The New House at the Chalet School by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer

The New House at the Chalet School by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Today was a day for New House. The weather was thick and hot and dense; that still, heavy air that is just hot and nothing else, and what else should one do on such days but read a gentle book like this? Joey Bettany’s last term at the Chalet School as a student is one marked by the softest of adventures (even when they are at their gravest, Joey ‘will get well’), the best of friendships, and the sweetest of goodbyes to an era already iconic in children’s literature. This is not a book for new readers (already a trait of this series – you either sink or swim when we get onto the fifteenth description of floral curtains) but it is a book for readers. Brent-Dyer is comfortable here and strong and her life work has not laid heavy on her yet and the Tiernsee is still the brightest and bluest lake in all of Austria and all is so good and so gentle and so right.

For a while, and most specifically in these early books, Brent-Dyer is breathtakingly good. There’s very little that actually happens here in terms of plot other than “termtime” and yet it works. Everybody knows everybody else so well and the web that connects these characters is so genuine and true. Margia plays her music, Joey fears the dentist, and then all of a sudden a long lost family relative pops up in the way that only makes sense in these books and you believe it all because it’s just so effortlessly charming. This isn’t big drama, or even drama with any particular sense of threat or danger, and yet it works.

I think these books bring you along for the ride so genuinely, so confidently, that you can’t resist it. You can see all of the artifice at work, the devices and the sleight of hand, and you can go “oh my god do they never do anything but weep hysterically with laughter at a performance” and “wait did the maid actually just fall down the stairs because she thought she saw the devil… that actually is what just happened?” and yet you still love it and there’s no fighting it because that’s just the way it is.

View all my reviews

8 thoughts on “The New House at the Chalet School by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer

  1. I love the bit where Jem is so desperate to see Margot again that he practically runs through the streets of Innsbruck, and Jo struggles to keep up with him, and then there’s a huggy-kissy reunion ❤️.

    1. Ah yes, I remember reading this and enjoying it at the time! I totally get your points about all the names!

      (And it’s taken me years to finish this series of reviews so there’s always time for you to read yours! 😉 ).

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