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 Post subject: Books: Eustacia Goes to the Chalet School
PostPosted: 13 Feb 2017, 21:18 
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This week's discussion is on Eustacia Goes to the Chalet School, published in 1930 and covering the Easter term immediately following Rivals. Fourteen-year-old Eustacia Benson, the product of parents with decided ideas on bringing up children, is left orphaned, and after a brief and uncomfortable stay at her aunt's house where her grown-up airs, tale-telling and condescension to the servants do not endear her to anyone, she is sent to the Chalet School on the advice of Grizel Cochrane's stepmother. Eustacia has a bad term at the Chalet, culminating in her running away and causing long-term damage to her back in the process. Notable events:
Jo is informed by Madge that she will be Head Girl next term and will be staying on for an extra year before going to Belsornia to be lady-in-waiting to Elisaveta.
Juliet arrives back in Austria for a few weeks' holiday, worn out from a bout of scarlet fever.
The wedding of Bernhilda Mensch to Kurt von Eschenau, and the passing of die Grossmutter that same evening.
Eustacia arrives at the school and makes a bad start with her priggish manner and tale-bearing, which do not endear her at all to the Middles, who send her to Coventry for a week before relenting to give her another chance.
The prefects catch her out-of-bounds in the library reading a forbidden book from the staff shelves, having taken the key from Jo's desk. She is punished by being forbidden to use the library at all until half-term, and vows revenge on the prefects.
She next earns the wrath of Matron, who discovers that she has been casting off her plumeau at nights. She is still seething after this encounter when Kitty Burnett accidentally bangs into her while they are getting ready for a walk, and boxes her ears.
While on the walk, the girls discover that Gredel, one of the local children, is ill with what appears to be TB, and they vow to ask Jem to take her to the San for treatment. Eustacia declares that treating her would be a waste of time as she would likely redevelop the disease when she returns home, prompting the rest of the girls to denounce her soundly.
She is put into isolation as punishment for hitting Kitty, but is allowed out to join the singing lesson with Plato, and she discovers that she has a previously undiscovered love for music. She resolves to write home as soon as possible and ask her aunt for music lessons.
The prefects call a school council to discuss how best to deal with Eustacia, and Frieda suggests that they ask her to contribute an article on Oxford to the school magazine to try and engage with her.
Jo approaches Eustacia with the suggestion, but is rebuffed, and later that day Eustacia takes the key of the science lab from the staffroom and goes there to read. She knocks over a jar of distilled water which is initially mistaken for hydrochloric acid, and is rebuked by Miss Wilson and Miss Annersley.
A snow fight is held between the CS and St Scholastika's, and Eustacia begins to relent in her attitude a little.
A feud breaks out between the Fifth, led by Margia, and the Fourth, led by Evadne and Eustacia, over the latter's lost fountain pen which was discovered by Margia and confiscated by Miss Stewart. The feud only ends when Madge arrives at the Chalet for a visit and subtly encourages the girls to make up.
Half-term arrives, and the English and American girls left at school, including Jo, the Robin and Eustacia, go to Fulmes to see the Stubai glacier, accompanied by Miss Wilson and Miss Stewart.
Jo and Eustacia argue repeatedly on the trip, culminating in an incident on the glacier when Eustacia, jerking away from a helping hand from Jo, causes Miss Wilson to fall and break a bone in her foot. The group only just make it to the safety of a hut before a blizzard comes on which strands them there for the night.
The party finally reaches Fulpmes again the following evening, and the next morning the Robin is tired out and refuses her food, causing a general panic.
Back at the Chalet, Eustacia is blamed by all and sundry for the delay on the glacier, and ostracised once more.
The girls vow to dig in at the Sale.
Margia and Evadne have a row, resulting in the Fourth form purging the Fifths' inkwells of ink. The Fifth retaliate by removing buttons from the blazers of some of the Fourths, and rubbing the others on the cat's bed to cover them in hairs.
Eustacia, after another argument with Jo, makes up her mind to run away back to England.
Jo develops toothache, and she and a party of others visit the dentist. When they arrive back, they find that Eustacia has disappeared. Jo finds a note in the girl's cubicle, announcing her intention to return to England and write to the newspapers in order to ruin the school. She takes the note to the staff, and they deduce that she has made for the Tiern Pass. Miss WIlson advises Jo that she has a great influence over the school, and that deep down Eustacia had longed to be her friend, not enemy.
Eustacia follows the swollen river towards the Pass, but goes too far and narrowly escapes being swept away when a natural dam further up the mountain breaks and sends water sweeping down. She strains a muscle in her back as she dashes for the safety of a niche, and can only lie there semi-conscious until she is found by a search party led by Gottfried Mensch.
Two weeks later up at the Sonnalpe, when she is well enough to listen, Eustacia is told that she will be convalescent until at least September. She vows to be brave and tries to turn over a new leaf, allowing her hair to be cut and for her name to be shortened to Stacie.
The book ends with her making up with Jo, and the news that Gisela, who was 'too busy' to attend Bernhilda's wedding, has had a baby daughter, Natalie.

