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 Post subject: School by the River
PostPosted: 19 Aug 2015, 13:47 
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I re-read School by the River last night, prompted by discussion in another thread. I was struck all over again by how vivid EBD's descriptions pf Mirania and Valnich are.

The prose is a little purple in places:
Quote:
Great mountains rear their chilly heads to the sky, and from these mountains, rivers pour down with a mighty music that fills the air... Here and there, mighty castles lift their grey towers and bastions from among the poles and low walls of the vineyards...

But then we get this:
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Presently the carriage turned out of this street ... and entered a quiet alley-way, where the warm sun shone on white houses with green and yellow sun-blinds over the windows, and the inevitable tubs of flowering plants on the balconies, and where three cats sunning themselves at various open doors were the only living things to be seen.

It's much better writing than her guide book descriptions of real Swiss places later in the series.

EBD was always good at describing places she knew, but this is an entirely invented location. Did she lift her descriptions from a traveller's account of some Balkan country? Was it based on things she saw on her visit to Austria? Or did she make it all up out of her own head?

She put an enormous amount of work into creating Mirania, its geography, its people, its socio-political structure. I wonder if she hoped School by the River might be the first in a series?


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 Post subject: Re: School by the River
PostPosted: 19 Aug 2015, 13:55 
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JayB wrote:
She put an enormous amount of work into creating Mirania, its geography, its people, its socio-political structure. I wonder if she hoped School by the River might be the first in a series?


I think she may have been. I loved the book, but then I'm studying music at the moment (piano and theory). I think it might have been a little too specialised in topic to have the mass appeal for a series.

As an aside, my music theory has now reached "Harmony", very CS.


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 Post subject: Re: School by the River
PostPosted: 19 Aug 2015, 14:37 
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I think it might have been a little too specialised in topic to have the mass appeal for a series.

That's true. I've never been quite sure what 'counterpoint' and 'thoroughbass' are! And her discussions of various composers and pieces of music probably went over the heads of many of her readers who didn't have music lessons and possibly didn't even have a wireless at home.

Books about sailing, ballet and riding have some quite specialist vocabulary, but they also have a lot more action. It's hard to write drama and tension into a scene about someone sitting at a piano! And their practice schedule means they don't have time for all the out of school activities the CS girls do.


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 Post subject: Re: School by the River
PostPosted: 19 Aug 2015, 14:44 
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I enjoyed School by the River, but as someone who never learned an instrument, some of it is too specialised, and all that practising sounds hellish. They never have time to just "be", although I would say the same of the Chalet School itself.

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 Post subject: Re: School by the River
PostPosted: 19 Aug 2015, 15:20 
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They never have time to just "be", although I would say the same of the Chalet School itself.

I don't think it was so bad in the Tyrol years. There are scenes where the Middles are lazing about under the pines, unsupervised and doing nothing in particular (other than founding the SSM!) It was in the Swiss years that things became so regimented.

I do think the Valnich girls should have had more outdoor exercise than a daily stroll in the garden and occasional game of tennis, even though when I was at school I put more energy into avoiding games than actually taking part! EBD created this wonderful location, and didn't really make use of it, in the way she made use of the Tyrol.


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 Post subject: Re: School by the River
PostPosted: 19 Aug 2015, 15:26 
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I took German because it got me out of a period of history, a period of geography and a period of P.E. Languages were much more interesting.

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 Post subject: Re: School by the River
PostPosted: 19 Aug 2015, 17:14 
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Sellenger wrote:
I enjoyed School by the River, but as someone who never learned an instrument, some of it is too specialised, and all that practising sounds hellish. They never have time to just "be", although I would say the same of the Chalet School itself.

My daughter's a flautist, and I think she would say that she's just 'being' even when she's immersed in her practising, since music is part of who she is. When she was still living at home, she certainly never regarded the hours she put in as 'hellish'. If she wasn't on the flute, she was playing the piano or her saxophone. Mind, she did have plenty of exercise as well, as she was a passionate horse rider. Still is! :D

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 Post subject: Re: School by the River
PostPosted: 19 Aug 2015, 17:20 
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MaryR wrote:
Sellenger wrote:
I enjoyed School by the River, but as someone who never learned an instrument, some of it is too specialised, and all that practising sounds hellish. They never have time to just "be", although I would say the same of the Chalet School itself.

