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

I was feeling tired and lacking energy, suffering from a nasty cold. So I wanted something ultra-light and comforting to read. What better than something by Elinor M Brent-Dyer, author of the lengthy Chalet School series which I am - very gradually, interspersed with many other books - re-reading.

Last time I read 'The Chalet School in the Oberland' was in 2000, so twelve years ago. That means that I'd pretty much forgotten everything about it, other than that it described the first term of the new 'finishing school' sixth-form branch of the Chalet School which had just been opened in Switzerland. It's best read right after 'Shocks for the Chalet School', but chronologically speaking it takes place over exactly the same time period.

A mixture of 38 girls from various schools begin the term together at the Oberland branch, headed by Miss Wilson - previously co-head of the main Chalet School - and including one or two other familiar people from earlier in the series. Nobody knows quite what to expect as girls of 16-18 from a variety of backgrounds start to mix together in a brand new environment.

Gradually the girls learn to work together, and the initial cliques become a bit fuzzier.  There are some old favourite characters, including Peggy Bettany who goes through a very difficult period when her beloved mother is very ill  Some of the 'new' folk struggle with the Chalet School ethos; in particular, a girl called Elma gets into some trouble. Brent-Dyer's personal ethics come through quite strongly, in a way that would probably seem very dated and moralistic to many of today's teenagers.

Still, I always enjoy these favourites from my own teenage years. This particular book is a little different from some of the others, with a pantomime rather than the usual Nativity play or summer fair at the end.

It was a good choice for a book that didn't require much effort, and made enjoyable fluffy reading.

Not currently in print, and often pricey second-hand; however this can sometimes be found inexpensively in UK charity shops.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 15th September 2012

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