Malory Towers is a series of books by Enid Blyton about girls at a boarding school. The books were written one each year from 1946 to 1951 and presumably set during a similar time1. At Malory Towers students stay for three terms for six years. Each of the six books in the series represents one term from each of the six years, rather than one whole year. Some terms are therefore left unchronicled. Enid Blyton uses incidents in the books to make moral points.
Darrell Rivers2 is the main character of the books. The first book opens with Darrell about to begin her first term at an all-girls boarding school, Malory Towers. The school - situated in Cornwall - is separated into four towers (North Tower, South Tower, East Tower and West Tower). Girls are placed in a tower, where the dormitories and common rooms are located, but have lessons with their form. Each form contains girls from all four houses. The school is located near the sea, and has an excellent seawater pool the girls love to bathe in.
In most of Enid Blyton's other school stories, the main character/s arrive as new girl/s, feeling miserable about being sent to boarding school. They resolve to perform as badly as possible. This series is different; Darrell is looking forward to going to boarding school, and tries hard once she's there.
Unlike most Enid Blyton books, there is no sexism appearing in Malory Towers. The school is an all-girls school, and boys (the brothers of one girl) only appear fleetingly. There are therefore no references to boys being stronger or better than girls. The racism in the books is kept to a reasonably low level - only the French teachers are discriminated against.
However the author does seem to imply that if you are very good at one thing, you will definitely be absent-minded and terrible at others. The books also seem to promote bullying in a subtle way - often girls are quite horrible to others, saying they are merely 'taking her down a peg' or 'licking her into shape'.
A recurring theme in the books is pride comes before a fall. In several instances girls are extremely proud and puffed up about a skill, only to ruin the skill through greed, pride and stupidity. When they realise the errors of their ways, their skill is restored to them. Mavis and Amanda are good examples of this.
The Characters - Students
The characters of the girls in the books are quite strong, but not quite believable. Some - like Darrell and Sally - seem far too perfect. Others - like Daphne - have flaws which they miraculously manage to fix. The characters of Belinda and Irene, although amusing, are rather over-the-top and clichéd, implying that anyone with an extremely strong talent for something must be scatterbrained.
Darrell is a bright, athletic and sensible child whose one main failing is her short temper. She is very fair and hates to see injustice. When she loses her temper she will often become physically violent, but is extremely good at apologising.
Sally arrived at Malory Towers at the same time as Darrell. At first she is extremely shy and reluctant to become friendly with anyone - her mother has just had a new baby, and Sally believes she has been sent to boarding school because she is no longer wanted. When her mother comes to the school to visit her and tell her that she is wanted, Sally becomes much happier and more confident. In the following years she proves to be an intelligent, hardworking girl and a good leader.
Gwendoline Mary Lacey, new at the same time as Darrell and Sally, is reluctant to be sent to boarding school and be away from her doting mother and governess. She can be silly, cruel and spiteful. Although she is not stupid, she rarely works hard at school and receives bad marks as a result. She is a dreadful show-off, often boasting and telling lies about how good she is.
Alicia comes from a family with many brothers and is dreadfully mischievous. She is extremely intelligent and loves playing 'tricks' on the teachers (such as putting a special vapour in the classroom to make the teachers sneeze). Alicia can sometimes be hot-headed, intolerant of others and jumps to conclusions a bit too quickly.
Betty, Alicia's good friend, is the only one of the girls who appears frequently who isn't in North Tower. She is in West Tower instead; deliberately separated from Alicia as she has many of the same mischievous characteristics.
Jean is a fair girl who is a good leader and often head of the form.
Belinda, who arrives during the second year, is an exceptionally good artist. She loves sketching; one of her favourite things to do is draw scowls that people produce (especially Gwendoline). However she is extremely absent-minded, and will often forget things and get them muddled.
Irene is similar to Belinda in many ways and the two are good friends. Irene is a genius at maths and music, but is even more absent-minded than Belinda! She often forgets which class to attend or what she is supposed to be wearing.
Mary-Lou, small and young, is scared of most things. Despite this she is nice, extremely loyal to her friends and helpful. French is her best subject.
Daphne arrives in the second year. She spends most of her first term telling the other girls how rich she is, and showing pictures of her rich parents. Nobody but Gwendoline is interested. Despite spending a bad first term at Malory Towers, Daphne is allowed to continue at the school and becomes a valued member of the North Tower girls. She becomes good friends with Mary-Lou.
Wilhelmina, called Bill by everybody except some teachers, is a tomboy. She has seven brothers and they are all horse-crazy like her. Bill arrives during third form. At first she pays little attention during lessons, thinking only about her horse Thunder, but after her teacher Mrs Peters performs an extremely generous favour, Bill promises to work really hard.
Clarissa arrives at Malory Towers during fourth form. Gwendoline immediately latches on to her, believing Clarissa to be very rich. Clarissa has a weak heart which prevents her from doing sport; however she is extremely fond of horses and horse-riding. She becomes good friends with Bill.
Mavis is an extremely talented singer. Until she nearly loses her voice through her own foolishness and an accident in third form, she is constantly talking about herself, beginning with 'When I'm an opera singer...'