My daughter's a flautist, and I think she would say that she's just 'being' even when she's immersed in her practising, since music is part of who she is. When she was still living at home, she certainly never regarded the hours she put in as 'hellish'. If she wasn't on the flute, she was playing the piano or her saxophone. Mind, she did have plenty of exercise as well, as she was a passionate horse rider. Still is! :D


That's interesting. I was watching something on the television last night or this morning (forget which!) where a Premier League football team was going through training exercises in the background and I found myself wondering whether they simply accepted them and even enjoyed them in the context of a desire to be 'the best' in their sport/profession. I hated having to do things such as run the entire perimeter of the hockey pitch before a hockey lesson at school but could see that if I had been a true sportswoman (most definitely not!) I might have had a different attitude. It strikes me that this is the same analogy as that of a musician - do they actually enjoy playing scales because they know how beneficial they will be to their ability to perform?


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 Post subject: Re: School by the River
PostPosted: 20 Aug 2015, 08:22 
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I think that in order to reach professional levels, you at the very least need to be able to tolerate the practice that goes behind it. It might not be your absolute favourite part of the work, but you have to be able to do it, and do it well and regularly, to succeed. If you dislike it too much, or it makes you miserable, then you're very unlike to succeed at very high levels.

For someone like Grizel, who is pushed into music without wanting it, those hours of scales must have been horrible - endless boring work for a goal she doesn't really want. For someone like Margia or Nina, it's an accepted part of their craft.

You see those levels of dedication/obsession in other areas, not just music and sports. Becoming a top scientist, or a partner at a law firm, or the CEO of a successful business generally require that level of work.

I personally think that being too exclusively single-minded is not healthy in the long run. You can get so deep into something that you lose perspective, and the ability to relate to the non-obsessed. Plus, if something goes wrong with your obsession, you have nothing else to turn to.

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 Post subject: Re: School by the River
PostPosted: 20 Aug 2015, 12:05 
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I think every hobby/activity/profession has its down side, whatever level it's practised at. Someone who likes to cook has all the clearing away and washing up to do at the end of it. Most writers will probably agree that creating characters and plots is the fun part - writing it down can be a slog and editing and proof reading is tedious. But as Jennifer said, it's a test of commitment, and anyone who is not really committed won't succeed. (Like all these young people who want instant fame and success without realising the real hard work that's necessary.)

Quote:
I personally think that being too exclusively single-minded is not healthy in the long run. You can get so deep into something that you lose perspective, and the ability to relate to the non-obsessed. Plus, if something goes wrong with your obsession, you have nothing else to turn to.

Yes. The girls in School by the River didn't seem to have any hobbies or interests beyond their music (except I suppose friendships count as another interest). But by the time EBD wrote Genius she was quite clear that that was not a Good Thing.


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 Post subject: Re: School by the River
PostPosted: 20 Aug 2015, 18:53 
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I loved School By The River, it's one of my favourite none Chalet School books.

Didn't Elisaveta marry someone from Mirania? Maybe EBD had plotted it to fit in slightly with the Chalet School, though I could be wrong.

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 Post subject: Re: School by the River
PostPosted: 20 Aug 2015, 19:11 
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Elisaveta married Tamara's brother Rafael.

Tamara and Rafael's mother was English. (And wasn't Veta herself part English?) One wonders why she didn't approach any of her English in-laws when she arrived in England destitute during the War.

Princess was published in 1927. SBTR was published in 1930, but the internal chronology of the book suggests that it was written and set earlier. It does have a slightly more dated feel to it than some of the CS books. So perhaps EBD was thinking of Mirania and Belsornia at the same time.

Is it in New we hear about Veta's forthcoming marriage and that she and the Helstons had visited the Tyrol in the summer? Veta must have been married very young, she was two years younger than Jo.


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 Post subject: Re: School by the River
PostPosted: 20 Aug 2015, 19:41 
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Yes, Elisaveta's mother was English, and her father had her spoke English because of her mother.

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 Post subject: Re: School by the River
PostPosted: 20 Aug 2015, 20:03 
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I suppose the Belsornian court was desperate for her to marry and produce an heir, seeing as her father refused to remarry and we don't even know who was next in line after Cosimo :D . It's apparently a love match, but Joey talks about them looking for a husband for Elisaveta well before then.

