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 Post subject: Books: The Head Girl of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 31 Jan 2017, 00:08 
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Chalet book #4 forms this week's discussion: The Head Girl of the Chalet School, first published in 1928. We have another gap in the series in that the winter term following Princess is skipped, with Head Girl opening during the Christmas holidays and covering the Easter and summer terms. This book follows Grizel Cochrane's tenure as Head Girl, and features a swathe of incidents and characters that go on to be referred to throughout the series. Some of the main points include:
The encounter with the Stuffer and Maria, who share a carriage with Miss Maynard, Grizel, Jo and the Robin from Paris to Wien, and come to blows with them - and open-air fanatic Professor von der Witt - over whether to have the window open or not.
Grizel disobeys Miss Maynard and heads off to see the Falls of Rhine on her own, an act which nearly costs her the position of Head Girl, to which she had been newly promoted following the departure of Bette Rincini at the end of the previous term.
Gisela Marani and Wanda von Eschenau are both revealed to be engaged.
Having been pardoned by Madge, Grizel's first prefects' meeting as Head Girl ends on a sour note when she has a bust-up with Deira O'Hagan over distribution of the duties.
Deira takes her revenge by burning Grizel's harmony book, which also contained the last letter Grizel received from her now-deceased and much-loved grandmother. She continues to hold on to her grievance even after Miss Maynard, Mademoiselle and even Madge on a visit from the Sonnalpe all tackle her.
The deadlock only ends when, during a snowball fight, Deira picks up a stone instead of a snowball in a blind rage and throws it at Grizel, knocking her unconscious (but not still, grey and to all appearances dead - EBD missed a trick there! :wink: ).
After an industrious evening at Hobbies making goods for the Sale, the Middles make apple-pie beds for the Seniors, who take their revenge by sewing up their cubicle curtains and tacking them to the floor.
Marie returns from Wanda's betrothal feast full of information about some caves rumoured to be hidden beneath the Tiernsee. Jo takes an immediate interest in them.
Jo, Grizel and the Robin spend half-term at the Sonnalpe, during which one of the San patients dies and Madge counsels them that death is "Just falling asleep with God - to awake in His presence".
The Robin goes missing, and is tracked by Grizel, Jo and Rufus up the Barenbad Alpe to a fissure in the mountain wall, where they find her with Herr Arnolfi, an old man convinced that she is a fairy queen. The four of them escape shaken but unharmed.
The Sale is held, and the girls raise enough money for the San to fund a free bed for a year (complete with plaque), establishing another tradition for the school.
Mollie Bettany writes to Madge to say that she, Dick, the twins and the newborn Bride will be coming to the Tiernsee in the summer for a visit.
Grizel, Jo and the Robin join Evadne, Mr Lannis and Mrs Lannis' maid Suzette on a trip to Salzburg, where their hotel catches fire during the night and they only just manage to get down the fire escape in time. Frau Berlin from School At makes a reappearance, and nearly endangers the girls by trying to shove past them on the fire escape.
Series stalwart Cornelia Flower joins the CS for the new term, and makes an immediate impression with her mischief and impudence.
Marie Pfeiffen and Andreas Monier are married in a traditional Tyrolean ceremony. Later that day, Jack Maynard arrives with the news that Madge has given birth to a son, and rushes Joey up to the Sonnalpe to see them, implying that Madge is in a bad way after the birth.
Cornelia, banished to bed after Matey catches her pinching Simone, overhears several Middles voicing their less-than-favourable opinions of her, and decides to get her revenge by going off to explore the hidden caves which the girls have come to believe are hidden behind the fissure where Herr Arnolfi and the Robin were found.
Wanda and Friedel come to visit the school, along with Gisela, Bernhilda, Bette and Stephanie, and Bernhilda reveals her engagement to Wanda and Marie's older brother Kurt.
Cornelia sneaks off to find the caves, and runs into Herr Arnolfi, who has been using them as his hideout. She tries to escape from him, but knocks herself out while he is chasing her.
Jo, Grizel and Friedel deduce that she has gone to the caves and follow her. They find that Herr Arnolfi broke his leg and hit his head chasing Cornelia, and the shock kills him. Cornelia is rescued, and reforms somewhat as a result of her adventure.
The Bettanys arrive at the Tiernsee for the summer.
Gisela and Gottfried Mensch are married.
David's christening is held on Madge's birthday, and forms the celebrations for that year.
Wanda and Friedel are married.
The caves are opened up to the public, and the remains of an ancient city are found amongst them.
The school holds an end-of-term garden party, with guests including Professor von der Witt and the Stuffer and Maria.

