You’re thinking that Elinor Brent-Dyer wrote the Chalet School series, aren’t you? Write On readers with good memories will recall that I mentioned, a couple of years ago, that I visited the small plaque erected to Elinor Brent-Dyer in the library/tourist information centre in Pachenau. You may be interested to know that, in addition to the sixty books written by Elinor, more Chalet School books have been written by other authors, many (but not all) of them published by Girls Gone By. The author of this one, Adrianne Fitzpatrick, I know very well, through the Association of Christian Writers and it was she who told me about this cornucopia. I bought this book at the ACW bookstall at the ACW Writers Day last month and Adrianne has autographed it for me.
‘The Champion of the Chalet School’, set in 1946, at the time when the Chalet School was in Wales, has twelve year old Betsy Lucy as its main character. Adrianne writes in the introduction that she feels that puckish Betsy, who has older and younger sisters, is under-exposed as a character, and she picks up on events referred to in passing by EBD, about poor morale and indiscipline caused by an ineffectual head girl, Marilyn Evans, who neglected her duties for her academic work. Like the vast majority of other Chalet School books, The Champion covers the events of one term only, recounting how Peggy Burnett, the new head girl, tries to set things back on course, and, in particular, how young Betsy attempts to support her, by doing things, not for herself, not for her friends, not for her form, but for the school. To anyone involved in education at the current time, it seems inconceivable that discipline should rest on the head girl and the prefects to such a large extent, but I know that my husband, who was at one time head of house in his school, had a lot of responsibility.
An interesting subplot concerns delicate Anne, who is not allowed to do games or, indeed, move about much at all. Whereas, as I know from my own experience, contemporary children would be very supportive of a disabled colleague, Anne gets bullied because it’s felt she’s skiving. In the best schoolgirl tradition, Betsy sticks up for her. The kids I taught recently have, of course, grown up amongst Equality and Diversity legislation, whereas the Chaleteans hadn’t, so the scenario Adrianne describes rings true – for 1946. It also demonstrates how far attitudes have moved on.
Adrianne picks up the voice, the tone and the underpinning worldview of the EBD Chalet School perfectly: the delicate girls, the many rules which were all abided by as a matter of course, the girls’ interests and pursuits (Betsy did a lot of knitting), the piety, the general understanding that, on leaving school, all pupils (except a few who became teachers) got married (normally to doctors) and produced further Chalet School girls. You know me, that I’m a stickler for authenticity, and I would’ve been shocked if the girls had been more uptodate in their outlook, but, because of this, The Champion is, in truth, a story for grown-up girls – like me. My mother read the Chalet School series before me, and the reality is that the stories always were old fashioned, even at the time they were written. It’s noticeable that, whereas the Enid Blyton school stories, which I also used to read as a child, are still in print whereas many Chalet School stories aren’t.
Adrianne, who is a professional editor, also runs the small publishing company, Books to Treasure, which specialises in children’s and young adult fiction and non-fiction. I’m just going to double-check my grammar and punctuation in this post, because I do hope she’ll read it and won’t find too many mistakes!
‘Champion of the Chalet School’ is available from Girls Gone By Publishers.