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 Post subject: Joan Baker/Rosamund/Triplets/Problem
PostPosted: 10 Aug 2018, 08:41 
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First of all I hope it is in order to post this when a lot of the postings now are in book chronological order.

I have just finished reading Problem though and so much about Joan interested me. I wonder to what extent her problems were caused by her upbringing as opposed to flaws in her character? Not going to bed before she washed, the inappropriate dresses approved by her mother, the perm and make-up were obviously more her upbringing than Joan.

Could somebody at the school not have explained nicely using the excuse that what was done at a boarding school and done at home were different. Maybe they did.

Joan does seem to have character flaws - bullying and jealousy. She would have been the girl all parents hoped their daughters would avoid.

What too about boyfriends? Was her behaviour just in keeping with her character? Surely even some upper class girls were keen on boys at an early age?

She did stick the school though and does seem to have got on fairly well. Fundamentally though some of her outside characteristics remain. Would Joan really still have been talking in the same way several years after she went to the school as she did at the beginning?

I did not realize until I re-read this book that Jack more or less forced Mary-Lou to take Joan on and that Mary-Lou was still only 15.

Also what about Rosamund? Exactly how well did she fit in? We are told in Theodora that she had rather stood alone apart from Len.

Talking about Theodora there is absolutely no hint of Margot having a problem with Rosamund. It even mentions at one point she smiles a welcome to Rosamund.

I liked all of the triplets in this book. They were nice and natural.

In a way this was a golden age for EBD. She had the triplets old enough to play a proper role. She had Mary-Lou as well as the current Head Girl and prefects.

Would love to know what others think.


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 Post subject: Re: Joan Baker/Rosamund/Triplets/Problem
PostPosted: 10 Aug 2018, 09:24 
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I think Joan's 15 in this book. That doesn't seem young to be interested in boys, and Janice Chester, at a similar age, mentions in Adrienne that some of her friends at home have boyfriends - but there does seem to be a very snobbish attitude in this particular book that only "common" girls show an interest in boys before they're of marriageable age.

Margot's problem with Ros is definitely rewriting history!

I think it's awkward for both of them. It's never easy to be the new kid at school, when everyone else has known each other for years - although it does happen quite a lot at the CS. It must be even more difficult when you are from a different background to the others. Everyone just expects Ros and Joan to know what is and isn't done - and the same thing happens to Thekla, Eustacia, and various others who aren't from the usual CS background. The dormitory scene in which someone keeps talking to Joan in French even though she's explained that she doesn't speak a word of French is ridiculous.

Jack does pressurise Mary-Lou into taking Joan on, but why did Mary-Lou have to be talking to Jack about her in the first place? What business was it of hers if Joan talked about boys? I find her a real busybody in this book. But I think the whole thing is that everyone is expected to conform. A lot of people, especially at school, will submit to peer pressure and do whatever in takes to fit in, and that's at all schools, whether they're day or boarding and whatever the socio-economic background of the pupils is. That's what Ros does, and I don't blame her for that. I'd've done the same, because I like a quiet life! But I do quite admire Joan for being more true to herself.

The thing I really don't recognise from my schooldays is how conformist the other girls are. In my day :lol: , yes, there was a certain amount of pressure to dress a certain way (when out of uniform), and be into certain things, but that was all about what was considered the done thing by your peers, not to obey school rules. Did none of the other CS girls ever "customise" their uniforms, or try to get away with wearing make-up when they weren't allowed to, or use the odd swear word? Had no-one else ever called Matey names behind her back? Was it really only Joan who didn't just do what she was supposed to?!

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 Post subject: Re: Joan Baker/Rosamund/Triplets/Problem
PostPosted: 10 Aug 2018, 16:00 
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I think it's a mix of nature and nurture with Joan. She is a bully, but it's implied her parents were too lax - letting her have perms and unsuitable clothes, letting her run round with Vic Coles getting up to all sorts.

Mr Baker senior gives the impression of being much more strict.

EBD couldn't be more explicit, given the age range of her readers, but I suspect she wanted to imply that Joan didn't just talk about boys, but talked in detail about what she and Vic Coles got up to, whether it was full on snogging on street corners, or something more.

