Our reading was closely connected to the unspoken contract our parents had with the schools they sent us to: we were to be socialized into English for all the reasons that Macaulay had specified more than a century ago. As a consequence, we learnt to love the superior rituals of an English childhood: boarding-school codes (Bunter, Jennings, St Clare’s); countrified adventure (the Famous Five); urban mysteries complete with constable (the Five Find-Outers). Later, we enjoyed at one remove, the excitement of colonial/Western derring-do (Henty, MacLean) and modern love (Denise Robins, Mills & Boon)….
My anecdotal research reveals that nearly everything boys read today can be classed as fantasy…. I suspect my generation didn’t need generic fantasy because our imaginations were already stoked by the post-colonial fantasy of living English lives. Bunter and Jennings and Kirrin Island and scones were as dreamily strange and wonderful as Brian Jacques’s canned English countryside, teeming with warrior mice, talking badgers and scheming rats must seem to my son.