Warts and all

With hindsight it was probably a mistake to sit down with my daughter to watch Enid (BBC4, Monday). Before it started, Girl was a massive fan, especially of the Naughtiest Girl series and The Magic Faraway Tree. By the end, she pronounced herself so disgusted with the evil hag that she swore never to read another word.

I’m not sure how glad I should be. On the one hand, I suppose it’s good that Girl will no longer have her expensive boarding-school fixation stoked by the Naughtiest Girl’s frolicsome japes. On the other, though Blyton can indeed be pretty repetitive and dull, she’s one of those writers that children seem to be able to read happily to themselves again and again. And I do like the vision of England that her books promote: country as yet undefiled by wind farms; jam sandwiches; children buggering off to do their own thing without troubling adults.

Anyway, Enid — a warts, warts and more warts portrait of the author with Helena Bonham Carter in the title role — was so unremittingly grim I wish I hadn’t bothered. ‘Can she really have been as ghastly as that?’ I asked my wife. ‘Well, her daughter always claimed she was,’ the wife replied. I checked. It seems that indeed she was: vain, haughty, selfish, vindictive, horribly unloving towards both her depressive, alcoholic husband (Hugh Pollock — her editor and a first world war DSO) and her two daughters Gillian and Imogen.

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