I think Raphael and Elisaveta were distant cousins, in good royal marriage tradition.

I really like The School of the River, but, like the early La Rochelle books, it reads as much more of a period piece tban even the earliest CS books.

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 Post subject: Re: School by the River
PostPosted: 21 Aug 2015, 08:14 
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I think it says that Elisaveta was married at eighteen. When she appears in Highland Twins, she already has three children (and not multiples!) and she's two years younger than Joey.

I imagine they were very keen on heirs. They changed the laws to make Elisaveta heir, and there doesn't appear to have been a clear choice for succession after her.

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 Post subject: Re: School by the River
PostPosted: 21 Aug 2015, 19:52 
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JayB wrote:
Elisaveta married Tamara's brother Rafael.

Tamara and Rafael's mother was English. (And wasn't Veta herself part English?) One wonders why she didn't approach any of her English in-laws when she arrived in England destitute during the War.


I imagine she didn't know them, or even where they were living. Her mother had died very young, as had Tamara and Rafael's mother... as, sadly, mothers often did in those days, not just in fiction.

I do love SBTR, it ranks as one of my favourite EBDs over all, and Jennifer one of my favourite characters of all time.


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 Post subject: Re: School by the River
PostPosted: 21 Aug 2015, 23:58 
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The one think that puzzles me is the comment about Jennifer being the Cornish form of something else. This gives the impression that Jennifer is an unusual name at the time. I wonder if it was - it's my sister's name, so it's never occurred to me before.

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 Post subject: Re: School by the River
PostPosted: 22 Aug 2015, 00:49 
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I've done a bit of rough and ready research, which produced some interesting results.

In the 1881 census of England and Wales, there were fewer than 140 Jennifers in England and Wales (as opposed to all the Jennys) and the great majority were born in Cornwall.

A search of births on Free BMD for England and Wales from 1900 to 1930 revealed a handful of Jennifers registered each year until the 1920s. 1920-23 there were ten each year, give or take. Then it seemed to begin to be popular in the second half of 1924. Number of Jennifers registered each year:
1924 - 22
1925 - 30
1926 - 36
1927 - 37
1928 - 55
1929 - 111
1930 - 152
(I did a very quick count, so numbers may not be 100% accurate.)
So EBD was quite right. At the time she was writing SBTR, Jennifer was an unusual name, but it was about to become much more popular. I wonder if there was a film star or character in a bestselling book that popularised it.

One should really do a search on Joan or Elsie or some other name that was very popular in that period, for purposes of comparison. But I don't fancy doing all that counting.


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 Post subject: Re: School by the River
PostPosted: 22 Aug 2015, 02:33 
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As JayB said, it was still pretty uncommon then, and most of the people with that name would have been small children.

(BTW, Jennifer is the Cornish form of Guinevere )

For names in the US, the Baby Name Voyager http://www.babynamewizard.com/voyager#prefix=&sw=both&exact=false is great fun - you can plot naming popularity as a function of time. You will notice that Jennifer shot to popularity in the late 60s, and remained top until about 1983. I was in an elementary school class of 30 people, five of whom were named Jennifer, and a 20 some person lab section in grad school with four.

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 Post subject: Re: School by the River
PostPosted: 22 Aug 2015, 07:52 
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I remember being surprised in Two Sams, when Samantha, which was a popular name in my age group, was considered unusual, but apparently it only became popular because of Samantha the beautiful nose-twitching witch in bewitched :lol:.

Jennifer is also very popular in my age group, and in the generation above me as well, but apparently it was rare outside South West England until the mid 20th century. I think that for my age group it was because Jennifer was the name of the main character in the film Love Story , but before that there was an actress called Jennifer Jones. It does amaze me how names come and go - the recently-published list of most popular baby names in the UK in 2014 includes names like Elsie, Evelyn, Florence, Matilda, Archie and Alfie, which have been all "out" for nearly a century and are now right back "in" again, whereas my generation names like Alison, Helen, Sarah etc aren't mentioned! It seems to happen more with girls' names than with boys' names, but it is strange for us now to hear names like Jennifer and Samantha, and Karen which is considered an unusual name in EJO's Swiss books, thought of as uncommon.

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