Redheads at the Chalet School by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Firstly, I think, I have to clarify the five star rating of this book. When it comes to Redheads, it is necessary to rate it on a wholly different level to the rest of the series. Whilst it’s nowhere near the stunning The Chalet School in Exile in terms of quality, where Redheads scores high is on all round (and splendidly silly) amazingness.
This is an amazing book and it’s one that sort of defies ‘normal’ critique. It’s the one where Brent-Dyer decided to write about criminal gangs, nefarious plots, and all round bad people. It’s a concept she may have got away with earlier in the series whilst at the peaks of her powers but bearing in mind Redheads comes towards the end of the series and in the middle of an all round drop in quality, Redheads becomes a slightly hysterical and giddy experience.
Flavia (I do *love* her name) Letton has joined the Chalet School and is our new girl of focus. She’s joined the school under the name of Flavia Ansell, and had to leave behind her beloved stepfather in a hush hush loose lips sink ships sort of manner. It’s not the only unusual thing about this term; there’s a strange American woman stalking the school with a fixed interest in all the redheaded girls, and somebody’s after Flavia in particular…
It is a different angle to take in the series and it’s one that never quite sits well with the gentle real-world-ignoring that the Chalet School had slipped into at this point. It’s hard to read this book seriously at times but it’s one that very rarely lets up on pace. It’s as if Brent-Dyer decided on this angle and then sort of went ‘oh whatever’ when she got halfway through and decided to throw everything to the wall in the hope that it stuck.
Redheads is such an oddity in the series (We’ll change her surname! That’ll do it! That’ll make them look for the other redheaded girl called Flavia at a school in Switzerland! It’s such a common first name!) that it’s sort of both madly refreshing and sort of joyous to read at a point in the series that is flirting all to seriously with Althea Joins the Chalet School level quality.
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