23/05/2016

Ruey Richardson - Chaletian (by Elinor M Brent-Dyer)

In my sporadic re-reading of the lengthy Chalet School series by Elinor M Brent-Dyer, I had reached the one which was 44th in the original publication list, 48th in the Armada variations. It immediately follows ‘Joey and co in Tirol’, which I read and enjoyed a couple of months ago.

‘Ruey Richardson - Chaletian’ continues directly from the previous book, starting at the beginning of the Autumn term at the Chalet School. Last time I read it, about six-and-a-half years ago, I only had the much-abridged Armada version, and thought it rather run-of-the mill and a bit disappointing. In the intervening years I managed to acquire the ‘Girls Gone By’ full edition, and hoped it might be more interesting...

Ruey starts her first term at the Chalet School with a bit of apprehension, having been in charge of her own life and schedule until recently. She’s now a ward of the Maynard family and very friendly with the triplets, and is regarded with disfavour by Francie Wilford who had wanted to become Margot Maynard’s special friend this term.

The blurb on the back of the book mentions this problem; combined with Ruey’s own dislike of early bedtimes and fixed prep periods, it could have led to some relational conflict of the kind that Brent-Dyer does quite well in some of the other books. However these two threads don’t take up much of the book at all. Francie sulks but nothing much happens. There’s a brief section where Ruey asks the triplets what it is that makes the Chalet School so special, with each person caring about everyone else, but that’s more about her personal character development than any real plot.

Unfortunately, it remains rather a dull book. Lacrosse is introduced as an alternative game to hockey, and there are quite lengthy explanations about the game, the way the sticks are held, and then a blow-by-blow account of one of the matches. I imagine that most of this was cut out of the Armada paperback, and I can see why. I would have cut these sections too. New uniforms are also discussed and chosen in this book, again with rather more detail than I cared about.

In addition there are prefects meetings, class incidents, various walks, and staff meetings - perhaps more of the latter than usual; I quite like the chance to get to know some of the staff a little better - and minor incidents involving Joey Maynard who, with her large family, lives next door. The first Bettany family wedding, which takes place over half-term, is only briefly mentioned despite a brief detour for close family and friends to attend it.

So, despite having the new edition, my opinion isn’t changed: it’s a run-of-the-mill Chalet School book, which is a pity as Ruey is a nicely developed and interesting character in the previous book which introduces her.

Still, I’m glad I have the new and full version. All the ‘Girls Gone By’ books have bonus essays or short stories included; this one begins with a fascinating introductory chapter about girls’ school uniforms, and how they changed in the early part of the 20th century. Then, at the end, is a story written by someone other than the main author, outlining a midnight feast that’s mentioned in the book, and its consequences. It’s nicely done, in best Brent-Dyer style, and makes a good add-on.

I’m glad I read it from the sake of continuity, and reminding me how Ruey settled into the school, but it’s not one I’ll be picking up at random to peruse again. Nor is it a good enough story to suggest it as a starting point for anyone intrigued by the Chalet School series. So I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’ve read most of the others, particularly ‘Joey and co in Tirol’.

Review by copyright 2016 Sue's Book Reviews

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