There were a couple of Joan Baker types in my class, and they talked in detail about what they did with their boyfriends. While it may or may not have been true, some of the talk I'm pretty sure was to see if they could get a reaction from people. Other people had boyfriends but didn't talk in detail about their relationships - you just knew that X was going out with Y, or saw them holding hands, and that was it.


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 Post subject: Re: Joan Baker/Rosamund/Triplets/Problem
PostPosted: 12 Aug 2018, 14:17 
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Joan is the '50s equivalent of what some people would call a 'chav'. If the Chalet School was set in the 00s she'd have bleached hair and big hoop earrings, and smoke.

I do think it's a combination of different norms. Most CS girls are middle-class, with a few posh ones like Blossom, and working-class girls are thin on the ground, and it's such an alien world to Ros and Joan. The French thing annoys me too. She's never done languages, of course she's going to struggle, and just banging on at her in French is not going to automatically make her speak it. Her parents seem a bit lax compared to the Lilleys, and I think at St Matthews she was part of a clique and she got a shock at the CS when the same behaviour that was accepted at her old school was unacceptable at her new one. She is admittedly horrible to Ros - who I love, she's so sweet - but at least she does become a nicer person and they repair their friendship, and I like how she stays true to her roots and decides to make the best of her education and use it to get a good job. I do think there are some major double standards about her marrying young though. I get Jack and Joey married during the war, on the hoof, but they weren't much older than Joan and it was a bit harsh of Con to call it 'horrid'.

I think the attitude to boys in general was EBD being out of touch. Things had moved on from the Tyrol days, when girls had their husbands picked out for them and moved straight from the family home to their husband's home, though at least Jack acknowledges that mixed-sex friendships aren't a bad thing (and Mary-Lou is friendly with Tony in Three Go). They're probably too scared to call Matey names, she might appear from nowhere any minute :lol:

ETA: I knew a few Joan Bakers as well. They were the kind of girls who thought I was weird for not having a boyfriend, and this was in the '90s.


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 Post subject: Re: Joan Baker/Rosamund/Triplets/Problem
PostPosted: 12 Aug 2018, 16:55 
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Lotte wrote:
. I get Jack and Joey married during the war, on the hoof, but they weren't much older than Joan and it was a bit harsh of Con to call it 'horrid'.


What really annoys me is that it's "horrid" for Joan to get engaged at 18 but apparently perfectly fine for both Josette and Len to do the same! Or maybe Con thought it was "horrid" for Josette and Len too, but thought she'd better keep her mouth shut as they were family :lol: .

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 Post subject: Re: Joan Baker/Rosamund/Triplets/Problem
PostPosted: 13 Aug 2018, 00:26 
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I actually find Problem brilliant as a near-caricature of the Right sort of working class person vs the Wrong sort, seen from a conservative middle-class viewpoint.

Right from the beginning, we see Rosamund obediently coming straight home from school, where her mother is waiting with fresh baking while making polite chit-chat with the vicar's wife. Joan, on the other, wolfs down store bought cake (the horrors!) and heads out with her unsavory friends.

At school, Rosamund is appropriately shy and deferential about going to a posh school, while Joan is brash and unimpressed. Rosamund is there on a scholarship which was directly and personally given to the right sort of girl, Joan is there because her family won money gambling. Rosamund's taste in clothing is appropriately dainty, her hair in a girlish plait, and she has no interest in makeup or boys. Joan has a perm, uses makeup and nail polish, likes flashy clothing, and 'talks about boys'. Rosamund quickly abandons her working class accent, Joan swears. We're told that Rosamund's mother learned nice ways because she worked as a lady's maid, and Rosamund is quick to imitate her betters. Joan isn't interested in doing so. We're even directly told that Rosamund's family washes regularly (unlike the Bakers).

So the deserving Rosamund is allowed to assimilate into the Chalet School and even become Head Girl (albeit just for a term, and rushed out without explanation to let Len shine). Joan settles down after a really dreadful first term and works hard, but is never really accepted or part of the school.

