Kitty at St Clare's by Pamela Cox, Enid Blyton. Category: Fail.
Posted on March 29, 2015
Holy Irish stereotypes, Batman! Tis a review of Kitty at St Clare's by Pamela Cox, part of the Enid Blyton estate and published by Egmont to rake in more cash from same fill in the series for devoted fans.
In this book, Janet, Bobby, Hilary, Isabel et al are in the third form. According to Enid's timeline, they're probably at least sixteen. AT LEAST.
Also according to Enid's timeline, they should be at least seventeen and possibly eighteen, but it's only possible to read the St Clare's books re character age by going LALALALA and pretending everyone is the same age per form as Darrell's lot in Malory Towers. See my theory that the St Clare's lower forms are some sort of boarding school purgatory here.
Anyhoo. All the usual suspects arrive for First Day, and there tis the eponymous hero, right in the middle of the grounds and everyt'ing, causing a Turrible Commotion. Tis Kitty Flaherty, tis! She's new! Tis Irish, she is! Tis a goat, she has!
I was somewhat taken aback at Pamela Cox's/Egmont's writing and editing of a book like this in the twenty-first century. Kitty sures and begorrahs her way throughout the opening chapters, is totes madcap, calls mistresses 'Mam' and uses a form of Irish English that no-one in Ireland has used for at least a century (unless there is a hidden tribe somewhere in the hills of Donegal that has never heard of TV, E-numbers or Daniel O'Donnell?):
- On hearing Pat and Isabel's surname is O'Sullivan: 'Would you be after having a bit of the Irish in you?'
- On being asked if she'd heard the mistress in class: 'I have and all, Mam... Sure me eyes might be out there in the garden, but me ears are in here all right.' (Just typing that gave me hives.)
- On an upper former the third form dislikes: 'Sure and that one needs taken down a peg or two.' (Which is even worse, because 'taken down a peg or two' is a phrase that childish Irish me, growing up apparent decades away from Kitty's mythical and ancient Oirishness, never used and had never heard of apart from in English novels.)
And yet! As Kitty's actions become more central to the plot, she suddenly drops the Irish way of phrase and her speech becomes more standard. So even the stereotype is inconsistent. *hives*
I realise the books are set in a vague time period probably best categorised as 'after the war', but really. Would a Chinese girl arriving at St Clare's in a book published in 2012 be written in the same stereotypical way? I'd love to see the resulting reviews so I would to be sure to be sure.
No doubt people who use terms like 'the professionally offended', 'political correctness gorn mad' or 'Jeremy Clarkson? He's all right, him', will point out that Kitty turns out to be a likeable and popular character, and so surely her portrayal is totes fine. (Like when an ad campaign is massively misogynistic and people say it's obviously OK because it was a woman wot done it. Pamela Cox will probably turn out to be half Irish or something.)
But it still doesn't change the fact this book is mind boggingly stereotypical - and did I mention it was published in 2012? Even Enid wasn't as bad as this with the French.
I'd also be interested to know who edited this one, as it lacks the awful and unnatural dialogue (apart from Kkitty's, of course) that plagues the Pamela Cox Malory Towers books: it's really hard to believe that with all the Blyton fans/good writers out there, Egmont really can't find anyone to write or edit the Malory Towers books a bit better.
(I've just thought that Egmont could be using the 'Pamela Cox' name as a brand; i.e, while P. Cox is obviously a person and writes/wrote most of the fill-in books, another one or two writers could be ghostwriting under the same name, much like how the Billy Bunter and Magnet stories were written first by Frank Richards/Charles Hamilton and then by ghostwriters under the Frank/Hilda Richard names. Dialogue can't be generally OK as in this book [hidjus Irish stereotypes notwithstanding] and utterly first form [generous] creative writing as it is in the Malory Towers books. Some/most of the Malory Towers dialogue is truly awful: I suspect another blog on that will be coming soon.
I am prepared to be proved wrong, like Orwell in his essay about British school stories. But I think we should be told. And I also think if I Am Wrong, it still doesn't negate the turrible stereotypical Oirishness of this book or pages of dialogue in the Malory Towers books so wooden that they could be used to repair a fence after a massive hurricane.)
Also. No doubt people who use terms like 'the professionally offended', 'political correctness gorn mad' or 'Jeremy Clarkson? He's all right, him', will point out this is a children's book. And that there are shocking things going on in Syria. And that I have too much time on my hands if I'm actually writing this review.
They'd be right on all three counts. And I'm not mortally offended by the portrayal of Kitty here. But I find it odd, and yes, as an Irish person also mildly offensive: again, I'd be interested to see how Pamela Cox/Egmont would write a Chinese girl at St Clare's from 2012.
Or, as Kitty would say, Well to be sure and it's strange and all I did find it now, writing like that in this day and age begorrah and here's me goat.
Really, Egmont? To be sure to be sure?