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.