01/03/2018

Adrienne at the Chalet School (by Elinor M Brent-Dyer)

I wanted something light and reasonably quick to read, so it didn’t take me long to select another Chalet School book by Elinor M Brent-Dyer. I’ve re-read this lengthy series a few times over the decades since discovering them in my early teens. Interspersing with other books it’s taken me over eight years to re-read as far as the 53rd (57th in the Armada paperback series) ‘Adrienne at the Chalet School’. There are only five more in the series, so by the time I’ve finished I’ll be almost ready to start over again.

I couldn’t remember the plot of ‘Adrienne’ at all. Perhaps it’s a volume I missed out on previous re-reading, or perhaps it’s just that it’s not particularly memorable. Adrienne is a recently orphaned French teenager, currently living in a rather seedy rental apartment, soon to be destitute, or worse… her possible fate, if she cannot pay the rent, is only hinted at.

Happily for Adrienne, she is known to a Catholic priest, and he lets the local convent know about her situation. Sister Marie-Cecile (formerly known as Robin, in the earlier Chalet School series) is sent with a colleague to rescue her. After quite a serious stress-related breakdown, Adrienne is granted a scholarship and sent to the Chalet School.

She quickly makes friends, and despite limited educational opportunities, is quick to catch up and even overtake most of her classmates. This is only a problem to the girl who, up to that point, was well ahead of everyone. She becomes jealous and bitter, although this storyline doesn’t really go anywhere, and then peters out mostly of its own accord.

There’s a mystery surrounding Adrienne since a few people are convinced she reminds them of someone, but none can quite work out who it might be, or what the connection could be. She knows nothing of her family background, but it wasn’t difficult to work out what was being hinted at. Or perhaps I had a subconscious memory of the last time I read the book. In any case, what transpired was rather unlikely (albeit predictable by this stage). I was amused that the author actually has one of the characters put in a comment that reality was sometimes stranger than fiction.

Overall I thought it rather a run-of-the-mill Chalet School book, with a fair amount of in-school events. These include lots of heavy snow, the standard skiing for beginners with instructions about sunglasses to prevent snow-blindness, and not allowing skis to run together. There are half-term activities, described in some detail, and various entertainments. It was undemanding reading that filled a few gaps in a busy schedule, and a pleasant enough book but I didn’t find it page-turning.

Not recommended as an introduction to the series, nor even a required addition to a collection of significant Chalet School books. But to fans of the series, or compulsive collectors like myself, it’s worth reading. Joey Maynard and her triplets are always interesting to read about, and we get strong hints in this book of where Len’s future lies, romantically speaking, although nothing is actually said. She even manages to shed the last of her childhood twice...

I am fortunate enough to have a hardback edition of this, which is quite rare. There was an abridged Armada version which is also out of print, but can sometimes be found second-hand.

Review by copyright 2018 Sue's Book Reviews

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