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 Post subject: Books: The Princess of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 23 Jan 2017, 22:19 
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This week's discussion is on Chalet book #3: The Princess of the Chalet School, first published in 1927. A year has passed since the end of Jo of the Chalet School, and this term new girl Elisaveta Arnsornia is sent to the school after a bad bout of bronchial influenza. What the girls don't know when she first arrives, however, is that she is in fact Her Royal Highness the Princess Elisaveta Marghetrita of Belsornia, the only grandchild of the King of Belsornia. Notable events in this book include:
The birth of Peggy and Rix Bettany (technically about six or seven weeks prior to the book opening, with Madge and Jo learning the news at the beginning of the book).
Miss Wilson, later to become a major character in the series, arrives at the school.
Matron Webb arrives, hired by Madge at short notice through an agency, and is the first member of staff to cause serious friction in the school.
The Society for the Suppression of Matron is begun by Margia Stevens and her satellites (I love this expression!), to which sundry characters including Elisaveta and the Quartette are invited.
Elisaveta blows her cover during the SSM initiaion ceremony, but the other girls take her royal status in their stride.
The SSM wages a campaign against Matron, including putting snails on her window in the middle of the night to give her a fright, and imitating her loud voice.
Matron finally seals her own fate by locking the Robin in her room as a punishment.
The school visits the Zillerthal to celebrate Madge's last birthday as Head of the school.
Signor Ternikai, an agent of the dastardly Prince Cosimo, cousin to Elisaveta's father Crown Prince Carol, approaches Elisaveta in the guise of a bodyguard.
The Tiernsee experiences a huge thunderstorm, which culminates in an aerolite falling onto the school cricket pitch and starting a fire, which is only prevented from spreading by the timely arrival of a whopping hailstorm.
Cosimo and Ternikai succeed in luring Elisaveta away from the school, and carry her off up into the mountains. Jo and Rufus track them, rescue Elisaveta, and the three of them return to Briesau none the worse for their adventure.
The school holds an end-of-term garden party and masque called the Court of Queen Summer.
The King of Belsornia attends the party as a guest, and tells Joey and Elisaveta that Cosimo fell down a crevasse while on his kidnapping escapade and broke his neck, and also that as a result the Salic Law has been abolished in Belsornia, meaning that Elisaveta is now in line to the throne.
Madge and Jem are married, and honeymoon in Italy before going to Belsornia to join Joey, the Robin and Juliet as Elisaveta's guests at the Palace.
Joey is honoured by the Belsornian court and ministers in a glittering ceremony for rescuing Elisaveta.

So, what did you think of Elisaveta as a character? Was the idea of an actual princess at the school stretching things a bit too far? What about the whole kidnapping escapade? This is the only book (not including fill-ins) where we see Juliet as Head Girl, following on from Gisela - what did you think of her in the role? This is also the first time in the series that there is a gap of a term or more between books. Do you think the series benefits from these sort of jumps in the timeline, and from this one in particular, which constitutes three whole terms?

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Princess of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 23 Jan 2017, 22:49 
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I really like Elisaveta, but I don't think we'd have seen a Ruritanian princess at the school if the book had been written a few years later, and it's telling that Elisaveta's gone by the next book. I think Matron Webb is OTT too - she doesn't have a single redeeming feature, and locking Robin up seems more like something from a Bronte novel than a CS book. But it was early days. And Ruritanian princesses were a thing in the 1920s!

Does anyone else find the treatment of Matron unpleasant? Kids of that age can be thoughtless, and forget that school staff are actually human beings :lol:, but the narrative doesn't criticise them. Would it be considered OK to gang up on another pupil and try to make her life a misery and get her expelled?

I'm glad we see Madge's wedding, because very few weddings in the series are actually shown, but I feel that Madge leaving gets overshadowed by the kidnapping. The kidnap and rescue probably appeal much more to the original target audience than Madge and Mlle discussing the handover would have done :D, but as a supposed adult I wish we'd seen more about the running of the school.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Princess of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 23 Jan 2017, 22:57 
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'Princess at school' was quite a common storyline at the time Princess was published, so EBD was following a fashion really.

I like the book a lot. Elisaveta is a lovely character, quite apart from being a princess (and grows into a lovely adult, too.)

And there's a lot of other stuff going on in the book, too. The SSM, Madge getting married. It's not just about Elisaveta's kidnapping. (The snails prank is about the only time in the whole history of the CS that the Middles get away with something, isn't it?)

I do regret the fact that EBD's skipping terms and years means we have fewer Tyrol books than we might have had. On the other hand, moving things along and ageing the characters more quickly helps to keep things fresh. The Swiss years might have benefited from some skipping, or covering two terms in one book, as in Jo Of.

