Enid Blyton’s ‘Malory Towers’ is back with a 21st century makeover

Malory Towers, Enid Blyton’s boarding school adventures, first hit our shelves in 1946 in a series of six books. In 2009 Pamela Cox added another six books to the collection.

Award-winning writer Patrice Lawrence has since been joined by three other authors to add a further four stories to the Malory Towers set, helping bring the boarding school tales into the 21st century.

The new tales are still set in the 1940s, just like the original Blyton books, but without the racism and sexism. Patrice Lawrence explained to The Guardian, her approach when creating characters that need to fit with the original stories:

“I’ve met a lot of women, particularly of Nigerian heritage, who spent time in boarding schools in England in the 1950s and 1960s. So I know they were definitely there – this is not political correctness.”

The publisher’s editorial director Alex Antscherl said: “Obviously there were girls who boarded from all round the Commonwealth, but you’re not aware of them in Enid Blyton stories. It’s the same world and time and I do feel [these new stories] could have happened in 1943 – I don’t feel they have injected a jarring note of modernism.”

The cast of Malory Towers stage show- July 2019

Since Malory Towers has continued to rise in popularity, with 350,000 copies sold in English alone in 2018, television execs are clamouring to secure the rights to the series. There are hints that the BBC will be airing an adaptation in the future. Theatre director Emma Rice is currently staging a musical version, beginning in Bristol and then touring the UK, using a diverse cast to reflect a diverse society.

In the stage production, Darrell, Alicia and Irene aren’t white, and the actor playing Sally is “of restricted height”.

Speaking to The Guardian, the director explained: “There’s no reason not to have a diverse cast. My work is always from a storytelling background, which means anyone can be anything. They are bang on for their archetype.”

Speaking of the character ‘Bill’, Rice stated: “At this time where gender fluidity is such an interesting and important topic for young people. And Blyton writes it with such detail. She says: ‘Please don’t call me Wilhelmina, I shall not know myself if you call me by that name. Call me Bill.’ Girls aren’t usually allowed to decide their own nicknames, but the others realise how important it is. I’m certainly not suggesting Bill isn’t a girl, but I’m bringing contemporary discussions into the room.”

Mary Lou is described as ‘neurodiverse’, “…as they say – lost in her music and quite chaotic. “[Gwendoline is] dreadful and tragic. She’s such a troubled girl. We all knew them, and we all know them. I’ve given her a bit more, because she’s got the biggest journey to go through. And you need that, because otherwise everybody would be nice all the time.”

Grab your copy of the newest Malory Towers story and see for yourself how much the novels have grown.

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