Shocks for the Chalet School (by Elinor M Brent-Dyer)

While I used to read Chalet School books (by the prolific Elinor M Brent-Dyer) avidly, one after another, I tend to limit them now to odd occasions when I want something relatively short and entirely non-challenging. So I've set myself to re-read the entire series, when I remember, interspersed with many other books.

This is taking quite some time. It was nearly three years ago - September 2009 - when I re-read the first book in the series, 'The School at the Chalet'. By December last year, I had reached, slowly, the 28th in the series (out of 64), 'The Wrong Chalet School'. And then I rather forgot about them until I wanted something short and very light a few days ago. And discovered, a little to my surprise, that I had apparently not read 'Shocks for the Chalet School' for at least fifteen years. Possibly longer.

The book features Emerence, a wild, unruly girl from Australia, who we learn is to be sent to the Chalet School. It looks like an interesting term ahead, not aided by the fact that the entire sixth form have moved to the new 'finishing' branch, just opened in the Oberland, so that this year's new prefects are all fairly inexperienced. Just to add to their woes, one of the prefects, Bride Bettany's closest friend, won't be able to return to school.

The main part of the book is a somewhat run-of-the-mill Chalet School story, including mention of lessons, a staff party, and an inevitable Christmas play towards the end. Further shocks emerge during the term, including a surprise announcement from Canada, a few surprise visitors, and the unearthing (literally) of an old well.

Elinor M Brent-Dyer evidently decided to give her quite specific views on child-raising a good airing in this book, despite her best examples of her theories (Joey and Madge and their families) still being off-stage, so to speak, in Canada. She apparently wanted to show how terrible it would be if a child were raised in complete freedom with no discipline whatsoever. However, I didn't feel that Emerence ever quite lived up to her potential! Happily, she is mostly treated sympathetically by the staff, and turns out to be quite a likeable person underneath her wild reputation.

Worth reading for continuity as part of the series, but nothing special.

I only have the Armada paperback edition of this book, but gather that it was little changed from the original hardback. Just as well since it does not appear to have been republished in an unabridged edition. It's currently out of print, but can often be found inexpensively in charity shops.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 1st August 2012

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