And of course, since this book was published two years after School At, Jo and everyone else should be two years older.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Princess of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 23 Jan 2017, 23:10 
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I think I'd have enjoyed this book even without Elisaveta, especially given all the character development possible with the upcoming wedding, but -- I confess that Elisaveta drew me in enough that I did at one point carefully fit Belsornia at the intersection between Italy, Slovenia and Croatia: mountainous and as "Balkan" as the latter two, convenient to Austria, likely to be as Catholic as in EBD's description, and wedged strategically between Nazi and Soviet interests. However, my favorite Belsornian bits aren't the more wild and woolly plot points, but things like the relationship between Elizaveta and her father, particularly in the scenes before she arrives at school and during his visits for Guiding activities. Quite an antidote to Juliet's & Grizel's unfortunate situations. Elizaveta as princess also plays perfectly in the SSM subplot.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Princess of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 25 Jan 2017, 03:21 
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I do like this book. It's so Victorian, with the princess, and the delicate angelic Robin, and the evil uncle and kidnapping plots, but Elisaveta is a lovely character, and there's a great deal of energy in the plot and wonderful atmosphere. And I love the little details - trying to pan for gold in the stream, and Joey and Robin's bizarre birthday gifts to Madge.

With Matron, it's a difficult thing. She's blatantly unfair and her behaviour (dragging students, for example) is totally out of line with the established CS style. But she is still an authority figure, and the students don't have the power to do anything official about her, or even to avoid her mistreatment. So I can see the motivation for the SSM, even if it's mean spirited. I *don't* think having horrible staff is good for their souls, or whatever it was that Madge told Joey over the Matron issue.

At some point, if I were Madge, I think I'd leash Joey, though, given her propensity for running off without telling people.

It's also the last book with Madge as Head. Mlle Lepattre tries her best, but she doesn't have Madge's charm or decisiveness, so I miss that over the next few books.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Princess of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 25 Jan 2017, 08:31 
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jennifer wrote:
At some point, if I were Madge, I think I'd leash Joey, though, given her propensity for running off without telling people.



I'm surprised Madge didn't put bars on all the windows and doors! Joey keeps running off, Grizel ran off in the first book and, in the next book, Cornelia runs off and Robin voluntarily goes off with a complete stranger.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Princess of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 25 Jan 2017, 16:33 
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I loved Princess so much as a child that I wrote my own 'princess at boarding school' story based on it! I swallowed the ridiculous plot without a thought, loved the character of Elizaveta, and Joey is at her very best in this book. I'm not usually keen on episodes outside school, but I do like the scenes in Belsornia where Joey is getting prettily dressed and tidied for once in her life.
Reading as an adult, I'm always surprised by Rufus eating the baby rabbit!


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Princess of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 25 Jan 2017, 21:27 
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I would have like to see more of Matron upsetting things in this book! Which is why I was so pleased when GGB and KB published 'Juniors of the Chalet School' and read it twice in one weekend. I also enjoy the tricks of the SSM, especially the snails.

I remember being confused by the first chapter of this book and thinking 'Isn't this meant to be a Chalet School book?' and then checking the title before carrying on with it.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Princess of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 25 Jan 2017, 21:57 
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Quote:
At some point, if I were Madge, I think I'd leash Joey, though, given her propensity for running off without telling people.

In Rivals, when they see the Saints out on the ice, doesn't someone say that Jo had promised not to go anywhere without telling someone? But she goes anyway.

Quote:
It's also the last book with Madge as Head. Mlle Lepattre tries her best, but she doesn't have Madge's charm or decisiveness, so I miss that over the next few books.

Mlle is Head in eight books to Madge's three (excluding Camp, in which I don't think Mlle appears at all), but she doesn't have anything like the same impact. I suppose the fact that Madge is still very much present makes a difference. But I suppose we'll be discussing Mlle as Head over the next books, so I won't comment any more here.

But it's a reason to wish EBD had written that missing year between Jo Of and Princess - we'd have seen more of Madge as Head.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Princess of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 26 Jan 2017, 01:21 
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I liked Elisaveta and enjoyed the book which I thought quite glamorous.

I thought EBD described Joey's feelings well in that she would no longer be first in her sister's life. I liked though that Joey and Madge wanted to be together early on the morning of Madge's wedding.

I really don't see why Juliet was so upset though. She was leaving the school anyway to go to university in England and her relationship with Madge was not the same as Madge's with Joey.

I loved the whole kidnapping thing and the descriptions beforehand of Elisaveta's mad relative and his underling. Enjoyed how Madge reacted, was it when he kissed her hand?

The wedding and the descriptions of Joey being honoured in Belsornia - great.

Maybe EBD thought she had written all she could about the beginning of the school so thought she would skip on a year until it was better established with the girls a year older and Madge getting married.

I am one of the people who believe the later books could have done with a good few missed terms. EBD could realky have developed her characters especially the triplets after Theodora Margot might actually have reformed and anyway M-L deserved nothing else. Look at the difference to Joey after the missing year in Exile.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Princess of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 26 Jan 2017, 04:26 
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Elle wrote:
I would have like to see more of Matron upsetting things in this book! Which is why I was so pleased when GGB and KB published 'Juniors of the Chalet School' and read it twice in one weekend. I also enjoy the tricks of the SSM, especially the snails.

I remember being confused by the first chapter of this book and thinking 'Isn't this meant to be a Chalet School book?' and then checking the title before carrying on with it.

