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

I've been reading books by Elinor M Brent-Dyer since I was about eleven or twelve, I suppose. Possibly earlier, since my grandmother had quite a collection. The Chalet School series is lengthy and has been re-published several times in the past seventy years or so. Eminently re-readable by adults as well as teenage girls.

I haven't read 'Jo returns to the Chalet School' for many years, and had pretty much forgotten the plot. Jo Bettany, a popular head girl in the previous few books, has now left the Chalet School. But she was the first pupil and is one of the lynchpins of the series. She comes back to visit the School at the start of term.. only to find that sickness prevents her from returning home. So she begins writing a school story novel which she has been considering for some time, and then gets co-opted into doing some teaching.

Meanwhile Polly Herriot is the significant new girl of the term - there always seem to be one who can't quite fit in at first. She was brought up in Victorian ways, with a governess who was at least 50 years out of date, and her ideas about schools are based on the worst of school stories.

I thought this was very enjoyable as part of the Chalet School series, which I'm re-reading, off and on. The final chapter, detailing a Christmas play, is a little tedious - worthy, but not very interesting - but the rest of the book is full of action and great characterisation. I'd recommend it too anyone who likes light teenage fiction of this kind. Not currently in print, but often seen second-hand in charity shops, at least in the Armada paperback version.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 26th November 2010

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