Five Go Gluten Free: A Review

Julian, Dick, George, and Anne, now grown up and living in London, but still living together with ever-faithful Timmy embark on a complete lifestyle change. ‘From now on, the whole lot of them were going to eat only whole food. No processed “muck”, no additives. All organic, Timmy included – there were to be no exceptions.’ ‘No gluten. No dairy. NO sugar.’

I loved Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books growing up, and currently live in an ultra-middle-class-and-hipster town (it has a raw food cafe, need I say more?) and have watched a several people I know go down the ultra-healthy-diet-route (only eating pasta if it’s made from courgette shavings, not eating at chain restaurants/cafes, only eating organic-esque food…), so I “get” both of the things this book is satirising! I actually eat gluten-free because I am gluten intolerant, and I do try to eat reasonably healthily, but I can appreciate the humorous dig at current trendy “healthy” diets taken to extremes. I think perhaps ‘Five go paleo’ would have been a better title than ‘Five go gluten free’, though, as celiac disease and gluten intolerance are common and very serious reasons why people are forced to eat gluten free: they’re not a debatable health-eating-related diet, they’re universally medically-recognised conditions. (NB: I am not saying that I don’t think the paleo, or similar diets, don’t work or aren’t healthy – I have absolutely no convictions one way or the other about them – but I can appreciate the humour of a depiction of such diets being taken to absurd extremes.)

The Famous Five grown up are close enough to their childhood selves to be believable. And the concept of the book is a good one. But I found the actual prose and narrative a bit plodding. The real Famous Five books are actually funnier than this deliberate satire: it feels like the author is trying too hard. The little inconsistencies in the Famous Five satire series are also slightly irritating. The pictures don’t always match their tagline, the taglines don’t always match the text, and there are errors in continuity e.g. In Five Go Parenting cousin Rupert’s mother is dead, in Five Go Gluten Free (set after Five Go Parenting), she has tea with Aunt Fanny every week!

If you like(d) the Famous Five boys, and would enjoy a satire of trendy healthy diets, this is one of those books that if you come across it in a charity shop it’s worth picking up, but I can’t really recommend it for it’s £7.99: I was rather disappointed by it. (Its £3.99 Kindle price is a bit more reasonable, considering the the length and quality of the book.)


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