First Term at Malory Towers review

11 Oct

I decided to write this review to hopefully help you to see the magic that can be seen in children’s books. Not only that, but to see how an author who has been accused of being sexist can write such strong, clearly defined characters who do not need the help of men to solve their problems.

First Term at Malory Towers is the first of six books by Enid Blyton. It is the third school series written by Blyton, starting the year after she finished the St Clare’s series and was inspired by Blyton’s oldest daughter Gillian going to boarding school.

In the books we follow the heroine, Darrell Rivers, through her school life, which include her ups and downs, friends and enemies. It has to be my favourite school series and has always made me want to attend Malory Towers.


We meet an excited Darrell ready to set off to school in her brand new uniform. It’s nice to have a book start with someone being excited to go off to school and even though the idea of a brown and orange uniform sounds quite unappealing, I do think it could look very nice if matched properly.

We follow Darrell from her home to the station to catch the train for Cornwall, where Malory Towers is located. Naturally she is nervous about her new school, wondering what it will be like and if she’ll make friends. Blyton makes it very easy for the reader to relate to Darrell from the beginning, and these nerves that she experiences make her more human. The fun really begins when she is plunged into the world of Malory Towers at the station. First she is introduced to the sensible Miss Potts who is to be her form mistress and head of North Tower where Darrell is to sleep.

From the formidable Miss Potts we are then introduced to Alicia Johns, a girl in Darrell’s form who has been at Malory Towers for some time (though we are not told how long). Darrell takes an instant liking to Alicia, hoping that this older girl will be her special friend.

Alicia comes across as a hard character from the start and I’ve always wondered why Darrell so wants her as a friend when it’s easy for the reader identify her as a class clown and a bit of a bully. Alicia does get a little better, but I’ve never really warmed to Alicia or understood why you would want her as friend. She reminds me of the popular girls at school who would bully you without a thought to your feelings if you got on their wrong side.

Gwendoline Lacey is another a new girl, however she has none of the characteristics Darrell has which make her so instantly likeable. She is painted as a cry baby, spoilt and worst of all in the sporty world of Malory Towers: overweight. The girls don’t make Gwendoline’s life easy, and Alicia especially says some quite spiteful things to her over the course of the book.

The only other new girl to join them is quiet Sally Hope who seems the complete opposite to everyone else in the train carriage because she does not seem excited about going away to boarding school. She is quiet and withdrawn, which allows her to slide into the background for a short while in this book.

So on to Malory Towers, with its four towers North, South, East and West, which hold the girls’ dormitories and common rooms. Darrell, Sally and Gwendoline are all in North Tower together, with a stern matron and Miss Potts to keep an eye on them.

The term begins quite calmly with lots of fun but hard work as well. Alicia turns out to be the trickster of the form which adds a whole lot of enjoyment to lessons and Darrell wishes Alicia would be her special friend. However she soon learns that mucking around has its price as her marks for school work start to slip.

Sally’s brief illness acts as a catalyst for a complete change of character. After being a very closed off character who often fades into the background, her persona changes and she becomes a very lovely person very quickly and she becomes like an open flower instead of a closed one. The new Sally is instantly likeable. I think you see more of her personality in those last few chapters than you ever do in the rest of the books, except in the third form where Sally’s jealousy gets the better of her, but at the same time she does fade into the background a lot of the time.

I hope I haven’t given too much away from First Form at Malory Towers, but I don’t want to ruin the book for you. Personally I love this book. The ups and the downs of the term make it such a thrilling read, for instance when Darrell is nicer to Mary-Lou and the spiteful tricks Gwendoline plays.

I hope I have managed to show you what a good read this is, and how characters of their time, can break the stereotype. Enjoy this light read, and let me know what you think!

About the writer: Stef is a 22 year old graduate who has a lifelong obsession with books and reading who also loves music and live theatre. You’re most likely to find her in a book shop or out in London standing at a theatre stage door. She can be found on twitter and running The World of Blyton.


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