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Five On Kirrin Island AgainReview by Nigel Rowe (July 28, 2005)
The sixth book in the series was first published in October 1947, and was dedicated "For my Two Children GILLIAN and IMOGEN"
Its opening location is George and Anne's school. Quite where this is we are not told. It does, however, require a long train journey to reach London, so I would imagine it is situated in the north of England somewhere. In the common room, Anne is doing prep when George rushes in with a letter from home. Quentin needs to "borrow" Kirrin Island to "do some special work" on it. He will need to live there for a while. Now, as we know, Kirrin Island is part of George's DNA, so we can be assured that there will be problems ahead!
We are then treated to some sulky behaviour from George, then a Malory Towers-type leaving scene, with children piling into coaches to take them to the station. A rather pleasant (if short) narrative follows describing the journey to London. The boys are waiting on the platform for the girls. Hurrah! A visit to the station tea-room follows where the re-united Five catch up on the gossip. Good old Julian puts George straight over her father's plans, telling her that her father is a "remarkably clever man" and "one of the finest scientists we've got—and I think those kinds of fellows ought to be allowed as much freedom as they like, for their work. I mean—if Uncle Quentin wants to work on Kirrin Island...you ought to be pleased to say 'Go ahead, Father!'" Enid then reminds us that George thinks a great deal of Ju, as he is older than any of them and is a tall, good-looking boy, with determined eyes and a strong chin. So no pubescent acne and a dodgy hair-style!
They then have to cross London (Five on a Tube Together) and catch the Kirrin train at another station. I would guess Euston or King's Cross to Waterloo on the Northern Line, then the Southern Railway to Dorset!
They are met at the station by Aunt Fanny, and catch a glimpse of the Island en route to Kirrin Cottage. A pretty hideous glass tower stands out on the island which naturally displeases George. Quentin is firmly ensconced there, and a signalling procedure is discussed between "sensible" Julian and Fanny so that she can be sure Quentin is safe. (Shades of The Castle of Adventure here, between Jack and Lucy-Ann). A good tea completes the introduction to this novel.
The next day sees the Five, plus Fanny, off to the Island to give Quentin some food. (Food is really very important in Enid's books!) There is the usual description of the sea journey and the island here, but on landing there is no sign of Quentin in spite of much searching and calling. "Wherever can he be?" asks Dick. After some flashes and noises from the tower, he suddenly appears—but from where he won't disclose. Julian fixes up with him to signal morning and night, so Aunt Fanny is happy.
The next day we are introduced to a new "resident" in Kirrin Bay: the coastguard, whom the children apparently know well. On the way to his cottage they meet two strangers, a man and a boy. The man is tall and well-built, with a determined mouth. (What is it with Enid and her jaws and mouths?) The boy is about sixteen and seems rather sullen. When they meet the coastguard, he tells them they are Mr. Curton and son Martin, and they have been here for some weeks now. The coastguard says about the son, "He's a queer boy though—quiet and a bit sulky. Not a bad boy, but doesn't seem very friendly like." Interesting. They all take it in turns to look through the coastguard's telescope at the island, and eventually say goodbye. On the way home, they again meet the boy, Martin, this time without his father. He says he likes dogs, but makes no effort to stroke Timmy, and Timmy just stands by George, his tail "neither up nor down". He seems inquisitive about the island and Quentin's work. Dick, rather rudely, asks him what it has to do with him. As Martin at first thought George was a boy, George warms to him and offers to take him to the island. Then Martin's father appears and lets slip that he has already asked fishermen the way, but they didn't appear to know it. They had been forbidden to take anyone to the island whilst Quentin was at work there.
A tedious squabble blows up between George and Dick, but thankfully, doesn't last too long. I do find these "good as a boy" conversations rather boring. They meet Alf the fisher boy, who has now changed his name to James. There has been some debate over this on other websites, some saying there were two fisher boys. This is not so, however, as it clearly states, "Timmy had never forgotten the time when James looked after him so well." As we know from Five on a Treasure Island, it was Alf the fisher boy who looked after Tim. A shame Enid's memory wasn't as good as Timmy's!
Successful signalling from the tower means that all is well with Quentin, so the next day the Five go exploring in the quarry. They again meet the boy, Martin, where George tells him about Quentin's signalling. Silly girl. After Tim disappears down a rabbit hole, they discover the entrance to a narrow tunnel. They will explore it another day! They return to the Curton's cottage, where they watch television—a real novelty in 1940's England. Curton also has a radio transmitter and questions them more about Quentin's experiments and the island.
Quentin signals eighteen times later, so the Five plus Fanny go to see what's up. He feels he's not alone on the island and asks George to lend him Timmy. Oh dear, cue more angst. Eventually, she agrees. Phew! Wondering where Quentin had emerged from the other day, they get out the old map and study it. They then decide to return to the coastguard's cottage to see if they can find any clues by looking through his telescope. They discover that Martin has been snooping in the quarry, and has twisted his ankle. They have a huge tea in his cottage, and discover he is talented with painting figures. They also find out that his father has forbidden him to do this. "Horrid man," says Anne.
Shock, horror, George goes to the coastguard in the evening to check that Quentin has Timmy with him when he signals. No Timmy. In spite of Julian saying that he probably forgets to take him (quite likely—it amazes me that he remembers to signal at all!), George is convinced that something is up.
We are into the adventure proper now. George steals away to the island in the night, lands on the island and finds that her fears are well founded. George remembers that her father needs water all around him and above him, so explores a narrow tunnel that seems to go under the sea.
I won't give any more away, suffice to say there is more to the Curtons than the Five imagine, and there is more to the tunnel in the quarry too! The happenings in the tunnel when George finds her father are reminiscent of Five Go to Smuggler's Top. Now, as then, everything ends well!
Five on Kirrin Island Again is a really good read. Unlike Mr. Roland in Five Go Adventuring Again, we are not too certain that Curton is a baddie, so our interest is maintained. We discover new parts of Kirrin Island as well. I found the quarry and the coastguard's cottage interesting. These new locations shed new light on Kirrin. We are so familiar with Kirrin Cottage and the island that is keeps us interested to discover new places. The coastguard's character is fascinating, too. I feel this character could have been further developed in this, and possibly later books. However, I have read this book many, many times and I always discover something new in it—apparently the term for this is layered.
Being the sixth book, this was meant to be the last. We know differently now, of course. Enid intended closing the series where she began, on Kirrin Island. We again see the dungeons and read many references back to Five on a Treasure Island. This book would have been a very satisfactory ending to the series. Enid tells us, "We must say good-bye to the Five, and to Kirrin Island, too. Good-bye Julian, Dick, George, Anne—and Timmy." In fact the last sentence reads, "Woof! Good-bye!" Happily it wasn't "Good-bye", just au revoir.
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