25/09/2009

Eustacia goes to the Chalet School (by Elinor M Brent-Dyer)

Yet another book by Elinor M Brent-Dyer, who I've been reading for probably 35 years or more. Her books are undoubtedly intended for teens, but I enjoy them just as much - if not more - as an adult.

'Eustacia goes to the Chalet School' is the sixth in the series. It features a rather snooty girl, daughter of an eminent professor. When he dies, she goes to live with an aunt but her rambunctious boy cousins can't cope with her. So her aunt decides to send her to the Chalet School on the recommendation of a friend. Eustacia is convinced she is vastly superior to most of the girls at the school, and feels that she ought to be able to break rules in order to suit her own convenience.

Naturally several conflicts ensue, and eventually there is high drama. There are other subplots in the book, as it goes through another term in Chalet School life; we meet old friends and new, and as ever the characters are believable and well-rounded.

Of course, it's decidedly 'colonial' era British, from the 1930s. And the views on education are those of a radical headmistress (which Brent-Dyer was) from that period; while she was no doubt espousing something quite different from normal schools, I do find myself slightly irritated when it's assumed that the best education must naturally happen in a school rather than at home.

Still, they're school stories and it's hardly surprising that this rather idealistic school is assumed to be one of the best sort. I found this book extremely moving in places; I last read 'Eustacia' six years previously and had quite forgotten most of it (other than the overall theme). Very enjoyable light reading, and all the better for now having a hardback version which contains the full text of the original, rather than the considerably abridged paperback version.

Not currently in print; the paperback version can often be found in charity shops, and the more recent reprint of the full paperback can usually be found online.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 25th September 2009

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