I’m going to apologise in advance for this review of Girls In Green, but honestly – this book. It starts in a normal place and then BOOM we’re up a tree and BOOM there’s stitched up pillowcases and BOOM somebody’s about to cark it in the pond. What I’m trying to say is there’s a lot and it’s kind of crazy but also kind of utterly fascinating in the process….
Girls in Green by Elisabeth Morley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I know absolutely nothing about Elisabeth Morley, nor did I know anything about Girls In Green. It was one of those books that I picked up out of interest, attracted as much by that delightfully Robin Hood-esque front cover as I was by the fact that it was published in 1949 and thus at a key point for children’s literature within the United Kingdom. This is the time of the century where the school story was, I think, starting to shift into something else, and so it can all be super interesting to see what happens and how people handle that.
So let me tell you this: Girls In Green is not without its faults, but it’s actually pretty fun. The principle is fairly straightforward: a new girl joins, makes a hash of things at first, before realising she is a True Chalet School Girl. Wait, no, she’s realising she’s a true Southfield High School but it’s the same thing. And what’s more her name is Stephanie Hunt-Smith so she has the same initials and honestly, wasn’t it always meant to be? Of course IMPEDIMENTA stands in the way (and no, I’m not referring to some unfortunately named middle) but Everything! Works! Out! For! The! Best!
(Ridiculous, yes, but I do love these books.)
It’s also rather fascinating how much this feels like a book of two halves; a tautological way to express it yes, yes, but the best way to describe it. Several of the incidents are right of the Chalet School or Malory Towers but some of them – I’m thinking in particular of the plate being smacked on somebody’s head with enough force to shatter it (!!!!) and the Headteacher’s magnificently careless “Yes you are a bit spoilt” to Stephanie (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) – hint towards the more realistic edge and social immediacy that children’s fiction was just about to embrace.
Morley’s prose is rather stylish at some points – there’s a delightful moment where she writes some siblings bickering that’s done so well, I had to do a little double take at it, and later she has some other rather splendid one-liners. I always think with writing you can tell when something steps up to be Noticeably Good, and there’s some really strong stuff here. I just don’t think it’s sustained throughout the book (the plot gets a little messy and things start to not make sense) but honestly, this is a lot of (slightly off its noodle) fun. I’d definitely recommend it as a later representative of the school story genre, and a marker of how much things were about to change for said genre.
What else do I need to tell you about this? Perhaps nothing other than the fact that the new girl is described as ‘a cross between Betty Grable and Rita Hayworth’ (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! x a million) which is an absolute FIRST for the genre.
View all my reviews