26/09/2003

Gay from China at the Chalet School (by Elinor M Brent-Dyer)

Every so often I re-read a few of the Chalet School books by Elinor M Brent-Dyer that I so enjoyed as a teenager. The characters are excellent, and while some of the later books are rather samey 'school stories', the earlier ones have more variation, so I re-read them more often.

There are one or two I seem to pick up frequently, every time I'm staying somewhere with hardback versions of the Chalet School books. I hadn't realised it at first, but I last read 'Gay from China at the Chalet School' only a year ago; I also read it a year before that, in 2001!

The story is mainly about Jacynth, who is alone in the world other than her beloved aunt. She is sent to the Chalet School while her aunt prepares for a major operation, and befriends Gay Lambert, partly through their shared love of music.

Gay decides she will teach Jacynth to play the cello, as Jacynth's aunt can't afford extras like private music lessons. Gay's teacher thinks this is an excellent idea, and Jacynth makes rapid progress.

Meanwhile, the two Chalet School heads and two other senior staff are involved in a nasty road accident. Nobody can take over at short notice, so the unpleasant Miss Bubb is appointed as temporary head of the school. Madge Russel, the school founder, is unable to be involved since her five-year-old daughter Josette has suffered a nasty scald that has put her life in danger.

Miss Bubb is so unpleasant in her rules and regulations that Gay finds herself forced to run away. However, all ends well, despite a bout of german measles and some very bad news for Jacynth.

Extremely moving in places, with an interesting plot and some excellent characters. Recommended to Chalet School fans ... though I don't think I'll continue reading it every year!

still in print in the UK; sometimes available second-hand, but tends to be very expensive. Note - more recent editions have had the title changed to 'Gay Lambert at the Chalet School'

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