23/09/2009

Rivals of the chalet School (by Elinor M Brent-Dyer)

It's not often I read several in a series one after the other. I usually like to read at least a few different books in between. But somehow Elinor M Brent-Dyer's writing draws me in, with her excellent characterisation and interesting plots. So, while I'm still away from home and have a newly-acquired collection of some of the hardbacks, I continued on to yet another in this series.

'Rivals of the Chalet School' is fifth in the lengthy series, which I first read in my teens. It's more than ten years since I last read this - perhaps nearer twenty - and I'd pretty much forgotten it.

I knew the overall plot was about another girls' school that opens at the other end of the lake, and the rivalry that develops between the two schools. However I had no recollection of why the girls initially disliked eachother. The many sub-plots seemed new to me, and as ever the characterisation is very good. There was even one chapter where I had more than a few tears in my eyes.

Much of the book seems dated, unsurprisingly, particularly the medical aspects of the story and the serious worries about diseases which we now treat as mild. The idea of 'delicate' children seems rather old-fashioned too. But the educational and medical methods were probably radically modern in the late 1920s when this was first written.

All in all, great nostalgic reading. Not currently in print in hardback, although facsimile editions have been produced. This can often be found in Armada paperback, which is better than nothing, but the full versions are considerably better in my view.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 23rd September 2009

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