The Secret Island by Enid Blyton

I adored The Secret Island, it had everything a child would find exciting; running away, hiding, an island, self sufficiency, danger. The children were barely ten years old and they could catch and gut fish, get cows to swim, build willow houses, you name it.

Looking back now I do wonder about a number of things . . . . . . . what were the lavatorial arrangements? One assumes a small latrine, but it is never mentioned. When the children pack all the provisions in the hollow tree they put in a sack of potatoes, a wooden plank, all sorts of things, but no loo roll – and they live on the island for ages on one bar of soap and two roller towels and then the soap runs out! Horrors! Not even a teeny bottle of anti-bacterial handgel, and with all the fish gutting too. And while they bathe in the lake all through the summer, there is no mention of the washing arrangements in the winter. Best to pass over that one I think.

Anyway, as a child you don’t think about that sort of thing, you just see the charm of a life without parents telling you what to do, where the sun shines nearly all the time (where exactly in the UK was this island?!) and no-one gets ill or has a huge tantrum or points out inconvenient things like lack of loo roll.

It is an astonishingly perfect island. Not only does it have a spring for fresh water, it has a grassy area for the cow, caves for the winter, a willow copse to make the house, a seemingly never-ending supply of fish, and even wild raspberries. The children are also pretty perfect. There is one minor hiccup when Nora lets the hens escape and the others are a teensy bit cross with her, but there are none of the usual fights and fallings out that most ten year olds experience on a daily basis. Jack, who is firm but fair in the best tradition of Blyton’s head boys, is a sort of miniature adult with quite extraordinary intelligence, patience and leadership skills. Just occasionally, I wish he would say something really rude, like damn, or have a fist fight with Mike over the last basket of mushrooms.

As is usual with Enid Blyton the gender roles are rigidly defined; the boys catch fish and milk cows and the girls cook and sew and wash up the crockery. It all seems to run like clockwork, and of course there is the obligatory happy ending which is really quite touching when Jack becomes part of the family. Even on my first reading though I remember thinking that it was a tad risky to adopt a child one had only met a couple of hours ago. Luckily Jack is a decent chap so it all turns out perfectly.

I think it’s by far the best of Blyton’s ‘Secret’ series and I still enjoy a quick gallop through it occasionally.


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