feather_ghyll: Illustration of the Chalet against a white background with blue border (Chalet School)
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The Chalet School Does It Again: Elinor M. Brent-Dyer. Armada, 1990

I am excruciatingly slowly completing my Chalet School collection, and yes, with the aid of abridged Armada publications.

The title of this story always makes me wonder what did the Chalet School do before. What is this ‘it’? I also misread ‘The Chalet School Goes to It’ and think ‘It’ is referring to a place, rather than the ‘Goes to It’ as an action. I own a paperback version, so it’s entitled ‘The Chalet School Goes to War’.

Although I don’t own another copy of this book, I had a sense of déjà vu throughout, not because they repeat the theme of the School Sale (the Willow Pattern) or because Prunella, this term’s unusual new girl is a variant on a type that isn’t so very unique in EB-D’s oeuvre. No, I remembered the dog when Dr Courvosier met Biddy o’Ryan whilst rescuing some girls from a dip in an icy lake. The latter, as we all know, is an occupational hazard during the Tirolean or Swiss years, just as meeting and marrying a doctor is a reward for an old Chalet Girl. I must have read a copy, most likely a library copy.

What is striking is that this is set very early in the school’s relocation to the Swiss Alps (the cover art of the most exciting scene in the book shows the girls in the brown and flame uniform, but weren’t they supposed to have switched to the gentian blue at this point?) They are still doing School things for the first time in their new location. Julie Lucy is head girl, Mary-Lou Trelawney has been newly appointed Head of the Middle School, and the Maynard triplets are the youngest girls – the school having left its junior branch behind. But the school is growing, with talk of prospective pupils.

The focus, at first, appears to be on a new Middle - Prunella Davidson, who causes a sensation among the other girls. She won’t use contractions or abbreviations for names, which infuriates normally placid Len. Indeed, Prunella’s language is not only prim and proper, it is littered with proverbs. She is not so bad around mistresses, and the more perceptive suspect a put-up job, the cause of which is revealed gradually. Of course, it takes Jo Maynard to sort this behaviour out, which is apt, because despite her age – Prunella is about three years their senior - she has much to do with the Maynard triplets, rescuing Margot from the results of Margot’s own heedlessness, quarrelling with dorm mate Len and then supposedly becoming one of her many friends. I don’t remember if that stuck.

But the story expands to cover the doings of the whole school in a term that involves a flu epidemic, an eventful excursion and a joint Sale and pantomime, the latter put on by the ‘finishing school’ branch.

The book is filled with lapses from the EB-D. For instance, she isn’t particularly consistent on whether it’s a French or German day. I suppose it would be unfair to demand total fidelity, but some more references in reported speech would be better than the sporadic way it’s done. Maybe I misunderstood, but was it Clare Kennedy or Barbara Chester who was the head girl of Prunella’s form? Was Betsy Lucy her dorm prefect or not? Since when is Nell Randolph, not Daphne ‘no relation’ Russell, Peggy Bettany’s chum? And so on, bless her (by the Armada count, this is book 35).

The title actually comes from Joey’s last line at the close of the term and the book.


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October 2017


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