15/09/2003

The Chalet School in Exile (by Elinor M Brent-Dyer)

I like reading Elinor M Brent-Dyer's 'Chalet School' series at odd moments, although they're really intended for teenage girls. Of them all, one of my absolute favourites is the moving and exciting story of when the school had to escape from Austria shortly before World War II.

I read 'The Chalet School in Exile' in its hardback edition; it was somewhat abridged in the Armada paperback version.

As the story opens, Naziism threatens Austria, and the authorities decide that the school must leave, and start afresh somewhere in the UK.

The girls decide to make and sign a peace league; a few of them go on a picnic, so that they can hide it. Unfortunately they are followed by a small boy. Robin and Hilary are separated from the party, and Jo becomes frantic, collapsing in the arms of a young doctor, Jack Maynard.

An incident with an old and lovable Jewish watchmaker forces Jo, Jack, and a few others to become refugees, and a very exciting escape is described.

Meanwhile, the school closes, and girls are sent either to their home countries, or to other schools in Austria, or to the UK - where the Chalet School is eventually re-established in Guernsey.

Jo manages to star in this book in many ways, surprising everyone more than once.

Even re-reading for the fourth or fifth time, this book brings tears to my eyes in places. Very well written, and different from most of the other Chalet School books, since it doesn't actually feature much of the school at all.

Not always in print; paperback versions can easily be found second-hand, but the new hardback imprints are pricier, and the old hardbacks tend to be extremely expensive.

You can also read my most recent review of 'The Chalet School in Exile', written at the end of 2010

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