'Princess' was the first Chalet book I ever read - and I loved it from the first reading. Elisaveta is so well written, and I love the friendship between her and Joey. I liked the fact that the book didn't plunge straight into school life as I had no knowledge of the Chalet School and looking back I think it broke me in gently, coming in direct from the Malory Towers/St Clares series to a whole new experience!

Like you though Elle, I would have loved to see moer of Matron and I felt exactly the same when I read KB's 'Juniors' - seeing more of the woman's character, and learning more details as to why the girls wanted rid of her.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Princess of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 26 Jan 2017, 14:20 
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I suppose Princess is the first of the many, many 'new girl comes to the CS and finds out what it's all about' books - with the added glamour in that she's a princess, and gets kidnapped :lol: And the difference that a lot of the book isn't really set in the school, unlike most of the later ones.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Princess of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 26 Jan 2017, 22:41 
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Looks like I'm in the minority by not being a fan of this book! I find it completely non plausible that a 14 year old girl could rescue a princess from 2 men with the help of her dog and some stockings (surely the stockings couldn't have been strong enough to be used as a makeshift rope!). This is the only book fromthe Tirol era that I'm not a fan of. It feels more like an Enid Blyton adventure rather than a school story.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Princess of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 27 Jan 2017, 00:25 
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Laura V wrote:
I find it completely non plausible that a 14 year old girl could rescue a princess from 2 men with the help of her dog and some stockings (surely the stockings couldn't have been strong enough to be used as a makeshift rope!).
Maybe not plausible, but probably quite thrilling for the original readers - and I still enjoy this sort of 'Jamesina Bond' exploit of Joey's.

The rope made from stockings is more believable if you think of them as being more like very long socks in terms of the fabric, which was probably machine-knitted cotton at that time of year - no 15-denier nylon in those days, and some people wore hand-knitted woollen ones, even in summer! It also explains why the girls had to darn their winter stockings with wool, as in Lavender, and why it was such a treat for them to leave off wearing stockings altogether in the hottest weather.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Princess of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 27 Jan 2017, 13:59 
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I suppose it helped that the two men were quite inept, the girl wanted to be rescued, Joey knew the area far better than they did, and the dog was a giant St Bernard trained to absolute silence, stealth and instant obedience :D

The actual rescue seems quite credible to me - Veta creeps away while the mad uncle and his chum are asleep - it's the Joey tracking them so successfully over such a long distance in the first place, after a few tracking practices in Guides, which stretches my suspension of disbelief.

I very much enjoy Princess. It is the oddest book, with a small cast list and a narrow focus and some bonkers Ruritania-ness, but somehow it is so gloriously long-hot-summer-y that I can't find it in myself to care.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Princess of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 27 Jan 2017, 14:23 
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I agree with Caroline, the only thing that stuck out for me (as a child) was the enormous good fortune that Joey just happened to have taught Rufus to drop silently to the ground :lol:

Quote:
but somehow it is so gloriously long-hot-summer-y


This is a perfect description!

ETA Is it this book, or another one, where they have the discussion about which badges to do and change their minds constantly?


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Princess of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 27 Jan 2017, 22:08 
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If Madge hadn't already agreed to marry Jem maybe she could have been the 2nd wife of King Carol? Then Elisaveta and Joey could have been step-sister?

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Princess of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 28 Jan 2017, 00:34 
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Carrie A wrote:
If Madge hadn't already agreed to marry Jem maybe she could have been the 2nd wife of King Carol? Then Elisaveta and Joey could have been step-sister?


Joey would have been Elisaveta's step-aunt not step-sister, she's Madge's sister not her daughter. Would have seemed quite an odd relationship as they are about the same age. If Madge then had a son, he'd take precedence over Elisaveta if they hadn't already repealed the Salic Law.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Princess of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 28 Jan 2017, 14:53 
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I don't think Princess is any more implausible than a lot of other fiction. And who wants their fiction to be totally realistic all the time?

Ruritania was popular at the time for adults as well as schoolgirls. I'm currently re-reading some John Buchan, I'd forgotten that he did Ruritanian romance too.
Quote:
If Madge hadn't already agreed to marry Jem maybe she could have been the 2nd wife of King Carol? Then Elisaveta and Joey could have been step-sister?

I don't suppose Madge would have wanted the restrictions of court life, for herself or Joey.

It is a shame King Carol didn't marry again. He was a nice man. I know he said it was because he still mourned his wife, but the last we hear of him he's sheep-farming (I think) in Australia, and Veta and his grandchildren aren't with him. He must have been quite lonely. It would be nice to think he did find some companionship later in life.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Princess of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 28 Jan 2017, 15:02 
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It still intrigues me that EBD wrote this less than a year after HM Queen was born, so that her Princess is another Princess Elizabeth. And she aced it by giving her the second name of Margaret, although Princess Margaret was not born until1930?

But yes it is a favourite book of mine, quite dark in places.The only thing I hate is how for ever afterwards if Elisaveta is mentioned we get a potted version of the story, so I have to skip that part.


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