Title: The Adventurous Four
Author: Enid Blyton
Age Rating: 9+
Star Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
It was a while since I last read this book, when I picked it up this week and it was nice to dive into the exciting pages of my old Armada copy of the book. It was also exciting to discover a completely new genre written by Enid Blyton: a genre weaved around War and secrets. Probably the most deadly secrets that any character created by Blyton, has ever encountered… The book was written in 1942, in the peak of the Second World War, and three siblings: Tom, Jill and Mary are staying at a small Village on the Scottish Coast. The author is quick to inform the reader that the children are very good friends with a local kindly fisher boy called Andy, who is going to take the children on a sailing adventure to a nearby island, where they would stay for the night and have endless fun building fires, camping, and catching fish, and bathing… But little did they imagine the excitment and danger that they would encounter.
The first reference to the War is when the children’s father is described to be in the Air Force.
Anyway, the children are all thrilled to be going away in Andy’s boat, but on the day that they are to set sail, Andy isn’t sure about the weather:
“I’m thinking we shouldn’t go,” he said as soon as he saw the children.
“Andy! Whatever do you mean?” they cried.
“Maybe you didn’t see the sky this morning?” said Andy, “It was as red as the geranium in our window. It was a right queer sky – and I’m thinking a storm will blow up today or tomorrow.”
Very much like George’s warning of the weather in ‘Five on a Treasure Island’ (also 1942) before the storm blows up:
“I think there’s going to be a storm or something,” looking out to the south-west.
“But George, why do you say that?” said Anne, impatiently. “Look at the sun – and there’s hardly a cloud in the sky!”
“The wind is wrong,” said George, “And can’t you see the little white tops to the waves out there by my island? That’s always a bad sign.”
Very similar speeches, and a very similar follow-up (except that the Famous Five’s boat doesn’t get wrecked).
Anyway, the children on Andy’s boat eventually loose control of the sail, etc, whilst battling against the brutal storm, and though they do reach their destination – they go past it! The wind and treacherous waves hurl them further and further into the sea, until at last – they hit rocks and are wrecked. Luckily (very fortunately indeed) there is land not too far away. A very welcome sight of several islands ahead, looms into vision, and the children wade to land, thankfully. Here Andy takes authority (becoming a very worthy and intelligent leader) and the children begin to decide what to do for the best. Their boat is wrecked for sure, so at last they decide to take everything out of the boat and use the sail as a signal. And so the boat is emptied and the sail is set up as a tent for the nighttimes and a signal for the daytimes.
After the first night the children decide that it would probably be for the best that they find an other place to sleep and so they come across a slightly tumble-down shack. (There are signs on the islands of past inhabitants, but Andy describes how it is likely that no-one lives here any more because of a storm that raged round these parts years ago). But anyhow, the shack is the children’s new sleeping-place, and after transferring all their belongings there, they decide to investigate the neighbouring island. There is a line of rocks between the two islands, uncovered twice a day by the tide.
Tom, Jill, Mary and Andy go across in hope of finding life and help there. But instead, a very interesting and daunting discovery is made. The discovery of a series of caves. Containing stacks and stacks of food.
Short of food, themselves, the children take the opportunity to claim some, but meanwhile, a baffling mystery gnaws at their brains – who does the food belong to? Andy seems quite suspicious, while the others talk about leaving a note to the owners of the food (who are nowhere in sight). In the end, they return to their own island with plenty of food, but not having left a note.
“There’s something a bit mysterious about all this, and if there’s a secret going on, we’d better keep out of it, until we know what it is.”
And then the mystery deepens. Tom and Andy decide to investigate the third island and there they find something intriguing as well as infuriating. A secret nest of submarines! Enemy submarines.
In 1942, the Germans were using U-boats (also called submarines) to sink British ships along the coast of America, which was perhaps Blyton’s inspiration for this ingenious, intriguing book. That is what the purpose of the submarines was, anyway, as established in this book.
But the islands weren’t only used as a unknown harbour for the submarines, they were also the hideout of the Germans who used them, and the children find themselves forever hiding from the possibility of being discovered.
Absolutely thrilling from start to finish. Very enjoyable, and it also had me on the edge of my seat – literally! Definitely worthy of the five star rating.
Next week’s review will be based on a dramatized audio book: Third Term at Malory Towers by Enid Blyton.