(First read 20/12/2013)
For once I can't find anything to knock about an E F Benson novel. David Blaize and the Blue Door is, of course, a book for kiddies, for little kiddies at that. The eponymous hero is six years old; he goes to bed one night, passes through a blue door situated behind his pillow, and has a ~ fairly lengthy ~ series of adventures à la Alice through the looking-glass. The adventures were humorous and quirky enough to keep me interested; the prose light and easy with just the right Oh do tell us a story, dear Uncle Fred! tone to them; the author doesn't pontificate or moralize (much); and the whole thing is very Edwardian, cozy 'n' comfy, even when, towards the end, it gets a bit 'soldiery'¹.
All in all, a jolly read. Mind you, I daresay today's kiddiwinks would be bored shitless with it. ["Don't you mean 'witless', Ewie?"]
I really think ~ not that anyone asked ~ that Benson should have written more for children, preferably on the subject of animals: this, and his sketches Jill's Cat (1916) and the pair 'Puss-Cat' and There Arose a King (both 1920) are not only charming but appear somehow both effortless and inspired, unlike so very much of his adult fiction. Ah well, not a lot we can do about that, unfortunately.
P.S. DB & TBD should not be considered a prequel to David Blaize and David of King's: it stands up entirely on its own merits.
¹ I can imagine EFB's publishers saying to him, "Could you at least make some kind of acknowledgment that there's a war on? ~ you don't have to send David to Passchendaele or anything ... just a teeny little mention of soldiers or something, if only to let the parents know you're aware it's happening?"
~The Outlook (US; in 'Books for Young People' column), 26/11/1919
Several years ago Mr. Benson wrote a story about this same David in his lively schoolboy stage. Here we have David as a small child. Jolly things happened to him when he went through the blue door, and only Alice in Wonderland saw more wonderful and topsyturvy queer sights than David.
~Brian Masters in The Life of E. F. Benson, 1991. (Hmmm, I wouldn't call it any more contrived than ~ to take a random example ~ Alice in Wonderland.)Up and Down (1918) and David Blaize and the Blue Door (1918) were composed during and after [Arthur Benson's] committal to a mental home, yet they are innocent of any reference to it, even by implication. This was probably quite deliberate, for both books are an evasion, a denial of the real and the important. […] David Blaize and the Blue Door is a book of fantasy for children, in the manner of Alice in Wonderland. It enjoyed much success in its day, but now seems contrived.
David Blaize and the Blue Door is an imaginative fantasy that departs radically from the more traditionally structured David Blaize school stories. […] Searching for answers to important questions that adults dismiss as nonsense, David finds behind the door a Wonderland-like realm where nonsense is taken seriously by the inhabitants. The Times Literary Supplement [19/12/1918] notes similarities to the Alice books, but observes that Benson “carries the sincerest form of flattery just far enough to be clear of any charge of attempted concealment; and he weaves it into a story that is, in its main lines, his own invention.” Benson's inventive dream-fantasy anticipates some of his later supernatural fantasies, exploring the nature of 'nonsense' in order to question the limitations of conventional notions of 'sense'.
~Carolyn Sigler in Alternative Alices: Visions and Revisions of Lewis Carroll's Alice Books, 1997