16/02/2010

The Chalet School and Jo (by Elinor M Brent-Dyer)

I've enjoyed the Chalet School series by Elinor M Brent-Dyer for over thirty years now. I read them all - mostly borrowed from a school library - in my teenage years, and since then have gradually collected them; reading them when I feel like something light and unchallenging.

Last September I acquired some of the hardback versions beginning with 'The School at the Chalet', and thoroughly enjoyed reading the full versions of the first six in the series. I didn't have the seventh in the series, in hardback, and felt less inspired to read it in paperback.

However, wanting something quick and light over the weekend, I decided to read it anyway. I last read 'The Chalet School and Jo' back in 2003. I had vague memories of it - I've read most of the books many times over the years - but had forgotten the details.

It felt like a run-of-the-mill book in the Chalet School series - although since my version is paperback, it's entirely possible that the hardback original is better. Jo at 16 becomes Head Girl, although she would have preferred not to. She worries about the Robin's health, deals with difficult 'Middles', and has the chance of a lifetime to visit Oberammergau. She continues to show integrity and strength of character, combined with a tendency to speak and act without thinking, and a very deep love for her family and close friends.

It was pleasant enough light reading, and certainly fulfilled my aim of having something easy to read and light. But I felt mild disappointment that it was - basically - a standard school story of the era, without any deep characterisation or plot developments. I'm not sure if it was written quickly due to popular demand and thus didn't meet the standard of the first six, or whether the fault is in my Armada paperback version. It would be interesting to read the hardback original, or a fascimile of it, and see if - like the first six - it's greatly superior.

Still, not a bad book and worth reading for anyone who likes to keep track of the entire series. Not currently in print, but can often be found second-hand in charity shops.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 16th February 2010

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