Althea Joins the Chalet School by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
It’s no secret that quality dips substantially towards the end of the Chalet School series, and Althea is emblematic of that shift. Following the now traditional format of ‘new girl attending the school’, we witness Althea’s eventual and inevitable integration into a true Chalet Girl during the first half of the term. The Borg-like overtones of the Chalet School at this point in time are hard to escape, and resistance is truly futile.
There are moments in this book which are truly legendary, and not in a good way. Whilst the actual quality of the writing has slipped, the tendency to ‘throw a maelstrom of incidents into the plot that make little to no sense’ has not. As a result of this, we get to witness a genuinely jaw-dropping moment where, and please note this is not hyperbole, Miss Ferrars manages to leap from one speeding motorboat to another. Frankly it’s an incident which sells the entire book.
Even though these latter books are locked in self-referential tales of the Old Girls and Their Doctors That They Have All Married, there’s still an inexplicable joy that surmounts all disappointment. By this point, there’s a feeling of being in it for the long run and seeing it through, and that sort of attitude on the part of the reader is not won easily. Brent-Dyer was amazing in her day. When her sun shone, it shone hugely. It’s just that in this book, it’s beginning to set.
5 thoughts on “Althea Joins the Chalet School : Elinor M. Brent-Dyer”
This is part of the reason why my collection barely extends outside the Tyrol years. It’s rather sad, really.
Considering the perverse joy that I take in narratives made of WTF (to be frank), that I read this aged eight and still remember the opening scenes, but CANNOT recall the Speedboat Heroine Sequence or the Pink Worm of Doom is…well. Mind-boggling. At some point I am going to have to track it down again, just to make sure that I’m not the victim of some widespread internet conspiracy…
I genuinely remember the pink worm thing, reading it, and going “But – wait – it’s a worm.” No! It’s the Terminator of Worms! And oh, the speedboat thing. It does exist 😉 and it’s one of those moments you read and go, wait, what, really??!