiting for her divorce from Hugh to become absolute, which would happen in June of that year.
Hugh would also have had some important papers at Old Thatch, I expect. All that war nonsense that Hugh used as an excuse to neglect his family. Below is how Old Thatch looks now, courtesy of the Google mapping project. Although it looks from the photo below as if Enid was working quite close to the road, Coldmoorholme Lane would have been very quiet back in the s.
Besides, she is cut off from the sound and vision of road-users by sheltering hedges. The sneak peek is courtesy of the artist, Joseph Abbey. I wonder if she even provided him with the snap of herself typing outside Old Thatch! The hedges are not as high as in reality, so that we, her privileged readers, can see what is going on.
Someone has set fire to the beautiful house where Enid was inspired to write both the Wishing Chair and Magic Faraway Tree, amongst so much else. Goon can only look away, ineffectually. As will become clear as this analysis proceeds. A proper pillock as far as Enid Blyton circa was concerned. But I need to get back to the surface action. At this stage, the four do not know Fatty, having just met him the previous night. Fatty tells the others he is staying at the local inn close to the burnt cottage.
They had on sun-suits and nothing else, for the August sun was blazing hot. See Buster scampering around between the five new-found friends. See them decide to be the Find-Outers and Dog. Larry is the leader at this stage of the series. They discuss what they will do next. They need to find out more about the tramp who was seen by Fatty lurking around that night.
And they need to interview Mr. Just a quick reminder of where we are. All the action so far has taken place on a lane to the west of Peterswood. The whole of the village will be engulfed by The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage, but let that unfold chapter by chapter. Footprints found at the fringe of the Hick property suggesting someone had been lurking there.
Joseph Abbey The above is by Joseph Abbey who illustrated with nine drawings the first edition in The drawing below is by Mary Gernat, who made fresh drawings for the paperback edition of Fresh being the operative word.
Mary Gernat. As Pip puts it. The only reason for standing in nettles in a muddy ditch was to hide. They take a detailed note of the footprint made by a rubber sole. They learn that after Mr Peeks was given the sack and walked out, Mr Smellie came along and had an argument with Hick.
The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage
Shelves: children-s-literature , british , cat , dog , dogs , enid-blyton , five-find-outers , mystery , series Findouters Challenge: Book 1. Among Enid Blytons mystery series, the Five Findouters have always been my favourite though I read and loved the others too , one reason being the very imaginative solutions to so many of their cases. This time around Ive decided to read all 15 of the books chronologically for the first time. The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage is the first of the series and opens with siblings Laurence Larry and Margaret Daisy Daykin waking up to the smell of a fire.
The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage (Five Find-Outers #1)
The five children, Larry and Daisy Daykin, Pip and Bets Hilton, and newcomer Frederick Algernon Trotteville later nicknamed Fatty from his initials , meet at the scene of the fire and end up solving the mystery together. Their suspects include an old tramp, a dismissed servant, a hostile colleague, and the cook. They find certain clues: Broken-down nettles in a ditch, a footprint in a grassy field, and planes which Mr. Hick mentions "flew over" the other day.
Unlike many future volumes this story starts with the major crime incident that the story is about, the firing of Mr. Larry Daykin spots the fire to the west of the village from his bedroom window as he is preparing to go to bed. As his parents are out, he and his sister Daisy are free to get dressed and go and investigate. En route down their lane they pass another house from which they are joined by their contemporary Pip Hilton and his sister Bets who is four years younger. As the Hilton parents are quite strict about letting their children out we must assume they too are out for the evening. Arriving with several other villagers at the fire scene they discover that as the nearest fire engine is in the next village the fire has taken an unassailable hold on the cottage.