So what do you think of Eustacia? Was her unhappiness her own fault, or could the school have done more to help her adjust? What did you think of the half-term trip to the glacier and the events that occurred there? Do you think Miss Wilson was right to tell Jo she had so much influence over the other girls?

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Eustacia Goes to the Chalet School
PostPosted: 13 Feb 2017, 22:06 
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I'm fond of this book because it was the first CS book I've ever read, but I don't think anyone comes out of it with any credit. Aunt Margery couldn't wait to get Eustacia out of the way. Eustacia herself was very hard work. Mary calling a school council seemed like everyone ganging up on one person. Couldn't Miss Wilson have explained to her that sneaking was considered to be a very bad thing to do, instead of telling her that, if she'd been a boy, someone would have beaten her up? And it was unfair of Joey to blame her for events in Fulpmes - she hardly caused the avalanche, and that whole thing about Robin being "set back more than a year" by one evening's worry doesn't make much sense anyway. And then poor Eustacia is laid up for two years, whereas most "sinners" get away with a couple of weeks in the school San and a telling off in the study!

/rant!

I think Miss Wilson was unfair to Jo, as well. Yes, Jo did have influence over the other girls, but Miss Wilson made it sound as if it was her fault that Eustacia was so unhappy - which it really wasn't!

On a more positive note, I like Bernhilda's wedding, and I know some people find Grossmutter's death a bit OTT but it always makes me cry! And one person who actually does come out of things, although not in relation to the Eustacia situation, with a lot of credit is Jem, who treats patients like Gredel even though they cannot afford to pay. I know that a lot of doctors and private hospitals tried to help people in that situation, in the days before state-funded healthcare, but they weren't obliged to do so.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Eustacia Goes to the Chalet School
PostPosted: 14 Feb 2017, 09:55 
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The general feeling I get in this book is that people are genuinely trying to make things work, but failing all round.

Eustacia is almost a feral child - she looks like an ordinary schoolgirl, but she's almost completely ignorant of basic rules of society and social interactions. And she's rather emotionally stunted as well - she doesn't recognize or respond to sympathy, or have any empathy for others.

Her aunt gets landed with this child who is completely unmanageable, and is disrupting their household to the point that the maids are giving notice, and she has no idea how to handle it. And I suspect that in those days, there weren't grief counsellors and appointments with child psychologists available. She realized that a normal high school would be a disaster, and was hoping that a continental school would be better suited to her peculiarities. But it turns out that the lack of personal time and emphasis on exercise and social activities made Eustacia miserable, with nowhere to retreat.

Mlle Lepattre has been thrust into a position she never really wanted or prepared for - she was an excellent support for Madge, but isn't really suited to being a Head - she lacks the decisiveness and leadership. I suspect she sees herself as a caretaker in lieu of Madge, but isn't really thinking of how the school needs to change.

Mary is a fairly weak Head Girl, although she means well. I think she'd have made a good regular prefect, or administrative Head Girl (organizing events, supervising prep), but doesn't have a good sense of how to approach interpersonal stuff.

Joey makes things worse through general tactlessness. Miss Wilson overstates things, but it is true that she is someone of influence at the school, and is now in an official leadership position. So she has some responsibility to think before she speaks, and to consider other points of view. And her blaming Eustacia for Robin's issues is irrational.

