The Chalet School and Jo by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Destined for head-girl ever since day one, she’s finally done it. The Chalet School and Jo sees Joey assume the mantle of head girl. She’s not happy at the prospect and goes off grumbling to the intensely serene now-married-and-making-of-the-babies former head Girl Gisela. Gisela puts Joey on the right track, and Joey sets about making her term a success.
However. There’s worries about the Robin’s health, there’s a raven haired Irish orphaline with a begorrah-worthy accent wandering the Platz and those pesky Middles are being, well, pesky. Who knows how things are going to end up?
Well, to be frank, we all do, because we know how the system works by now. The middles, even at this early stage in the series, are tempestuous souls and their activities in this book are a bit amazing. We have the (soon to become legendary) Oberammergau incident, and also the Biddy-in-the-shed incident. It’s sort of glorious and bonkers all at the same time (and if that’s not a good way to describe the Chalet School series as a whole, then I’ll hand in my book-nerd badge at the door).
Coupled with this though is the story of Robin. Brent-Dyer wrote life, when it dances on the edge of death, so very very well and this book sees some of her finest work. There are points in it, full of stillness and pain, that make me weep. And I imagine they’ll always make me weep.
But then, in comparison with that, we have the odd little romance subplot between Juliet and A.N. Other. (“She’s left school! Marry her off!”) It’s a constant fascination to me how Brent-Dyer kept these distinct tonal opposites in complete harmony. It’s a skill that even she lost eventually (evidence a: “I take it we’re engaged? Like it darling?”)
5 thoughts on “The Chalet School and Jo : Elinor M. Brent-Dyer”
“It’s a constant fascination to me how Brent-Dyer kept these distinct tonal opposites in complete harmony.”
That sub-plot is a great example of that. You’ve got the tragedy (Juliet’s past coming back to haunt her), the humour (Joey, what *have* you done this time?) and the sheer oddness of the whole thing; especially as it is running alongside a main plot which is intentionally hilarious, unintentionally bizarre but also with some genuinely moving moments and character development (oh, that conversation between Jo and Hilda).
I have a huge fondness for the books set during her Head Girl-ship. There’s an awful lot of good stuff in them, including some of the best moments in the entire series, but they’re cracked and bonkers at the same time. Naturally, I adore them 🙂
That’s beautifully put. And I agree with you – the Hilda-Joey bit is just, well, wow. Thank you for commenting 🙂
I just finished reading The Chalet Girls In Camp. I take it that this book comes after The Chalet School and Jo because I was surprised at the casual mention of Juliet’s fiance. But you never know with Brent-Dyer. The sudden arrival of Madge’s baby left me stunned and then racing back through the pages (The Head Girl of the Chalet School, I think) for the slightest hint of a pregnancy. I couldn’t find anything beyond the passing mention that she wouldn’t be able to make it down to the school that often. But I’m onto her tricks by now. When Gisela couldn’t make it down for Bernhilda’s wedding without any suitable explanation, I suspected a pregnancy. And I was right!
Of course, now I realise I’ve rambled on about matters not dealing with this book at all (I haven’t read it yet). Forgive my digression. I just love gabbing about this series but nobody I know seems to have even heard of it.
Oh man, you’re right it is hysterical how the pregancies are spoken about in hushed whispers! 😀 (ps – there a lot of Chalet School fans on Twitter as well http://storify.com/chaletfan/lines-you-d-never-see-in-a-chalet-school-book-1 😉 )