Book Review: Five on Brexit Island

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Title: Five on Brexit Island

Author: Bruno Vincent

Year written: 2016

Publisher and year: Quercus, 2016

ISBN Number: 978-1-78648-384-3

I think I first heard of this book on a livestreams the Yogscast did in December and wanted to get it since then so, as I was already making a Paperchase order, it ended up in my bag. It’s £7.99 from Paperchase (though I found it for under £4 on Amazon) and a hardback which surprised me as most of the Famous Five books I grew up with are paperback. It’s the latest in the Famous Five for grown ups series, at least I’ve seen it called that even if it’s not the official name, and it’s Five on Brexit Island by Bruno Vincent.

I’m not sure how much of a thing the Famous Five, or Enid Blyton in general, is outside of the UK and if it’s even something that people still read here but I grew up reading them. It’s a very British series of books, I think Enid Blyton books are in general, where four children and their dog Timmy go for adventures. I think they’re fairly tame by today’s standards for adventure stories, they’re set in the fifties I think or maybe the sixties, and they always seem to find a friendly farmer who gives them free food and drink. One of them, a girl called George has an island off the coast of England, the kind with a nice ruin and plenty of secret tunnels and caves for adventure, which is where this story is set.

 

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On the left is Five on Brexit Island (2016, published by Quercus), on the Right is Five are Together Again (1966, published by Brockhampton Press Plc)

 

The cover for this book has an illustration in the style of the earliest books I have from the sixties, they belonged to my dad, as there have been a lot of publications of the series it’s interesting to see how the illustrators choose to show the characters but these have stuck pretty faithfully to the earliest hardbacks I have. The size is slightly larger than most paperback books but it does fit in with them nicely and the spine is fairly plain. I do love the quote on the back, it pretty much sums up the tone of the book so if it makes you smile the rest of the book is worth a look.

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The paper is pretty thick it feels thicker than a lot of my paperbacks but not thick enough to feel like parchment, if that makes sense. It also has illustrations dotted throughout the book, these take up a whole page and have a caption beneath them, like you get in a lot of books published in the sixties. These illustrations go with the cover and I do like this style, maybe because a lot of the books I grew up reading used it due to their age, but it feels kind of more innocent as it isn’t overly detailed. It says the cover illustrator is Ruth Palmer but I’m not sure if that means she only did the cover or if the inside illustrations are by her too, the style is definitely copying the originals in both cases and looks similar.

The story itself is set in the present day with the Famous Five grown up and going through Kirrin Island to escape the madness of the Brexit referendum. When the results come in George, the owner of the island, decides to declare independence from the UK to try and stay in the EU. This leads to a referendum within the four humans on the island when Julian says he wanted to leave the EU so, being 25% of the population, triggers the referendum  (Timmy is pretty neutral, and a dog, so he doesn’t seem to be counted as a citizen beyond the word).

 

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Various covers through the years, not in any real order

 

Having grown up with the Famous Five I think that the writer stayed true to the characters, which is always good to see when a childhood favourite is reimagined in any way. The writing style in general fits well with the original series with some modern twists, though things like technology seem to mainly be left on the mainland UK so hardly mentioned and it’s easy to forget it’s meant to be present day sometimes. I really like the sense of humour in the book, it’s definitely a tongue in cheek look at the Brexit referendum and how both sides acted and promises made so if you’re serious about the politics then this wouldn’t be for you. I guess the fact it’s done with the Famous Five might have been a clue too.

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It’s a short book, it only took a few hours to read, but I did like it and think it’s a nice, light hearted look at Brexit. It’s a serious topic but I always like to find the bright side, or the funny side in things, so if you don’t mind both sides getting commented on, either as a neutral or someone who likes the sound of this on either side then it could be worth looking at. I have to say I’m not sure that either side comes out looking good or avoids comment so if you’re really into the politics and think if it as just a serious topic then this isn’t a book for you. It may be more of a book for the remain voters but I don’t really know as it all depends on if you like this style humour really. It may be about the Famous Five but I’d say it’s a book for adults, not that there’s any bad language, gore or adult behaviour but the topic itself might not be interesting to a younger audience. Although this is a parody and I would put it in the humour or comedy category it’s not laugh out loud funny really.

 

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Others in the series

 

There are others in the series, including going gluten free and becoming parents and I think that all of them sound like great books you could buy as a present for someone. If they’re in the same tone as this, which they seem to be from the excerpts and reviews, then I think I’ll be seeing if I can find them to read rather than buy but they sound like they’re worth looking at.

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