The staff in general assumes that Eustacia really should know things that she's never experienced and never been told - like schoolgirl rules of conduct.

Madge and Jem have their own issues - if the Robin is so incredibly delicate that a night of worry could send her into fatal decline, she shouldn't have been sent on a half-term expedition. And expecting the other students to stay behind from interesting expeditions to babysit the Robin is pretty unfair to the student left behind.

I think maybe what we're seeing here is growing pains for the school. For the first few years, they're a small, cozy school, with a family like atmosphere, and Madge as founder/Head/mother figure, overseeing everything personally. Half-terms were like family vacations at the Sonnalpe, the whole school attended old girl weddings, Madge and Joey spent vacations with the families of students. They're getting too big for that now, but haven't yet settled into the more structured system that a larger school needs. In later days, they've got systems for things like the Head Mistress and the owner being different people, or arranging appropriate supervision on half-term trips, and would probably be keeping a closer official eye on a new girl with a difficult background. It would be much harder for a girl to vanish in the middle of the night (this being the third time that a girl has managed to get dressed, equip herself, and take off from the school in the dead of night with no-one noticing).

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Eustacia Goes to the Chalet School
PostPosted: 14 Feb 2017, 14:31 
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I agree with pretty much all of this!


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Eustacia Goes to the Chalet School
PostPosted: 14 Feb 2017, 16:23 
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Alison and Jennifer, you've left us with very little to add, well done! (And of course thanks to Aquabird for the excellent overview.)
My sympathies have always lain with Eustacia, doubly bereaved, shunted off to a houseful of boys, and then sent abroad to a place where she couldn't even read in peace when she wanted to. This book, perhaps more than any other CS story, shows how attitudes have changed - I still cringe when I read the conversation with Bill telling Eustacia she would have been thrashed at a boys school.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Eustacia Goes to the Chalet School
PostPosted: 14 Feb 2017, 20:19 
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LucyP wrote:
Alison and Jennifer, you've left us with very little to add, well done! (And of course thanks to Aquabird for the excellent overview.)
My sympathies have always lain with Eustacia, doubly bereaved, shunted off to a houseful of boys, and then sent abroad to a place where she couldn't even read in peace when she wanted to. This book, perhaps more than any other CS story, shows how attitudes have changed - I still cringe when I read the conversation with Bill telling Eustacia she would have been thrashed at a boys school.


Totally agree and the idea of Eustacia being the subject of a School Council is dreadful - I remember being uncomfortable with this when I was a child. I am currently reading Exploits (thank you Cestina) and am struck by these
comments about Eustacia when comparing her behaviour with Thekla.

"Joey ....."that accident has been the making of her."

"It has been a very hard making" said Frieda with a thought for the girl whose entire spring and summer had been spent on her back, the result of an injury caused by her attempting to run away from the School when she had made herself so unhappy by her selfish only-child ways that she could endure it no longer".

This sounds as though Eustacia was a spoilt child given everything she wanted rather than brought up with the emphasis on academic achievement and no social training whatsoever.

After Thekla has had a temper tantrum, the staff discuss her and compare her with Eustacia. Miss Stewart's reaction is that Thekla is tiresome and her fellow form members will deal with her ideas of being one of the chosen people Miss Leslie, her form mistress is more cautious and says, "..do you think it is advisable to let them treat her to the same teasing as they would mete out to other girls? If today is anything to go by, it seems likely that we shall have trouble in that case".

"Oh we can't make exceptions" said Miss Wilson briskly, "look at Eustacia Benson. We never worried about her and what a nice child she is turning".

This seems to me an abdication of responsibility. The staff knew about Eustacia's strange up-bringing and made no attempt to help her. The principle of not interfering with the girls' friendships was OK when it was a question of not interfering when best friends fell out and minor upsets but Eustacia's background was well known and she was deserving of better treatment.

(Apologies for jumping ahead to Exploits but I found the quotes relevant to the discussion of Eustacia.)