Mind you, Joan is pretty terrible that first term, with the rebellion and bullying. But she doesn't get the redemption that other CS girls do. Margot eavesdrops, bullies Ted, threatens blackmail and later on nearly kills a fellow student, and gets stern talkings to (and ends up Games prefect). Jack Lambert plays nasty pranks, is known for sulkiness and back-talk, and bullies and physically assaults Jane, and gets nothing but tender concern and Len as a personal mentor, and is clearly marked as a future Head girl. Cornelia, back in the Tyrol days, cheats, talks horrendous slang, plays destructive pranks, hurts classmates and ends up running away, and the next term all is well, and she ends up as both Games prefect and Head girl. With Joan, they shake their heads and say that they can't overcome her low background.

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 Post subject: Re: Joan Baker/Rosamund/Triplets/Problem
PostPosted: 13 Aug 2018, 05:25 
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Joan was maybe what would have been called "fast" in my young days.

I do agree with what Jennifer says that it was stereotypical working class.

Joan's problems though were on the surface whilst Margot and Jack etc had much more serious problems.

I do wonder if EBD kept Joan as "bad" to show her readers this was not the path to follow. Silly when Margot and Jack so much worse and Joan did try to improve later on.


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 Post subject: Re: Joan Baker/Rosamund/Triplets/Problem
PostPosted: 13 Aug 2018, 07:43 
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As Jennifer says, Problem is absolutely brilliant in terms of both middle class v working class and "right" working class v wrong "working class". There are just so many little things. Mr Baker offers to provide bank references - the school should have asked for those, given the problems that private schools have with bad debts, but wouldn't have done, and the fact that he offers shows that he doesn't understand that one's word as a gentleman should be enough :lol: . Mr Lilley talks to Mr Baker over the garden fence - so terribly common :lol: (I always talk to people over garden fences!!). Ros does not know how to spell Margot, the posh diminutive for Margaret: I'm sure she knew how to spell Maggie and Peggy! EBD would have been great at writing a script for something like To The Manor Born or Keeping Up Appearances!

I think Joan turns out really well, though. She works hard, and talks about helping to pay school fees for her sister. She also bravely helps a lot of smaller girls across the flooded stream in Richenda - but there's no mention of a medal for her. And there's one really nasty scene - I forget which book it's in - in which Rosalie Dene, not normally a bitchy person, goes on about how Joan never had a chance of turning out decent. EBD really did have it in for poor Joan. Maybe it was due to her own insecurities? Her mum must have been paranoid about trying to keep up appearances after being abandoned by her husband, and I'm sure I've read something about how the stepfather was higher up the social ladder than the Brent-Dyers. Genuinely posh people don't worry so much about what other people think, because they don't have to - the Queen and Princess Anne are often seen in old headscarves and wellies, and Marie von Eschenau isn't bothered about her hair getting in a mess when she uses her ribbon to tie up her flowers (whereas Len won't let Jack Lambert be seen in public without a hair ribbon!).

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 Post subject: Re: Joan Baker/Rosamund/Triplets/Problem
PostPosted: 13 Aug 2018, 22:06 
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Regarding what Alison says about genuinely posh people not worrying about their appearance, I remember reading years ago that Margaret Thatcher was obsessed with presenting a neat appearance because she was lower middle class. Upper middle class politician, Shirley Williams, (daughter of Vera Brittain), went around looking an absolute mess because she was secure enough not to care what people thought.

Margaret Thatcher even went to the extent of phoning Buckingham Palace to suggest that when she and the Queen were to be together at functions, BP could let Thatcher know in advance the colour of the Queen 's outfit so they would not be the same/clashing. BP told her it was unnecessary as the Queen never noticed what anyone else was wearing!

I do think EBD was very self conscious about her class and it comes through in her writing. All that "fresh and dainty" and the whole Ros/Joan Baker thing for example.

It is interesting that about the only titled British family (apart from the Russells and Sir James Talbot) in the CS books is called Rutherford and this was a family name of EBD's; maybe the name of her mother's family. EBD could have been giving her family the position she thought they deserved.


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 Post subject: Re: Joan Baker/Rosamund/Triplets/Problem
PostPosted: 14 Aug 2018, 15:13 
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Poor EBD - she sounds like Jen Teale (get it?) the anxious lower-middle-class type in Jilly Cooper's 'Class.'


