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Five Are Together AgainReview by Nigel Rowe (January 4, 2006)
The twenty-first story in the Famous Five saga sees Julian, Dick, Anne and George on a train, approaching Kirrin, where they are to spend the Easter holidays. Amazingly (unless I missed something in an earlier book), Timmy does not now stay with George at her school. When did this happen? Would George leave Timmy at Kirrin whilst she was at school? Curious. However, there is no-one to meet them, not even Tim. Convinced something is wrong, George rushes poste-haste to Kirrin Cottage, in a taxi.
When the other three reach the cottage, they find George in tears. How like a girl! Surprise, surprise; illness has just struck Kirrin Cottage again. Poor old Joan has scarlet fever, has to go to hospital and Quentin and Fanny are in quarantine inside, and cannot let the children in. What are they to do?
A solution is found and the Five can stay with Professor Hayling and Tinker, who live a few miles away. They all climb on a bus, and off they go.
The Haylings live at a house called "Big Hollow", in a village called Big Hollow. Well at least it's not "Hayling House", Hayling. Enid really is a little unimaginative with place names. It is decided that the Five plus Tinker (and Mischief, the monkey) can camp in an adjoining field, where to their pleasure, a circus is to set up camp too.
I find it very strange that no reference is made to other holidays/adventures that the Five have shared, given the similarities in this one. After all, they went off in caravans and stayed near a circus in Five go off in a Caravan and stayed in a field with circus folk in Five Have a Wonderful Time. We meet the circus people, but without the wonderful characterisation of the Faynight's circus folk. There is the usual 'rubber man', a sad-looking clown, yet another Grandad, yet another chimpanzee... yawn. There is also a Chinese magician called Mister Wooh.
Chatting round the camp fire, Tinker tells of his father's wonderful inventions, and mentions the Tower errected in the grounds of his house, where the Prof. is hiding his important papers. Again, I find it incredible that the Five don't recollect the Tower on the Island in Five on Kirrin Island Again. It beggars belief that such a similarity goes unnoticed. There is also a scene featuring a donkey-skin, where two people prance about inside it—remember Clopper in Five go Down to the Sea? The four don't seem to.
Professor Hayling's papers get stolen, although three locked doors in the tower remain locked. The rest of the plot is lifted straight from The Rilloby Fair Mystery. Really, Enid!
A poor finish then to an incredible series. If someone only read this book, he or she would think it a reasonable story. Compared to some of the others though, it is a very poor 'last attempt' of the series. Judging by the last paragraph, ("Hurry up and fall into another adventure. We are longing to hear what you and the others will be up to next.) it wasn't planned to be the last—but the last it was. Sic Transit Gloria.
Five Are Together AgainReview by Heather in Australia (January 12, 2006)
A bout of scarlet fever is the tool this time to separate the Five from caregivers, and they are shipped off to Professor Hayling's, who from past experience I can't imagine inviting four rowdy children and a dog to stay. Nevertheless, there they are. And there's also the re-emergence of Tinker and his monkey Mischief, one of the few secondary characters Blyton re-used in the Five books. Professor Hayling comes across as an even more daydreamy version of Uncle Quentin, and can't abide the children, Timmy and Mischief making too much noise.
The children decide camping in the field is preferable to putting up with the good Professor, and promptly relocate. Of course the story couldn't end with simple camping, so suddenly a circus shows up with rights to camp in Tinker's field. Unfortunately traveling circuses have never set up in any fields near my house, but I guess it could happen if the imagination is stretched slightly. Then Tinker's boasting gets things moving—a burglary occurs in the Professor's tower.
Now this is where the plot begins to be totally recycled. A circus. A conjurer who acts oddly. A trained chimp with the ability to scale walls and steal papers. Anybody? To me this is a wholesale lift from two Barney mysteries—Rilloby Fair and Rubadub. Anybody who has read the Barney books would immediately solve the mystery. It's just far to much of a coincidence—or did Blyton just assume that her FF audience was a different one to those who had read the Barney series? Really, how many trained English chimps who live in circuses and steal important documents are there?
Copied plots aside, the book is really much more interesting than the previous one—it's definitely not so matter-of-fact, and is written with enough interesting imagery (the irate, muddled professor, the interesting circus-folk, the aforementioned trained chimp) to keep the story moving. The short and pointless hunt for a ladder seems a little contrived, almost like "we know it's the chimp, but what else could have been used?" But in all it's a reasonable (if slightly unbelievable) story that fits well with the rest of the series.
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