Three go to the Chalet School (by Elinor M Brent-Dyer)

Having been reading Elinor M Brent-Dyer's 'Chalet School' books for about forty years, off and on, there are a few that stand out in my mind as being more interesting and moving than others. Some of the later ones are similar, and rather samey, although still worth reading for a bit of social history, and from the perspective of continuity.

Unfortunately, I only had the Armada version of 'Three Goes to the Chalet School', which I last read ten years ago. It was still a good story, but I was aware that there was something missing from it, half-remembered from my teenage years when I read the full hardback versions.

 Recently I found a site that enabled me to find out which of the Armada books were drastically cut - and this was, indeed, one of them. So despite the fact that it's currently out of print, I was able to get hold of a copy published by 'Girls Gone By' a few years ago, at a reasonable price.

In this book, we initially meet the young and lively Mary-Lou in something of a battle with her upright and formal grandmother, who does not want her to play with her local friends Clem and Tony. The issue is temporarily shelved when they all move - Clem and Tony to Scotland, Mary-Lou and family to Armiford, the fictional town where the Chalet School is based during most of World War II.

Mary-Lou meets the Maynard family, whose triplets (Len, Con and Margot) are now nearly eight. She's an adaptable and friendly person, and despite initial reservations soon settles in well at the Chalet School.

Another new girl, Verity-Ann has been brought up by elderly relatives. She's about Mary-Lou's age, but does not in the least want to go to school. She finds it much harder to make friends, and her stubbornness makes things extremely difficult for her. As for the third of the 'Three', that's a surprise mid-way through the book.

Re-reading ten years after I read the Armada version, I enjoyed it very much in the 'Girls Gone By' edition with the full text. An entire chapter was removed from the Armada version: events not strictly necessary to the plot of the book, but enlarging on the life and stories of other important characters from previous books, and adding an enjoyable human element. In addition, this new edition has an interesting introduction about the Chalet School in general.

Mary-Lou - who appears in most of the subsequent books - is one of my favourite characters in the series, and I'd recommend this book to anyone who likes the Chalet School books, or indeed any school stories from the middle of the 20th century.

Links are to the hardback edition, published in 1951, which are now cheaper than the GGB edition; the second-hand editions in charity shops, and inexpensive paperbacks at the Amazon marketplace are usually Armada abridged versions.  Still, the Armada editions are better than nothing.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 12th July 2011

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