Tinned Prawns and Pineapple – Malory Towers Marches On

Earlier in the year I read the continuations of St. Clare’s written by Pamela Cox, and I although I enjoyed them I was slightly disappointed. You can read my further ramblings on The Sixth Form at St. Clare’s here.

I ordered the Third Form at St. Clare’s and Kitty at St Clare’s recently. Sixth Form and Third Form were published in 2000, with Kitty at St. Clare’s published in 2008. I noticed Kitty at St. Clare’s seemed to return to a more traditional format rather than being slightly modernized. At the same time I ordered the first two in a six-part continuation of my beloved Malory Towers books. I read the first two in short order, ordered the next four, and have had a delightful week at Malory Towers as they have started arriving.

The Malory Towers continuations were published in 2009.¬† They pick up where the last book left off, with Darrell off to St. Andrews University and Felicity back to school at Malory Towers. Pamela Cox is perfectly consistent with the original series and returning characters. Ms. Cox has, in fact, has done a wonderful job introducing new characters and breathing new life into our beloved boarding school and it’s girls.

The midnight feasts, most importantly, are back with every outrageously, disgustingly delicious concoction the girls can come up with. Tinned prawns, pineapple, sardines, ginger beer, lemonade, chocolate biscuits, birthday cakes iced with sugar flowers and, in all it’s magnificent glory, the return of Nestle’s condensed milk.

Milkshakes and toasted sandwiches fail to make an appearance at the local tea-shop, we’re treated to the traditional cakes,¬† jammy buns and mugs of tea. Currency is, somewhat curiously, but sensibly, not really mentioned (as I was not really pleased when the 20 pence pocket money went up to a pound in the Naughtiest Girl books, it simply seemed strange) And the girls are, just as usual, working hard, playing games, solving mysteries, and saving the souls of others. Just as we like it.

Malory Towers had much stronger characters in the lower forms in the original series than the St. Clare’s series. With Darrel’s younger sister Felicity, her best friend Susan, and Alicia’s younger cousin June already in the picture, there were girls that we already knew well enough to be going on with. Bill and Clarissa own the local stables, of course, and make several appearances over the course of the books.

The inclusion of new girls and new friendships formed, with new problems to solve, is done splendidly. Keeping with tradition, we have horse-mad girls, an American girl who the others strive to make a ‘proper English school-girl’, a couple of snobs who need taking down a peg or two, spoiled young Mother’s-girls, and girls with grim family secrets. But I have to admit that Pamela has created a character that I find one of my favourite characters¬† in an Enid Blyton book (although she is, strictly speaking, not one of Enid’s creations) and that is the young Bonnie Meadows.

Bonnie is a spectacularly mad creation. While she is somewhat like the French characters of Claudine of St. Clare’s and Suzanne of Malory Towers, both girls who were good at manipulating adults and getting their own way at things, Bonnie is so much more English, and far more clever. Going from Felicity’s annoying young neighbour who follows her to Malory Towers because she misses her dreadfully, to one of the strongest personalities in the top form, Bonnie is full of surprises from the start, and a lot of good fun.

The inclusion of Sally Hope’s younger sister Daffy (‘baby’ from the very first Malory Towers book) in the later books gives me a small glimmer of hope that the series may continue. Daffy, and the irrepressible Violet, are two excellent girls to launch the next stage in life at Malory Towers. I certainly hope we get to visit our beloved Malory Towers again.