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 Post subject: Re: Joan Baker/Rosamund/Triplets/Problem
PostPosted: 15 Aug 2018, 02:08 
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Mel wrote:
Poor EBD - she sounds like Jen Teale (get it?) the anxious lower-middle-class type in Jilly Cooper's 'Class.'


I think I still have that book! She might have preferred to be more like Samantha Upward, I think it was!


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 Post subject: Re: Joan Baker/Rosamund/Triplets/Problem
PostPosted: 15 Aug 2018, 15:29 
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I think that the fact that Joan never fully achieved redemption and acceptance was EBD's fault. I think that she was absolutely determined that Joan would never fully be a CS girl, so the things that Joan did, such as helping smaller, weaker girls over a fast-running deep stream were never fully acknowledged or praised as other girls would be.

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A certain edge when she spoke of Mrs Maynard, certainly, but, after all, not everyone could love Joey.
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 Post subject: Re: Joan Baker/Rosamund/Triplets/Problem
PostPosted: 16 Aug 2018, 18:08 
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Perhaps by that point people were beginning to ask if there was anyone who the Chalet School couldn't convert to a 'real' CS girl so Joan was her best attempt at that.

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 Post subject: Re: Joan Baker/Rosamund/Triplets/Problem
PostPosted: 17 Aug 2018, 05:25 
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Lotte wrote:
I do think there are some major double standards about her marrying young though. I get Jack and Joey married during the war, on the hoof, but they weren't much older than Joan and it was a bit harsh of Con to call it 'horrid'.


Someone does point out "what about your own parents?" and Con quickly says oh but mum and dad knew other for years beforehand etc. I would have loved it if someone had called Con up on that - why is it horrid?

Quote:
I think the attitude to boys in general was EBD being out of touch. Things had moved on from the Tyrol days, when girls had their husbands picked out for them and moved straight from the family home to their husband's home,


She was massively out of touch in that regard and I think it must have been pointed out to her leading to the incredibly awkward conversation in Adrienne when the girls pretty much say "oh, we don't have time for boys!" Enough said. Moving right along.

Audrey25 wrote:
BP told her it was unnecessary as the Queen never noticed what anyone else was wearing!


Wow! well, that's a snub for the grocer's daughter.

EBD was very class conscious and she clearly believed 'class behaviour' was bred in the bone i.e. upper class Margot can behave terribly but is able to reform because of her upbringing, but working class Joan never stands a chance DESPITE ultimately never doing anything close to as bad as what Margot gets away with.

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 Post subject: Re: Joan Baker/Rosamund/Triplets/Problem
PostPosted: 17 Aug 2018, 07:04 
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Joyce wrote:
Lotte wrote:
I do think there are some major double standards about her marrying young though. I get Jack and Joey married during the war, on the hoof, but they weren't much older than Joan and it was a bit harsh of Con to call it 'horrid'.


Someone does point out "what about your own parents?" and Con quickly says oh but mum and dad knew other for years beforehand etc. I would have loved it if someone had called Con up on that - why is it horrid?


I'm just wondering if they are applying the stereotype of the reason for an early marriage at that time - that Joan is 'busy'. Neither Con nor the other girls would think that of Josette but as Joan is 'not one of us' it may be the unspoken connotation.


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 Post subject: Re: Joan Baker/Rosamund/Triplets/Problem
PostPosted: 17 Aug 2018, 09:33 
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I have a feeling that "all but engaged" may have been a reference to the activities that Joan was getting up to with her boyfriend. :lol: Even if it isn't, her behaviour is still very non-CS like. In the CS, the courtship phase is extremely fast. Either girls go from being platonic chums to engaged in one step (like Joey and Len), or there's a very fast progression from meeting an eligible man who looks at them appreciatively to engaged (most of the mistresses, with a timescale of a month or two from first meeting to engagement). A period of extended dating, or being romantically involved but not engaged, is just not done. And good girls definitely didn't date a man and not end up marrying him!

My mom would be about the same age as the triplets, going from their birth date. For her generation, getting married just out of high school was not at all unusual, but dating, and dating multiple people, was entirely normal.

With Con, I get the feeling that she genuinely thought getting married at eighteen was kind of icky, but that she hadn't got to to point where she could apply that opinion to her parents. But I'd be interested to see how she reacted to Len's early engagement, particularly once they were at Oxford and away from home.