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Eustacia Goes to the Chalet School
PostPosted: 15 Feb 2017, 09:13 
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And we are never actually told where and what Eustacia is doing during the meeting are we? She can't go to the library and she's not allowed in to her dorm. So did she sit in the common room alone and never wondered where the other girls are?

There is never another 'school meeting' called by the girls after this, is there? Except for the one in Exile to form the Peace League which is certainly an important enough issue to merit one.

I like the book but I hate Joey's behaviour in it. And I cannot ever believe Eustacia ran away to impress Joey :banghead:

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Eustacia Goes to the Chalet School
PostPosted: 15 Feb 2017, 20:27 
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Brilliant posts on here.☺ Great reading.

I never thought before of the difference it would make the fact that the school was developing away from the "family" to a more structured establishment. Also Mlle taking over from Madge was not a continuance but something entirely new.

Thank you all!


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Eustacia Goes to the Chalet School
PostPosted: 15 Feb 2017, 21:43 
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This was the first book I got that wasn't an abridged paperback so I have a soft spot for it.

I feel sorry for Eustacia. Her aunt and then the school authorities seem to think she should just 'know' how to behave the way they want and seem to have no insight into why she is the way she is. Did none of the adults ever work out that because of her upbringing she can't really help being the way she is even if she is 15 years of age?

I also think Joey's famed insight into schoolgirls is called into serious question here. She doesn't seem to make any allowances for Eustacia, she laughs at her during a meeting and she only comes around to friendliness once she's had the serious accident.

I don't know if it was accident or design but I find very few of the characters lovable in this book. It's almost a textbook on how not to do things in an all girls' boarding school.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Eustacia Goes to the Chalet School
PostPosted: 15 Feb 2017, 23:21 
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Whenever I think of Eustacia, I always think that Mary-Lou would have shown a lot more compassion and really tried to help in a way that Mary, Jo & Co.did not.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Eustacia Goes to the Chalet School
PostPosted: 15 Feb 2017, 23:34 
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The trouble is, though, can anyone think of what would have helped Eustacia? She was so hermetically sealed inside herself that even Mary-Lou might not have succeeded in breaking through and could even have made things worse (except that that would not have been considered a suitable storyline for its audience).

And even so, we're looking at this with the benefit of (a) hindsight and (b) are living at a time when, although mental illness and mental problems are still not well understood, they are at least discussed and there are some coping stratagems, however imperfect. As I've said elsewhere, I blame Professor and Dr Benson for this situation, though I do wonder if he was having second thoughts - his will stipulates that Eustacia is to be sent to school, after all. But I suspect that she may even have been clinically depressed by too much change too suddenly, and unfortunately does need a radical shift of some kind before she can come out of it.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Eustacia Goes to the Chalet School
PostPosted: 15 Feb 2017, 23:39 
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I think the adults should have taken the lead rather than letting the prefects have meetings and devise punishments. I know the Chalet School is all about instilling responsibility but their concern for health seems to have been solely about physical health, mental health doesn't get a look in!
Maybe Eustacia is the reason why in later books girls were allowed to specialise based on their talents and interests. She sounded like she was always going to be a scholar of greek or whatever it was she ended up as.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Eustacia Goes to the Chalet School
PostPosted: 16 Feb 2017, 03:18 
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Other than an as yet unfulfilled desire to experience a glacier (preferably without breaking anything) and a few nice scenes (e.g. the wedding & aftermath), Eustacia left me with a messy bunch of contradictions. As a classic bookworm who considered the library the one “safe space,” I was shocked that a clueless new girl with scholarly aspirations could be banned for an entire term, and empathized with her discomfort over mandatory sportiness and lack of privacy. On the other hand, there’s the blatant contrast between CS girls (apologize if you accidentally throw water on Eigen, arrange immediate medical help for Gredel) and Eustacia (zero feeling for anyone, especially if “only” a servant, and dismiss medical treatment for the lower classes.) This part was presumably inculcated by her parents, and I had the uncomfortable feeling that EBD's usual respect for the medical profession didn't extend to women in the field: “lady doctors” such as Eustacia’s mother would be too busy being squeamish over insanitary featherbeds and poor people even to treat a cold, let alone recognize the symptoms of congestive heart failure. Finally, we see the CS leadership urging everyone to make allowances and try to help, but neither the staff nor the girls follow through, and Eustacia won't budge; no one but the narrator knows about the glimmers during the music lesson and the snow fight. Too much realism, instead of the standards of kindness© I expect from the CS.