So, plenty of material in this book! What do you think of Grizel as Head Girl? Was Madge justified in her decision not to demote her after the Falls of Rhine episode? What about her row with Deira and the events that follow? Did you enjoy the Salzburg trip? Thoughts on Cornelia's dodgy start at the school? Did you like all the caves stuff?

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Head Girl of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 31 Jan 2017, 01:15 
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The Rhine issue is a tricky one. It's definitely behaviour that shows that she probably shouldn't be Head Girl - too impulsive, too quick cast aside rules and common sense for what she wants. And a few books later, Anne Seymour is publicly set aside for the HG position after a much milder incident. However, it occurs outside of school, and is not during an official escort to school. If another girl did something similar on holidays, the school wouldn't even know about it, and the punishment would be separate from school.

I find Deira's bad behaviour worse, actually. Grizel running off is impulsive mischief, and she feels ashamed when she realizes what she's done. Deira burning Grizel's music notes is deliberate and vindictive, and she doesn't back down until she accidentally almost kills Grizel.

I think Grizel does a decent job as Head Girl. She's trying hard, even though she doesn't want the job, and isn't really suited to it, personality-wise. I do feel sorry for her, as she looks ahead to a life spent doing something she hates, at the insistence of parents who actively dislike her, and don't care if she's miserable as long as they're in control. I like Joey and Madge's discussion over Grizel, and Joey's comment that Madge might be more likely to blame Grizel, who is actually guilty of no more than tactlessness. It is a rare early case of young Joey actually being perceptive, and shows a very believable weakness for the Head.

Robin being kidnapped by the picturesque madman is very much in the Victorian vein (apparently, she's never been told not to go off with random strangers).

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Head Girl of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 31 Jan 2017, 01:30 
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One thing that always bemused me in this book - why is Joey invited to Wanda's betrothal party and not Paula? Very random, I know.

And Robin is 10/11 at this stage? Could she really have ridden on Rufus without squashing the poor animal?

Cheers,
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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Head Girl of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 31 Jan 2017, 08:56 
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I love Marie and Andreas's wedding :D .

I think Mlle really struggles to cope with being Head. When Deira burns Grizel's book, Miss Wilson says that they'll have to ask Madge to come down from the Sonnalpe to sort things out, which is really very disrespectful towards Mlle ... but then Mlle says she wishes Madge had never left! The book-burning incident seems strangely reminiscent of Amy March!

One thing which I didn't really get when reading the book as a child was how ill Madge was after David's birth. It's not actually spelt out, whereas in Rivals we're told that Joey might not survive after falling through the ice - presumably childbirth was too delicate a topic to say too much about - but Jack is obviously very worried and desperate to get Joey to Die Rosen ASAP, Mollie goes white when she sees the look on his face, everyone is very anxious, and Jo is tearful when she returns and says that Madge is OK "now". They obviously genuinely feared that Madge's life was in danger. I don't think it's ever referred to again, though. The salt caves fade into the background, as well.

I'm so pleased that Grizel is allowed to be the heroine when rescuing Robin - although Robin should have known not to go off with a stranger in the first place. I think she behaves very well after the Falls of Rhine incident - forgiving Deira for destroying Grannie's letter, and for the snowball incident, must have taken some doing. It's the first time that someone other than Joey has really been allowed to take centre stage in a rescue operation ... of which there have been rather a lot even by the fourth book :lol:.

The ending is lovely. First we get Madge feeling a little sad that it's not really "her" school any more, but accepting that that's how it is and that she's moved on to a new and happier chapter of her life. Then we get Grizel saying how much she owes Madge and the school. I always get emotional reading it!

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Head Girl of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 31 Jan 2017, 09:57 
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The one thing you didn't mention which I have always wanted to know why and what caused it; is the only scene we see in the entire series where Frieda Mensch loses her temper and gets into a royal battle with Corney Flower. We never get told why Freida loses her temper or why she told Corney that she should be ashamed of herself. I am always slightly amused that Grizel's response is to almost send her to Matey because it was so unlike her. If I could ask EBD one question about the series, that would be it: What did Corney Flower do to rouse such ire in Frieda Mensch, who was best known for her peacemaking abilities, not for losing her temper!

