I review a lot of school stories on this blog. I even write them. They are, as you’ll be aware, my jam. But so far, my jam hasn’t really included Dorita Fairlie Bruce. She’s one of the ‘big five’ authors alongside Angela Brazil, Elinor M. Brent-Dyer, Elsie Oxenham and Enid Blyton. Sometimes it’s the ‘big four’ and Enid Blyton gets dropped – for reasons we shan’t get into here! – but I hope that my point’s clear: Dorita Fairlie Bruce (often abbreviated to DFB) is a big cheese. And – confession time – I didn’t think I liked her….
Dimsie Among the Prefects by Dorita Fairlie Bruce
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I didn’t think I enjoyed the Dimsie books. I have vague memories of reading one, many moons ago, and giving up within the first few chapters. Something about it simply didn’t click and so I placed Dorita Fairlie Bruce as an author who just wasn’t for me. I had no inclination to find any of her other books because that reading had left me so indifferent over them. That was then, however, in a pre-2020 environment where things like lockdowns and widespread shop closures didn’t leave me grasping at great handfuls of books on the shelves while I can. I bought Dimsie Among The Prefects just before the second lockdown in the United Kingdom, conscious that I’d need something to distract me and consoling myself with the fact that I could sell it on after.
Reader, I won’t be selling it.
I realised this somewhere about the rather spectacular first few pages which involve a chap scowling through his monocle (a+++ work DFB, keep it up) and then the even more spectacular chapters which follow. There’s a new girl prone to biting who promptly tests out her powers by chowing down on the beloved prefect (do not do this at home) who then resolves the issue by tying up the child. Amazing.
My interest piqued, my hysterical laughter working over-time, I had no choice but to read on. And there’s a lot here that’s rather worth the effort. I knew of many of the characteristics of DFB’s work here (the anti-soppists league and so on) but I’d never quite actually enjoyed it. And I did! This is great! Terribly eccentric and deeply ridiculous and then the ending throws in an absolute classic of the genre! I was so happy, honestly, this ticks all my boxes. It’s very rich, rounded, and very classic school story stuff.
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