Has anyone else wondered whether C.S. Lewis’ Eustace was modeled on Eustacia? They have an awful lot in common, though of course Eustace’s reform required being turned into a dragon.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Eustacia Goes to the Chalet School
PostPosted: 08 Mar 2017, 23:22 
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I assumed that Eustacias mother wasnt a medical doctor, but maybe a doctor of classic or similar.

Child psychology, or any psychology, seems to have been in its infancy when Eustacia was growing up. It appears to have been a harder and less sympathetic world. Perhaps because death was much more common then?


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Eustacia Goes to the Chalet School
PostPosted: 09 Mar 2017, 00:02 
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I must admit I'd always assumed that she was a medical doctor because people with PhDs, DDs etc are not usually referred to as plain 'doctors' but "she's a PhD" or "he's got a doctorate in Chemistry" etc.

Interesting point about the effect of high mortality rates, especially as causes of death often had to be estimated by doctors and could easily be incomplete unless an autopsy was held. A pretty terrifying world to bring a child up in, but I also think Eustacia's childhood sounds exceptionally isolated and lacking in warmth.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Eustacia Goes to the Chalet School
PostPosted: 09 Mar 2017, 15:48 
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How do you expect someone to fall in with the family atmosphere at school when they've never had a real family life?

Eustacia's aunt blames her for her response to her cousins, but never seems to consider that the cousins are making Eustacia's life an absolute misery.

It would have been much better, and easier all round, if the boys had been called into a small meeting, and told that Eustacia had been an only child, had never been allowed to have friends, so not to play tricks on her, but let her gradually get used to living with a large family.

Then, having lost both parents, and having felt herself tormented by her cousins, they can't wait to get rid of her, so send her off to a boarding school in Austria where she knows no-one, and is miserably unhappy with the strange environment, and more people gathered together than she has ever seen in her life, with a set of rules that no-one explains to her, and is expected to fit in and accept these strange (to her) rules of behaviour and traditions.

Cut the girls some slack, people! Where is the tolerance that is so often preached at the CS?

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Eustacia Goes to the Chalet School
PostPosted: 12 Mar 2017, 20:57 
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I might be overthinking this :lol:, but both Eustacia and Thekla struggle because they don't know "the schoolgirl code", rather than not meeting specific Chalet School standards. In Lintons, Jo comments that Thekla has some excuse for her behaviour but that Joyce, because she previously attended a high school so is already familiar with accepted behavioural norms, isn't. In the later books, it's much more about being a Chalet School girl, and the idea that the Chalet School standards of decency are higher than those at schools such as the ones that Elma Conroy, Diana Skelton, etc attended previously.

I hope that makes sense :lol: .

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Eustacia Goes to the Chalet School
PostPosted: 13 Mar 2017, 00:49 
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I think it does make sense. Lavender and Nina are others who come into the school not knowing the rules of behaviour - Lavender has been spoiled, and Nina is obsessed with her music. Betty Wynne-Davies and Joan are bad girls who have attended schools and should know what the rules are, but choose to break them.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Eustacia Goes to the Chalet School
PostPosted: 14 Mar 2017, 14:41 
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I think it makes sense too - although I can see what EBD was getting at. Some schools (particularly free learning ones in her book) are bad, but a traditional (English) girl's high school is expected to have the same high moral standard as the CS.

In later books the CS is seen as more caring and with a definite religious emphasis but I don't think more 'moral' - hence Ruey's surprise at everyone's concern for Naomi, because her school lacked the CS sense of community, but she isn't shown to have trouble adhering to the CS's high moral standard.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Eustacia Goes to the Chalet School
PostPosted: 14 Mar 2017, 16:20 
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I think this is by far the bleakest book in the series, and find it interesting that although all EMBD's writing has a moral element, she never again seems to go this far in this direction. I suppose she may have needed to write this one to explore the territory, but may not have enjoyed it that much once she got there.


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