Chloe Takes Control by Phyllis Matthewman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I first came across the name of Matthewman in reading about my beloved Elinor M. Brent-Dyer. In the last years of her life, Brent-Dyer shared a house with Sidney and Phyllis Matthewman. There’s a fairly prevalent theory that Phyllis assisted with the writing of Prefects of the Chalet School. I’m not sure about the last one (and I’m not sure that I want to fully blame Prefects of the Chalet School on one person…).
Phyllis Matthewman was a prolific author in her own right. I’m conscious that framing her in the context of Brent-Dyer does her a disservice and it is one that I will rectify from this point. Chloe Takes Control is a lovely book, vibrant and well told and delightfully character driven. Matthewman pauses every now and then to engage in the genre tropes; the middles are rumbunctious, the headgirl is quietly authoritative, and a middle is Possessed Of Good Things But Doesn’t Quite Know It.
What distinguishes Chloe Takes Control is the complex nature of Chloe herself. She’s not the traditional schoolgirl heroine; she’s reticent, quiet, self-controlled and doesn’t like games. The last is almost unique within the canon and Matthewman earns this accolade with a quietly told, well-judged and understandable back story. Chloe is intensely believable and surprisingly contemporary in tone. It’s just a good, vivid, book. Matthewman writes with intense verve and alacrity. This is my first Matthewman; I hope it’s not my last.
One thing to note is that the edition I read (GGBP) has the phrase ‘working like n-‘ in it. It’s a throwaway moment, and one that very much reflects the context this was originally written in, but it is one instance of vocabulary that may require some clarification with a contemporary audience.