Theodora is one of the titles I have many many copies with. There’s something amusing to me about how it pushes its way into my collection, either bundled up as part of a double with Trials or as a falling apart Armada.
And, relatively unusually for a later Chalet School title, it’s quite interesting. This is Theodora’s first term at the Chalet School – and her big secret is that she’s been expelled from three schools beforehand for general insubordination and highjinks. Naturally things start to turn around at the Chalet School for the newly rechristened ‘Ted’ but it’s not without problems. And one of those problems is named Margot Maynard.
Ted herself is a lovely character and one that I always feel a bit of regret over. As the series progresses from this point, she becomes more of a foil to Len and the triplets, and loses that bright independence she shines with in her introductory novel. This is one of the things that Brent-Dyer was Not Good At. She’s got a habit of introducing the most fascinating characters (viz. Richenda, Prunella, Jo Scott etc) and then pushing them merrily into the background when she’s had enough of them.
The greater interest in this book comes from Margot and her permanent ‘get out of jail free’ card. She engages in some particularly nasty behaviour and it’s eye-opening to read, particularly if you bear in light some of the actions she engages in later in the series – Chalet School Triplets comes to mind, as does the whole ‘how on earth did she not get expelled’ thought. Also, and particularly relevant for Theodora, I’m always struck by how blame for the more dramatic incidents of Margot’s behaviour is apportioned equally towards Con and Len.
So Theodora’s a bit of a mixed bag really. On one hand you have the standard subsuming of the new girl into a Real Chalet School Girl, and on the other hand you have a storyline of bulllying and all round mean girl attitude balanced against that empowering journey of self-discovery. It’s an intriguing, dark and thought-provoking mix.
(And now that I’ve said all that, can Mary-Lou please sod off for the entirety of this book? Thanks).