The new satirical takes on the “Five” are the brainchild of Bruno Vincent, author of the Sunday Times bestseller Do Ants Have Arseholes? and its follow-up Do Bats Have Bollocks?
While Vincent has updated the Famous Five’s adventures in a more adult context, he’s been careful not to betray the characters’ origins and charm.
“There are some nostalgic parodies which are disrespectful to their subject matter, but these aren’t,” he says.
“I’d never write Five Go To a Sex Club. I want the characters we knew as children to take a look at the things that frustrate us as adults.
“It’s no coincidence that of the hundreds of possible tales, the ones that worked best were the big millennial buzz phrases.”
These latest incarnations are based on the works of prolific British author Enid Blyton, who has sold more than 500 million copies of her books with some of her most famous creations being the series The Magic Faraway Tree, The Famous Five and The Secret Seven.
Below is a taste of what you can expect from Vincent’s take on the iconic Famous Five characters Julian, Dick, George, Anne and Timmy the dog.
It is the night of the referendum and the Five have retired to Kirrin Island to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine, fed up with the rancour of public debate. George is firmly a “remainer”, while Julian, who is in the “Brexit” camp, is tolerated on the grounds that Anne cannot bear to go camping without him. (Timmy, largely apolitical but not keen on cats or rabbits, joins them too.) The night is tempestuous in more ways than one.
Five on Brexit Island extract:
Julian cleared his throat and stepped forward.
‘There’s been a lot of scaremongering going on,’ he said, ‘about the potential consequences of this vote: about subsidies, about people’s livelihoods being threatened, about the economy and about hope in the future. I wholeheartedly reject this rhetoric. It’s disgraceful and it’s cheap. And it’s making this debate about something it shouldn’t be: fear.’
He paused to allow this to sink in, and also to bask for a moment in how well the speech was going. The audience stirred in front of him. He consulted his notes, and went on.
‘Fear is a dreadful thing. It makes us lose sight of what is really at stake, it blurs our vision. We must remember what made ours a great country. And we must fight to retain the values that make this country wonderful, that make it the place we have always loved. You see, I won’t give those things up lightly! I shall fight for them, until I have no breath left to give!’
The audience rose to its feet.
‘And if that makes me foolish, then I am glad to be a fool! Because I believe that Britain is great, and Kirrin Island is great too – and they are better . . . together!’ He concluded his speech at the top of his voice, staring nobly into the distance.
The audience stretched and yawned, and after licking its paws, took notice of a passing butterfly, and trotted off to chase it.
‘Oh, come on, Timmy,’ said Julian. ‘That was rousing stuff. Just you wait till some humans hear it! They’ll be eating out of my hand! The only thing you’ll eat out of my hand is sausages.’
‘Woof!’ said Timmy, bounding back towards him.
‘Oh, typical electorate – you just want a bribe. I suppose you’ll vote for me if I say “sausages”?’
‘Woof, woof!’ said Timmy, a love of democracy running through him like an electric current. ‘Woof!’
Julian, Anne, Dick, George and Timmy are all feeling really rather rum, and it’s been going on for days. Nothing seems to work, and with their doctors mystified, they’re driven to trying out various expedients to cure themselves. Julian goes online to self-diagnose that he’s got pancreatic cancer, bird flu and Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.
Anne decides that the old methods are the best and decides to have herself exorcised – which proves to be an awful lot of bother for everyone, and such a mess.
Dick goes to a witch-doctor who calls himself a ‘homeopath’ (‘sounds only one short of sociopath, Dick!’) but it’s George who discovers they need to go on an exclusion diet, so they enter a world of hard-to-find, maddeningly expensive specialist foods .
Five Go Gluten Free extract:
Anne had the light of recently acquired fervour in her eye. She was sure of her position and not willing to be talked out of it. As they picked at their food, she expounded on the subjects of wellness, naturopathy, macrobiotic eating, superfoods, mindfulness, balance, the removal of negative emotions and the cultivation of inner honesty. She spoke from the heart, and with a desperate joy that she hoped soon to see in their eyes too. For the moment, however, all she saw was suspicion deepening into bewildered dread.
‘So what’s the upshot of this, old girl?’ asked Julian, his voice trembling with an effort to sound cheerful. ‘It sounds wonderful and all that – I mean, we’re certainly all for it – but what will we … have to do?’
And so Anne explained. From now on, the whole lot of them were going to eat only whole food. No processed ‘muck’, no additives. All organic. Timmy included – there were to be no exceptions.
Give up alcohol you say? Why, of course they can! Talk about an easy challenge! Five old friends set about this simple task and find all of a sudden that: the days are longer; they get to see each other for who they really are; the empty laughter of ordinary conversation is so much harder to fake. Yes, they’re saving money and losing weight, but the world itself seems to take on a slow, dreary inevitability. Soon they begin to snap at each other, and then fight – until they begin to wonder, have the Five at last found the challenge that will defeat them?
Five Give Up The Booze extract:
The gentle, comforting thump of a champagne cork coming from the kitchen brought Anne, Dick and Julian out of their rooms to investigate. They found George topping up flutes, each boasting a fizzing sugar cube.
‘Champagne cocktails!’ said Anne.
‘What a treat!’ said Dick, as George passed around the glasses.
‘Thought we’d line our stomachs with a drop of the old booze before stepping out . . .’ said George proudly. ‘And a New Year’s treat for my special little guy . . .’ She dropped a hunk of pork pie into Timmy’s bowl, which he set about devouring at once, while the others all edged away from him, owing to the inevitable digestive repercussions.
‘Chin-chin,’ said Julian, slinging his back in one gulp and reaching for a refill. The others sipped somewhat more circumspectly, while regarding his choice of costume. The party they were attending that night was fancy dress, on a theme of fictional characters, and Julian had only a few final touches to add to his representation of Count Dracula. Putting down his second empty glass, he asked what they thought. Given full licence to look him over, they made vague mutterings of approval.
‘I like the cadaverous shadow under the eyes,’ said Anne.
‘I haven’t applied any yet!’ he said haughtily, sweeping his black cloak round him.
‘Maybe you’ve been hitting it a bit hard over the Christmas period?’ suggested George.
‘No more than usual,’ he replied – a statement which gave them less assurance than he thought. ‘Still, tonight I can only drink red things. So I’m going to pick up a couple of bottles of Argentinian Malbec on the way, if you don’t mind getting the cab to stop off.’
‘Or you could drink port,’ suggested Dick.
Yes, Julian thought. Port. Delicious, beautiful, rich, tawny port. My sin, my soul. My secret love.
This article was first published on The Daily Review, which is giving away copies of the five new Famous Five books published by Hachette. Read the original article here.
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