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Head Girl of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 31 Jan 2017, 15:48 
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This is one of my favourite books of the series. I think EBD shows us a true character analysis to a level that is not reached in the later books. However, I don't think Grizel deserved to be Head Girl after running off the the Fall of the Rhine!


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Head Girl of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 31 Jan 2017, 22:27 
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I noticed a lovely little speech by Mademoiselle last night while skim-reading this for my earlier summary;

Quote:
'For me, I have had no regrets either. I am able to help my good cousin by having Simone and Renée here, so that they receive a good education, and in the years to come will be able to help their parents as well as themselves. It is Simone's wish to teach, and if she does well I intend to send her to the Sorbonne, that she may be the better fitted to do so. I am saving for that now. Renée is musical, and she shall have a thorough training. She will not be an artiste as Margia Stevens is, but she will do well, I think. I shall always be glad of that wet and windy day you came to the Withers and told me of your wishes. I could never have done so much for the children if I had remained gouvernante in a family, as I must have done. We owe much to you, ma mie.'


Mademoiselle gets so little airtime compared to Madge and later Miss Annersley (and what little she does get is usually her at a loss to deal with some crisis) that that speech jumped out at me because it gives her more of a character, and really shows how kind she was.

I wondered about Paula not going to Wanda's feast too. It's not as though EBD just plain forgot that they were cousins, she specifically mentions that Paula will be a bridesmaid, and Marie brings back some goodies from her mother for her. :dontknow:

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Head Girl of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 31 Jan 2017, 22:56 
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That's a really nice speech :D . Another thing ... we're told later on that Mlle and Cornelia had a very close relationship and that Mlle was like a mother to her, but we never get to see it.

Poor Mlle - I'm sure she was delighted for Madge and Jem, but being Head of an expanding school by herself wasn't what she'd signed up for, and she didn't really have much choice in the matter.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Head Girl of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 31 Jan 2017, 23:19 
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If Grizel had been passed over for HG, who else was there? I've just had a look at the book, and when EBD is introducing the prefects she seems to make a point of saying that none of the others had the requisite leadership abilities and strength of character.

I think the two term format works well in this book; we see Grizel developing over a period of time, rather than it all being crammed less realistically into one term.

How old was Paula? If she was younger than Joey and Marie, it might be that the party was considered a bit too grown up for her.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Head Girl of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 31 Jan 2017, 23:24 
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I believe she's only about a year younger; she's a prefect in the Jo Returns/New CS year.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Head Girl of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 31 Jan 2017, 23:26 
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I mostly thoroughly enjoy this book, with two "buts":

Firstly, the whole plot line of Deira burning Grizel's harmony book is straight out of "Little Women", where Amy burns Jo's manuscript in a fit of temper. In there, it's resolved by Amy falling through some thin ice while skating and Jo realising she does love her, after all, but it's a very similar plotline.

And surely, surely, surely it would have been dinned into all the girls that they never, ever, ever go off with people they don't know? And they never go anywhere anyway without telling a grown-up (Okay, Jo doesn't exactly set a good example on this one, but....).


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Head Girl of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 31 Jan 2017, 23:29 
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JayB wrote:
How old was Paula? If she was younger than Joey and Marie, it might be that the party was considered a bit too grown up for her.
I think that may well be it, JayB, or at least that it was adult hours, as it were - since Marie says that she and Wolfram were sent off to bed by their mother two hours before the end "for she said it was not fitting we should stay up all that time".


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Head Girl of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 01 Feb 2017, 02:08 
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I loved the wedding. I thought it strange Joey being at Wanda's bethrothal but not her cousin Paula. Quite interesting that EBD did not make David's birth straightforward and the effect this had on Jo.

Glad that Grizel was a reasonable HG and that she was given her own book. Also, glad Madge did give her a second chance and that Grizel did not let her down. Felt sad that the letter from Grizel's grandmother was burnt.

However, I am not a fan of this book and rarely read it. Did not like Cornelia and loathed all the cave stuff. Robin on the back of Rufus was unusual and do not like creepy old men!

