Chalet School Fete (by Elinor M Brent-Dyer)

Slowly, very slowly I’m reading my way through Elinor M Brent-Dyer’s series of over fifty books about the Chalet School. I’ve reached the ones written and set in the mid 1950s, when the school has moved back to Switzerland after some years in the UK and Channel Islands during the war.

‘Chalet School Fete’ is actually the second part of the original book entitled ‘A Genius at the Chalet School’, so if you have either the hardback version of that, or the more recently published ‘Girls Gone By’ edition, then you won’t need this slim addition to the series. But although I have many of the hardbacks, I’ve somehow acquired the pair of Armada paperbacks that make up this particular book, the first (confusingly) sharing its name with the original.

So the Armada paperback ‘A Genius at the Chalet School’ introduces us to Nina Rutherford, the brilliant piano-playing teenager who has to learn to be a little more thoughtful in her ambitions and behaviour. It works as a stand-alone, ending with Nina accompanying the orchestra in the school pantomime and enjoying it thoroughly.

In this second part, which works as a sequel, Nina learns that one of her cousins is very ill, and has to be brought out to Switzerland for her lungs; by an unlikely coincidence, on a school trip, one of her teachers meets someone who turns out to be yet another relative…

As a stand-alone book this is rather unsubstantial; the crisis in the early chapters involves Nina’s cousin, but that’s never really resolved. Nina herself has already become more friendly and likeable, and for the school it’s a fairly ordinary term leading up to yet another summer fete, which is described, as usual with this author, in too much detail.

Still, it’s not really fair to judge it on its own merits as it has to be read as part of the full story, and as such it works reasonably well. I don't consider this to be one of the best in the series, and it could be missed out when reading through without too much difficulty.

Still, for those of us who like the general ramblings and development of different characters, it’s a pleasant enough story to while away an hour or two.

Review by copyright 2015 Sue's Book Reviews

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