Jo of the Chalet School (by Elinor M Brent-Dyer)

I suppose I've always associated the Chalet School books by Elinor M Brent-Dyer with holidays of some sort. I started reading them in my early teenage years when we stayed with my grandparents in Scotland during the summer. I re-read them (the twenty or so she had, anyway) every year, and then more recently when staying in Birmingham I often dug out a few of these books to read.

Now, to my great delight, I've acquired my mother's full set of the books which include many of the hardbacks from my grandmother's house, and some more recently published. And what a joy it is to re-read these early ones in the series in hardback form again. The paperbacks abridged them quite seriously, although I hadn't realised to quite what an extent they were shortened.

'Jo of the Chalet School' is the second in this lengthy series about a girls' boarding school in Austria, which starts with 'The School at the Chalet'. This book particularly features 13-year-old Joey Bettany, sister of the school Head. She makes new friends, becomes editor of the new school magazine, learns to ski, and even discovers what her future career is likely to be. She adopts Rufus, too, and little Robin Humphries joins the family.

I've always found these far more interesting than the average school story for teenagers, even if they do seem a little dated in places. Brent-Dyer (who was herself a teacher) really gets into the characters in this volume, particularly that of Jo who appears in every one of the sixty-odd books.

I found the book relaxing to read, and even found tears in my eyes in a couple of particularly moving sections. And while I don't usually read several books by the same author in a row, I find that having started one Chalet School book, I want to read several more soon after.

Definitely recommended, if you like this kind of thing. Not in print currently, but can often be found inexpensively in charity shops. There was a newer hardback version was published by Chambers in 1988, and that is well worth getting hold of if you can, although it, too, is not now in print.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 19th September 2009

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