Last night I watched a BBC documentary recreation of the life of Enid Blyton. I was a huge Enid Blyton fan as a child - I had the entire Famous Five series, and most of the Secret Sevens, plus Mallory Towers and St. Clare's. At one stage I remember I modelled my signature on Blyton's with two little lines under my name - I think I was about ten. I noticed that things seemed a little different in her books; I didn't have servants, didn't eat tongue sandwiches or drink ginger beer, and I didn't know anyone who went to boarding school (although it sounded so fun and exciting!) but the outcry against Enid Blyton's books went over my head. I was incenced when libraries and schools banned them. I loved her books, and hadn't noticed that they were racist, or that all the working class characters were criminals.
Sadly, having watched the documentary about her life, my sympathies are now firmly with the libraries, and those who want to rewrite her 750+ books to fit in better with the modern age. I suppose to some extent she's the product of a different age, but she was a shockingly bad mother. She worked in her study all day, seeing her two daughters for an hour each evening. If they had misbehaved in any way, their punishment was to lose that hour with their parents.
The scene that sticks in my mind is that of Enid telling her eight-year-0ld daughter that she was remarrying. She had been having an affair with the surgeon Kenneth Darrell Waters for some time and it had led to the break-up of her marriage (although she divorced on the grounds of her husband's adultery, in order that she might save face). Enid chose to break the news of her impending marriage to little Imogen by cheerfully and abruptly telling her that "Uncle Kenneth" would be her father now, and she was to call him Daddy. When Imogen tearfully asked about her real father, she was told "Oh, he's gone off to war; I doubt we'll see him again." When the little girl became upset, her mother scolded her and sent her to bed without supper.
Later, Imogen saw her mother talking to a man in the garden (Blyton's estranged brother, Hanly, who had come to inform her of their mother's death) and asked innocently who it was. Blyton declared her "a little sneak" and sent her off to boarding school. Neither of her two daughters featured in the film again. Little Imogen is now 74 and I wonder whether she contributed to the research for the film.
There are many authors who lead lives which we, as Latter-day Saints, might consider unconventional or dubious. My question is, does knowing something about the author's personal life affect your enjoyment of their books? If you disapprove of an author's lifestyle, do you boycott their work? Alternatively, if you admire an author on a personal level, do you make an extra effort to buy their books even if you find them uninspiring? Knowing Enid Blyton to have put more time into writing for other people's children than mothering her own, would you buy her books for your children?