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Enid BLYTON: 16. Five Go to Billycock Hill (1957)
Review by Michael Edwards - also appears on Amazon.co.uk
Appears on Amazon.co.uk:
Date : 26 August, 1999
Rating : 4/5
Heading : Slightly tame and less focused Famous Five adventure.
The Five go cycling over to camp on Billycock Hill, close to the farm where
a friend, Toby, lives. Also nearby is the butterfly farm owned by Mr. Gringle
and Mr. Brent, where everything just doesn't seem quite right: the two butterfly
experts are themselves strange, and one doesn't seem to recognize a Fritillary,
and goes moth-hunting on a stormy night when no moths would be around; also, old
Mrs. Janes who lives there seems constantly afraid of what her "bad" son will do
if strangers visit the farm.
There are other strange events, too. For instance, the Billycock Caves are
nearby, and the children go exploring, only to come bolting out in panic after
hearing strange noises in distant caves.
Nearby is a military airfield which is thrown into disarray that same
stormy night that Mr. Brent was out moth-hunting, when two top-secret
experimental aircraft are stolen and flown overseas, one apparently piloted by
Toby's cousin, Jeff, who seemed so decent and admirable to everyone, especially
the doting Toby, that surely he couldn't be a traitor to his own country? But
he and a colleague are the only airmen on the airfield who are missing, so the
evidence seems pretty conclusive.
The Five and Toby investigate, thinking that maybe these disparate strange
events are related somehow; they focus their attention on the butterfly farm,
which seems to be at the centre of things, and a plot gradually emerges, and
everything eventually falls into place, with a few shocks and surprises along
While this story is quite engrossing, as are all the Famous Five books, and
contains its share of surprises and revelations, it seems less exciting, and the
plot a bit less focused, than many of the other Famous Five books. The children
barely come into contact with their opposition, if you don't count the enigmatic
butterfly men, who may or may not be real antagonists, and certainly not the
main ones; the only contact with anyone more sinister than the butterfly men
occurs in one brief burst, unlike most of the other Famous Five books, where the
conflict between the two sides is usually far more direct, and much longer.
This remoteness of the real antagonists probably accentuates the effect the
story gives of being less exciting, less focused. The story itself seems rather
episodic, not building up momentum in the same inexorable way that some of the
other stories do. It might be a flaw that the most exciting moment just
referred to comes several chapters before the end of the book. And it is only
a moment, not several chapters long like many other Famous Five climaxes, and it
is less exciting than most of those other climaxes even while it lasts.
Also, a significant flaw in the nuts and bolts of the plot is where the two
stolen planes crash into the sea, killing the two pilots (extremely rare
instances of death occurring in Enid Blyton's novels, albeit off-stage). Unless
the planes were sabotaged (which was not mentioned, and wouldn't fit in with the
plot), it just lacks credibility that two planes should crash (presumably
accidentally) at the same time, and even the fact that it was a stormy night
does not seem sufficient explanation, although you are left to presume that the
storm did it, because no explanation was given for why the planes crashed. (I
suppose the storm could do it, if it was extremely severe - but it didn't seem
Those negative things said, the book is certainly as readable as any of the
other Famous Five books, and you do keep reading to find out what happened -
especially if you are indulging in a little nostalgia and reading it again for
the first time in perhaps 35 years, as I did recently, and have forgotten most
of the details of the plot.
E-mail me about this book.
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Original text copyright (C) 1999, 2000, by Michael Edwards.
More material on this web site related to Blyton
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Introduction - Front page, which leads to Contents
Web Site of Michael Edwards - Contents
Writings by Michael Edwards
Famous Five Books
16. Five Go to Billycock Hill (this page)
This page created on Friday, 12 May, 2000;
last modified on Thursday, 15 June, 2000.