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 Post subject: Books: The Chalet School and Jo
PostPosted: 20 Feb 2017, 22:14 
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It's Monday, it's a new week, I have a new job (also new drabble inspiration after a long drought), and of course, it's time for a new book discussion thread! :D This week is The Chalet School and Jo, the seventh book in the canon series, first published in 1931. Picking up immediately where Eustacia left off, this book covers Jo's first term as Head Girl. Notable events:
Jo, rebelling against the idea of being Head Girl and growing up in general, pays a visit to Gisela Mensch, who manages to talk her round to the idea somewhat.
Mademoiselle announces that as part of Madge's birthday celebrations that year, the school will be going to see the Passion Play at Oberammergau.
The prefects hold a meeting to dole out duties, and Jo proposes that Stacie, who is up at the Sonnalpe recovering from her accident the term before, be the new editor of the Chaletian, in order to give her something to think about while she is convalescing. The other prefects agree.
Jo takes an eventful prep which includes people tilting, overbalancing, knocking over ink and books, and Elsie Carr setting off a squawker toy to cause a disturbance.
After a Guides meeting, Jack Maynard arrives to take Jo, Marie, Evadne and Irma von Rothenfels up to the Sonnalpe. On the way they meet three guests who have been observing the school with interest, and Jack realises that one of them, Frank Hillis, is an old acquaintance.
Upon reaching the Sonnalpe, we learn that Mrs Eastley, wife of the chaplain who has been conducting the Protestant services at the school, has passed away. Madge informs Jo in private that the doctors are fearful that the Robin may be starting TB, and that she will have to stay at the Sonnalpe until she is at least fourteen. She tells Jo not to tell anyone except Frieda and Marie.
After recovering from the shock, Jo blames Stacie and the incident on the glacier the previous term for starting the Robin's health issues, but Marie counsels her that if the Robin is starting TB, she would have done so whether the glacier incident had happened or not.
Back at school, in a single day Frieda, Ruth Wynyard and Margia Stevens are doused in Stickphast, Jo causes Luise to upset hot soup over the two of them and Peggy Burnett, and Elsie Carr and Maria Marani get their heads stuck in the backs of peasant chairs and have to be sawn out by Hansi.
News comes that the Robin has been examined by a specialist from Vienna and been declared free of TB. However, when Jo goes to Die Rosen for a visit Madge tells her that the Robin will never return to the CS down at Briesau as she needs to be watched by the doctors, and so they are going to open an annexe of the school up on the Sonnalpe for frail pupils. Juliet Carrick is to come out to Austria to head it.
Jo goes wild with relief at the news of the Robin, and tells Stacie that she knows the glacier incident may only have hastened the trouble, not caused it.
Juliet joins the school for the trip to the Passion Play, and before leaving they run into the Hillises, and Mrs Hillis's brother Mr O'Hara. Jo is startled to note that Juliet has clearly met them before, and that there is a distinct iciness between Juliet and Mrs Hillis.
On the train to Oberammergau, Jo gets Juliet alone, and the latter informs her that she had been great friends with Mrs Hillis at the Royal Holloway, and had been involved with Donal O'Hara, when word reached Mrs Hillis of the Carricks' dodgy behaviour in India, and she dropped Juliet and warned Donal off her.
Arriving at Oberammergau, the prefects go out for a stroll with Juliet, and discover that Evadne, Cornelia, Elsie, Ilonka and Maria have been playing at Red Indians, and they are well and truly hauled over the coals for making such an exhibition of themselves and the school.
The school attends the Passion Play - at which Jo spots the Stuffer and Marie, last seen in Head Girl - and afterwards Jo faints from all the emotional strain.
A week after returning from Oberammergau, the Quintette and Maria Marani discover Biddy O'Ryan, a ten year old Irish girl whose stepfather has recently died, crying on the footpath next to the school's fence. She has run away from Hall after learning that she is to go to the Cecilia Home for Orphans. The Middles contrive to feed and clothe her among themselves, and hide her in the pine woods during the day and the games shed at night.
Jo and Juliet go for a walk to Geisalm, and encounter both Biddy and Kay Hillis.
After a few days, Jo eventually discovers Biddy locked in the games shed, and marches her off to Mademoiselle, who in turn sends her to Matron to be looked after. The Middles are told off first by Mademoiselle and then the prefects, who afterwards decide that the school should adopt Biddy through the Guides, with the idea of training her to be a lady's maid when she reaches fifteen.
The Chalet School and St Scholastika's hold a boat race, which is narrowly won by the Chalet team, led by Marie. The local lord of the manor, the Baron von und zu Wertheimer, presents the cup, and takes an immediate interest in her.
Jo, revved up from the boat race, obtains permission from Miss Wilson to go for a stroll (bearing a massive Japanese sunshade known to the girls as The Red Peril) and encounters Donal again, and proceeds to give him a piece of her mind over his treatment of Juliet. After he acknowledges being at fault, Jo relents and arranges to get him alone with Juliet so that he can try to make amends. Everything goes to plan, and Juliet and Donal reconcile and become engaged.
Wanda comes out to the Sonnalpe to spend the summer with her son, Bette Rincini becomes engaged, and Gertrud Steinbrücke has caught the eye of a new San doctor. Madge also reveals that Marie Pfeiffen will be 'busy' in the winter. Finally, Jo receives a letter from Elisaveta announcing that she will also be coming out to the Sonnalpe for the summer holidays.

