Before I get to the review itself, can I tell you a bit about my copy of Tom? It’s one of the most precious books in my stash and honestly, it doesn’t look like it should be. It’s a slightly mothy Armada paperback with those soft, rubbed corners, so familiar to a book that’s been read a lot, and I found it at the other side of the world. I was in New Zealand and as you do, I was wandering through a bookshop in the middle of Auckland. I had told my friend about the Chalet School books and about how you had to check every bookshop you were passing, just in case one was there. (It’s the rules, I’m sorry). And the first bookshop we went into after that conversation had a copy of Tom. The last title I needed to complete my collection. It amazes me, even now.
I tucked that copy of Tom into the bottom of my rucksack and carried it around for the next few months. It was joined by a copy of Island for a short while (primarily because I couldn’t quite deal with leaving that on the shelf) but I ended up leaving Island in a campsite somewhere. I had another at home. Tom, though, it didn’t leave my side. Not once. Not ever. Isn’t it strange how a paperback can come to mean so much?
Tom Tackles the Chalet School by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Slight yet solid, pretty fleeting in terms of plot and yet still oddly appealing, Tom Tackles The Chalet School kind of gains in cachet the more you read the series. Everything starts here, be that the recurrent “oh what price getting locked into a cupboard” gag that absolutely mystified me for years before I got a copy of this one, Tom’s legendary dolls houses, and indeed, the legend herself: Tom. Or Lucinda Muriel. Or Muriel Lucinda, depending on which way round Brent-Dyer remembered to put it. Either way, legend. And rather unusual in the world of girl’s school stories: Tom has been bought up as a young gentlemen and so has an interesting time in the female world of the Chalet School itself.
I like this book. Tom’s fun, Bride Bettany’s in it and she’s fun, the doll’s house business always leaves me with a weird urge to make one (and I never did dolls, remotely), and even though it’s episodic and a little over-dramatic (SNOW ON THE MOUNTAINS when it’s actually just kind of a gentle hillock at best…), it’s oddly charming.
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