Connie and Ruth
Connie and Ruth are fraternal twins, who come to Malory Towers in the fourth form. Connie is the dominant twin, speaking for Ruth and doing most things for her. Ruth, on the other hand, is better in classes, but feels embarrassed about this. She loves Connie as a twin, but at the same time hates Connie for dominating her. Eventually Connie and Ruth are split up and put in different forms with Ruth slightly ahead, so they can be happier.
Moira was originally in the form above the main North Tower girls, but ends up being kept back a year when the girls are in fifth form. She is domineering and immediately takes charge of the pantomime the girls are performing. In that year her bossiness makes her unpopular with most of the other girls.
Catherine was also kept back a year like Moira. She is nicknamed 'Saint Catherine' by the other girls as she loves to do things for other people and generally be helpful and a 'doormat.' Despite her willingness to help, Catherine is often teased for helping too much.
Amanda arrived at Malory Towers in sixth form - from a school famous for its sporting achievements, but which unfortunately burnt down. Amanda is very good at sport, but unfortunately she is rather conceited as well. She considers herself to be above the sports captains and players at Malory Towers. Amanda does sense a lot of talent in June, and ends up giving June intensive training. Sadly, for Amanda, pride came before a fall.
June is Alicia's younger cousin. She is intelligent and mischievous just like Alicia. She is in the same year as Felicity, and becomes friends with her. She is very good at sport, but, as with classwork, can never be bothered to try properly, and prefers fooling around and making people laugh. June's naughtiness has a spiteful side which caused her to nearly be expelled from Malory Towers.
Felicity is Darrell's little sister, who also attends Malory Towers. Her best friend is Susan; Felicity is friendly with June but knows June can get her into trouble. Felicity is a good lacrosse player.
Thunder and Merry-Legs
Thunder is the name of Bill's horse. He is large and black. He adores Bill in the same way she adores him. Thunder stays in the school stables when Bill is at school. He had a brush with colic but fortunately survived. Merry-Legs is Clarissa's horse. The two often go out riding together with their owners.
The Characters - Teachers
The teachers in the books all seem excellent - possibly too excellent. The French teachers are presented in a rather unfair way as they speak incorrect English with silly errors, and their moods are extremely volatile, apparently because they're French.
Miss Grayling is the headmistress of Malory Towers. She is firm yet fair, and willing to give people second chances. When every girl arrives at Malory Towers she gives them a little speech, saying that Malory Towers will do a lot for them, and they must try to give a lot back.
Mam'zelle Dupont teaches French. She is round and kind, with a good sense of humour, which often makes her the victim of Alicia and Betty's tricks.
Mam'zelle Rougier also teaches French. She and Mam'zelle Dupont are either fighting bitterly, or the best of friends. Mam'zelle Rougier is tall, bony and strict.
Miss Potts, affectionately called 'Potty' by the girls, is in charge of North Tower and teaches the first form. She is very strict, but fair, kind and quite proud of her girls. She loathes lazy students.
Miss Parker and Miss Peters
Miss Parker, called 'Nosey Parker' because of her very large nose, teaches the second form. Miss Peters, who teaches third form, loves horses, and is described as being 'manly'.
The books have quite interesting, although predictable, plots. The stories each have several morals, shown by the characters and what happens to them. In particular, several sub-plots within the story focus on the above-mentioned theme of pride coming before a fall.
First Term at Malory Towers
The first book in the series is all about Darrell's first term at her new school. The other girls in Darrell's form, and many of the teachers and other students, are introduced in this book. Darrell at first makes friends with Alicia and Betty, who like to make jokes and play tricks, but her marks suffer as a result. Darrell eventually makes firm friends with Sally, oddly enough after they have a fight.
Second Form at Malory Towers
This book is much more dramatic than the previous book. Darrell returns to Malory Towers for her second year. There are many new girls in her form - and someone is stealing other girls' belongings. Alicia openly accuses the wrong person, leading the real thief to indirectly put another girl in severe danger - and then rescue her again!
Third Year at Malory Towers
Darrell has to look after Zerelda, an American girl, who wants to be a film star. Bill spends all her spare time with Thunder and puts no effort into her school work. She is told that Thunder will be taken away if her marks don't improve, but Bill knows that Thunder is sick. Meanwhile, Mavis seriously damages herself, Darrell as usual manages to help save the day, and Zerelda learns that it's best for her to be a schoolgirl rather than an aspiring actress.
Upper Fourth at Malory Towers
Darrell is chosen to be Head Girl of her form for the first time. Unfortunately she makes a hash of things due to a disastrous midnight feast. Gwendoline pretends to be ill to get out of her exams. Someone is doing nasty things to Connie's belongings, and Ruth is very keen to make up to Connie whatever wrong has been done. Darrell is puzzled by the twins' relationship, and decides to investigate - managing to save the day yet again.
In the Fifth at Malory Towers
The fifth form is to perform a pantomime in front of the whole school and parents. The girls choose Cinderella and eventually cast the play. Unfortunately, with personality clashes between the domineering Moira, confident Alicia and many of the other girls, it starts to look like that pantomime will not go ahead. Things are complicated by Moira receiving a set of rude, spiteful anonymous letters.
Last Term at Malory Towers
Darrell's last term at Malory Towers is quite eventful, with the arrival of sportsgirl Amanda, and two young girls in the lower school running away. This last book rounds up nicely what is happening to everyone - some students are continuing to university, some are getting jobs and Bill and Clarissa are starting a riding stable.