15/12/2010

The Chalet School in Exile (by Elinor M Brent-Dyer)

I'm very pleased that I now have on my shelves the entire Chalet School series by Elinor M Brent-Dyer, which I first started reading in my childhood. I read the later books in the series during my teenage years, and - when opportunity strikes - have re-read most of them during adulthood.

The last time I read 'The Chalet School in Exile' was in 2003. It was always one of my favourite books, and I'm particularly glad to have a hardback edition since the paperback version was significantly abridged.

This is a significant book in the lengthy Chalet School series. Set in the 1940s, Naziism arrives in Austria, forcing the school and sanitorium to re-locate. There's much discussion about the difficulties of running a foreign school in a war situation, and some realism as we see the plight of the Austrian and German nationals in the school.

High drama surrounds the escape of a small group from the school after a nasty incident involving an elderly Jewish watchmaker. Joey Bettany, still a schoolgirl at heart at the start of the book, finally grows up - in more ways than one. There are warm friendships and believable characters, with very little going on in the classroom. Joey manages to surprise her family and friends, and there's an extremely moving ending to the book.

Definitely recommended to anyone who enjoys Chalet School books, since this is an important bridging story, besides being so moving in places. Perhaps a little long-winded at times - a few editorial cuts wouldn't be a bad thing - but the Armada paperback removed large chunks of the story.

The 'The Chalet School in Exile' was re-published by 'Girls Gone By' in 2009 although it's no longer in print. It's fairly widely available second-hand, at least in the abridged Armada edition.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews 15th December 2010

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