Today, there’s much fanfare about the discovery of a new Enid Blyton book. Jolly good, says a nostalgic generation, including me, who loved Blyton’s books as a child. That said, it’s hard to look at them now through the prism of “isms”s – sexism, racism and classism, even if they are of their time. Mr. Tumpy’s Caravan tells the story of an anthropomorphic caravan who, in a fit of wanderlust, goes off on an adventure and – hopefully – doesn’t encounter any evil gypsies on his travels.
More interestingly, is the recent rediscovery of lost work by another feted female writer. Five stories by Daphne Du Maurier, author of Rebecca, and short story ‘The Birds’ (both immortalised in film by Alfred Hitchcock) have also come to light. One of the stories, ‘The Doll’, sounds not just macabre and psycho-sexual, but way ahead of its time. Written in 1928 (when Du Maurier herself was very young), it’s the story of a man who discovers that the girl he’s in love with, is obsessed with a sex doll. Sex doll, you say? In the upper middle-class 1920s of Du Maurier’s life? There’s an almost prophetic modernity to that. And a bravery. Du Maurier’s books were often dismissed as romance novels with a literary sheen, but ‘The Doll’ reminds us just how much of her work is concerned with the murkier corners of human experience.
The new collection, The Doll, will be published in May by Virago.