I had absolutely no idea that my fuzzy, warm image of one of my favourite childhood authors was totally out of whack. Enid Blyton wasn’t so much warm and fuzzy as cold and barbed it would seem.
I’d heard some rumours about Blyton’s taciturn character but I’d never really taken much notice, and I suspect that’s because, as I mentioned, her work ranks right up there on my Top Ten Childhood Memories, in the Rose Coloured section, so it was rather a disappointment to me to witness her vileness.
But Helena Bonham Carter did a remarkable job of portraying a woman who was no doubt plagued by inner demons but thought nothing of making miserable lives – quite by design – for those who crossed her or didn’t interest her, her own children included.
The scenes in which Blyton merrily played in her garden with some of her adoring young fans was made difficult to watch by seeing her own children watching enviously on from the confines of the house. What a harsh woman she must’ve been to deliberately exclude her own daughters that way.
In fact, Blyton had many character traits that were belied by her gentle penmanship; she was racist – though it was an issue somewhat sped past in this drama – and a liar, she calculatedly ensured her ex-husband lost his job. She was supremely arrogant and a narcissist.
But for all she was unquestionably an unpleasant woman – to put it mildly – by the end of the film, one couldn’t help but feel somewhat sorry for her. Even though through her own character flaws, she’d alienated everyone around her, her last years were empty and lonely and filled with angst.
Haunted by the memory of her father’s desertion when she was young, one might presume that this was a contributory factor to making her the person she became, but that said, plenty of young girls lose their father and don’t turn into what Blyton became.
I very much got the feeling that the old idiom what-goes-round-comes-round was especially true for Blyton; her difficulties conceiving, her anger at the ghost writer towards the end and her frustration with anything that didn’t go her way were, arguably, payback for some of the more cruel acts she perpetrated on those around her.
But overall, despite the subject of this film being reminiscent of the very disturbing Mommy Dearest, it was a riveting watch, if uncomfortable in places. The acting and scriptwriting were both top notch and, though I’m often reluctant to believe everything I hear when the one being examined isn’t around to defend themselves, there were so many corroborating witnesses to Blyton’s persona, it’s hard to deny that it was all anything but true.