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 Post subject: Re: Joan Baker/Rosamund/Triplets/Problem
PostPosted: 17 Aug 2018, 10:29 
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I definitely think Con was a bit of a feminist, and, at that time, combining marriage and a career was very difficult. She's the one who asks what's happened to Julie's plans to become a barrister, when Joey tells the triplets that Julie's got engaged. And, whilst Len assumes that Mary-Lou will abandon her hopes of becoming an archaeologist to babysit Doris - who is not ill at that point - Con seems quite shocked by the idea.

Ailie, Janice and Judy also say that they aren't keen on the idea of early marriage - although we have to have a comment about how of course it was different in Joey's case! - on the grounds that they want to enjoy being footloose and fancy free before they even think about settling down. I love that conversation!

It's telling that it's Joan about whom they have the conversation, though.

In the Kingscote books, Lawrie Marlow's reaction to hearing that her sister Karen is dropping out of Oxford to get married at 19 is to ask if she's got to get married! It probably is exactly what most people would have thought - but obviously no-one thinks it about Julie, or Verity :lol: .

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 Post subject: Re: Joan Baker/Rosamund/Triplets/Problem
PostPosted: 18 Aug 2018, 00:14 
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Alison H wrote:
I definitely think Con was a bit of a feminist etc

In the Kingscote books, Lawrie Marlow's reaction to hearing that her sister Karen is dropping out of Oxford to get married at 19 is to ask if she's got to get married! It probably is exactly what most people would have thought - but obviously no-one thinks it about Julie, or Verity :lol: .


Maybe they did think it about Julie and Verity though!

I've just been re-reading Ready Made Family and I think Lawrie was perfectly justified in asking Karen if she "had" to get married. Even Mrs Marlow asks her. Karen could only have known Edwin four or five months. She announces her impending marriage before even the official start of the Easter holidays. It is only three weeks or so ahead and none of the family had even heard of Edwin. If she had known she was pregnant though she could not have wasted much time.

I suppose Julie's family and in Verity's case, her stepmother and Mary-Lou, would at least have known they had boyfriends. Verity at any rate could not have been much older than Karen. She maybe wanted settled though.

As for Julie, anything about her completely lost credibility for me since she went from being a lazy, not particularly bright pupil to someone being talked about as a future barrister. EBD should have left Julie to marriage and Betsy to the career as a barrister (and maybe also marriage).

It's interesting though that in the Abbey books no-one supposed Biddy had become pregnant without being married first.

AF much more modern though.

Con could have been a feminist. Good there was somebody with a different viewpoint.


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 Post subject: Re: Joan Baker/Rosamund/Triplets/Problem
PostPosted: 18 Aug 2018, 11:13 
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Throughout the series, there are plenty of girls who marry a few years after leaving school, occasionally to men they barely know.

Going right back to Gisela, Bernhilda, Wanda, Marie, Joey and right up to Josette and Len - getting married/engaged young is a consistent theme.

BUT poor Joan is the only one who’s impending engagement is described as ‘horrid’ and you can envision Con wrinkles her nose as she says it.

Horrid implies that she thinks there’s something unseemly about it. Given she (and we as the reader) know that marrying young is not ‘horrid’, therefore it’s something to do with this particular engagement.

So why Joan? Well, because she’s not really one of them. Even after she’s left the girls talk about her as if she’s not as good as them. While the whole series is obviously a showcase of EBD’s views and ideas, this is one of the times when her personal class prejudices comes to the fore.

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 Post subject: Re: Joan Baker/Rosamund/Triplets/Problem
PostPosted: 18 Aug 2018, 12:45 
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Problem is definitely an interesting insight into class norms at the time, yes. There's a very interesting discussion about class here in the archives - it's long, but if you like Problem, it's worth a read. I'm middle-class myself, but some of the comments struck a chord with me. My mum still gets annoyed when I say 'I'm going to the toilet', because it should be 'lavatory' or 'loo'.

I definitely imagine Con as the triplet most likely to defy convention. She just does her own thing while Margot acts up and Len is super-conscientious.

ETA: it's a shame Mary-Lou had gone by the time Jack showed up, she'd never have enabled Jack's awful behaviour the way Len did.


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