I am sorry for negative comments.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Head Girl of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 01 Feb 2017, 05:13 
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Alison H wrote:
That's a really nice speech :D . Another thing ... we're told later on that Mlle and Cornelia had a very close relationship and that Mlle was like a mother to her, but we never get to see it.


There is a whole storyline there that is so disappointingly excluded. Head Girl really should have been two books - the second term only gets a sparse few chapters.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Head Girl of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 01 Feb 2017, 10:05 
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KB wrote:
There is a whole storyline there that is so disappointingly excluded. Head Girl really should have been two books - the second term only gets a sparse few chapters.

Is that going to be your next fill-in, then, KB? :lol:

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Head Girl of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 01 Feb 2017, 11:02 
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thank heavens I am not the only one who wondered about Paula not going to the party.

JayB wrote:
How old was Paula? If she was younger than Joey and Marie, it might be that the party was considered a bit too grown up for her.


Sorry - I read this and my mind went to a dirty place of ahem ... stag night parties. What sort of grown up parties do CS people have? :D

JayB wrote:
If Grizel had been passed over for HG, who else was there? I've just had a look at the book, and when EBD is introducing the prefects she seems to make a point of saying that none of the others had the requisite leadership abilities and strength of character.


And apparently Grizel had already been announced as the new HG so maybe Madge also took into account her embarrassment and explanations if Grizel was suddenly dropped.

Cheers,
Joyce

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Head Girl of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 01 Feb 2017, 12:10 
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Lottie wrote:
KB wrote:
There is a whole storyline there that is so disappointingly excluded. Head Girl really should have been two books - the second term only gets a sparse few chapters.

Is that going to be your next fill-in, then, KB? :lol:


*whistles innocently and sidles away*

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Head Girl of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 01 Feb 2017, 14:22 
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KB wrote:
Lottie wrote:
KB wrote:
There is a whole storyline there that is so disappointingly excluded. Head Girl really should have been two books - the second term only gets a sparse few chapters.

Is that going to be your next fill-in, then, KB? :lol:


*whistles innocently and sidles away*

:) :) :)


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Head Girl of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 01 Feb 2017, 15:03 
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This is one of my favourite books (especially the uncut GGB version) although I do think the second term could probably make a separate book.

I think it was fair Grizel got a second chance - as jennifer said it was outside of school. Who knows what all the other girls were getting up to in their holidays. (The Anne Seymour thing always really annoys me - in New House Anne thinks she's going to be Games Pre!)

Deira is really horrible in the book actually, although she's portrayed sympathetically. Her vendetta with Grizel is over such a small thing, and she is really nasty about it, even if she didn't mean to burn the Last Letter which is really sad for Grizel. And of course, she nearly ends by committing (at the very least) manslaughter. I actually think Deira's behaviour is much more serious than Margot's in the Bookend incident. I like that we get to see a different side of Deira in Eustacia.

The storyline may be unbelievable but it sweeps me along. However, like Joyce and Aquabird, I did always wonder why Paula wasn't going to the party - it never occurred to me that it might be her age. And like Alison I didn't realise Madge was seriously ill having David - although i think it's clearer in the full version.

Fiona Mc wrote:
The one thing you didn't mention which I have always wanted to know why and what caused it; is the only scene we see in the entire series where Frieda Mensch loses her temper and gets into a royal battle with Corney Flower. We never get told why Freida loses her temper or why she told Corney that she should be ashamed of herself. I am always slightly amused that Grizel's response is to almost send her to Matey because it was so unlike her. If I could ask EBD one question about the series, that would be it: What did Corney Flower do to rouse such ire in Frieda Mensch, who was best known for her peacemaking abilities, not for losing her temper!


Me too Fiona! But I suspect there wasn't a reason :wink:


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Head Girl of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 01 Feb 2017, 15:27 
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Head Girl is one of my favorites, though I don't particularly care for the madman scenario, and Cornelia is present more as a foil in whom Grizel recognizes her former self than as a rounded character who, in later years, would have been the new-girl-to-be-reformed of her own book. (Mind you, I think the salt caves themselves are fascinating, and would have liked them to have had their own CS book, perhaps in a Guiding saga.)

However, I really like Grizel's development in this book, and think EBD does an excellent job making what could have been just a series of episodes interconnect. One thing that struck me is how thoroughly all the loose ends are tied up by the time this set of older CS girls finish school -- almost as though this were the last book of a series.

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