Peggy’s Last Term by Ethel Talbot

Peggy’s Last Term by Ethel Talbot

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I recently finished a substantial bit of writing (finished, I say, in that way that Substantial Drafts Are Never Finished Oh God Oh God) and I decided to celebrate by sleeping for three weeks and then reading Peggy’s Last Term by Ethel Talbot. I had picked it up from a local bookshop a while back, stealing out in the brief moment where I got my first vaccination and the lockdown had lifted, and I’d never got around to it since. This felt like a perfect time.

And it was.

Reader, I loved this book. It’s everything. It slides from absolutely ridiculous to really rather amazing, and in doing so demonstrates the absolute power and joy of the school story genre. Consider the facts: Peggy is being sent back to school for her last term. But! She! Has! A! Secret! She is being expelled! Naturally there is another girl who knows this secret of hers, but then there is GUIDES because GUIDES we like GUIDES THEY ARE GOOD GUIDES YES MORE GUIDES ALL OF THIS BOOK LOVES THE GUIDES.

Honestly, fabulous. For a moment I thought that the whole expulsion thing was going to be a red herring and that the authorities were using it to make Peggy Reform Into A Good Egg, but it wasn’t, and I was wrong, and then the ending just went to a PLACE. I mean, let me tell you: there’s echoes of the whole “be brave” speech from The Chalet School In Exile, the sudden arrival of The War, and then there’s the most hysterical last line in existence, and I LOVED IT.

Sometimes these books can be absolutely ridiculous (in the absolute best way) and then all of a sudden, they can tear your heart out. This is Talbot telling a whole generation of girls what to do in the middle of wartime and how guiding can help you out with that – and even though it’s loosely done and the writing’s not particularly great at parts and there’s a lot of GUIDES GUIDES WE LOVE GUIDES, there’s something about this book that absolutely works. How can it not when you get points like “you shouldn’t be scared of the sounds of the guns – you should be scared when you can’t hear them”? Amazing, amazing, I love it.

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