The Chalet School Wins the Trick (by Elinor M Brent-Dyer)

In my gradual re-reading of Elinor M Brent-Dyer’s lengthy Chalet School series for teenage girls, I'm nearing the end. The last thirty or so are set in Switzerland, after the war years, and I hadn’t read these later books for, probably, twenty years or more.

‘The Chalet School wins the trick’ is number 46 in the original chronology, and has a slightly different storyline to the majority: five of the main characters are girls who are not (yet) Chalet School pupils, and indeed have taken a strong dislike to the school. This is mainly because, in the first chapter, they are caught by Rosalie Dene, the secretary, trying to do something dangerous…

Audrey, oldest of the five, is fifteen and tries to be responsible. Her father has been ill with TB so she and her two sisters, Celia - who is about eleven - and Win, categorised as ‘Baby’ but evidently about five or six, look up to her for support and leadership. Celia is quite close to another of the five, Val, who is about her age and has a brother at the Sanatorium nearby. The fifth in the quintette is Solange, who is about thirteen, French by nationality, and who has a very sick aunt.

So alongside the day-to-day life of the Chalet School, we read about these children who are doing some work at home, but spend a lot of the time roaming around the area, finding both good and not-so-good things to do. Their parents and guardians are naturally most concerned about their relatives in the San, so the girls, with a few rules, are mostly free to do their own thing.

There’s a fair amount of Joey Maynard in this book too, which is always a plus point in my view. Her triplets, 15-year-old Len, Con and Margot, feature significantly. Her littlest ones also appear, though the older boys and the first twins are now at school, and barely mentioned. But Joey’s wisdom and parenting ideas come through quite strongly, as does her compassion.

I had entirely forgotten the storyline of this; much is predictable, of course, but the vendetta against the school added an interesting twist, and there’s a more sober subplot involving Mary-Lou and her family-by-marriage.

My edition is one of the original hardbacks, so it’s a full edition; the Armada paperbacks were somewhat abridged.

Review by copyright 2016 Sue's Book Reviews

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