So, what do you think of Jo's first term in the hot seat? Do you think her rebelling against growing up is realistic? What do you think of all the anxiety over the Robin? Did you enjoy the descriptions of the Passion Play and Oberammergau? What about the Middles' antics throughout the term? Did you like the Juliet/O'Hara subplot? Discuss below!

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School and Jo
PostPosted: 20 Feb 2017, 23:11 
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I read this as a child and I loved it , it was so romantic but I was puzzled by Biddy, being adopted by the Guides ! wouldn't there be red tape involved , not to mention Jem having to pull in favours from the Embassy ?!


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School and Jo
PostPosted: 20 Feb 2017, 23:25 
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Congratulations on the new job!

Isn't there a lot packed into the Tyrolean books :D? I love the summery feel of this one, and it inspired me to go and see the Passion Play in 2010. The visit to Oberammergau is one of my favourite parts of the early years, although I could have lived without the stupid sub-plot of girls of 14 painting their faces in a place full of tourists, and Jo's melodramatic swoon! The description of Oberammergau itself is lovely, though. OK, it's overly sentimental, with all the stuff about the hope of a part in the play making it easier to be good, but, from what I've read, that was the common view of Oberammergau in the Anglophone world at that time (this would have been 1930, rather than the 1934 tercentenary performance which got a bit hijacked by the Nazis).

I wish Juliet had sent Donal packing, because she deserved someone a lot better than a wimp who dumped her because his snobby sister told him to, but I like the fact that, for once, we get to see a romance that isn't all plain sailing. And I like seeing Stacie at Die Rosen: it's so kind of Madge and Jem, who treat her as one of the family.

Robin's illness-which-never-is just seems to be there to create more melodrama for Jo. We don't get to see how anyone else, even Robin herself, is dealing with it!

I like Biddy and I'm so glad that she becomes a major character, rather than being forgotten about, but I'm not overly comfortable with the idea of a child being some sort of school/Guide project. Mlle Lepattre even tells Joey that it's up to the prefects to decide what's to happen about Biddy, as if it's an exercise in problem-solving rather than a child's future.

It's a nice time in the series, I think. There's a good balance between school events and family (as in the wider Chalet School family) events. Most of the Old Girls are still very much part of the CS world, and we get to see the children in the Die Rosen nursery as well (and Marie and Andreas starting their own family, even if it's only mentioned in passing). There are funny stories with the Middles' antics, but serious things as well. And it's summer ...

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School and Jo
PostPosted: 21 Feb 2017, 00:06 
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Alison H wrote:
Congratulations on the new job!


Thanks. :D

I was never that keen on this book before, but on rereading it for the discussion it isn't half as bad as I thought. All the Robin Engelkind baby adoration still bores me (she's ten by this point and still wants Jo to tuck her up in bed? :roll: ), but Jo herself doesn't irritate me as much as I remember. I think it's lovely that she proposed Stacie as editor for the magazine to help keep her included in school affairs while she was recovering, for example, and I do like her sympathy for Juliet. I love the bit where she thinks all sorts of forbidden slang words about the O'Haras to relieve her feelings because she's not allowed to say them aloud. :lol:

One minor point that struck me on my skim-read: that bit about Elsie Carr setting a toy loose in prep to cause a ruckus? Check out the New Mistress chapter where Heather Clayton does the exact same thing. You could just swap Elsie's and Heather's names and the sections would be virtually identical. I know EBD was starting to recycle things by the Swiss eras - and who could blame her after forty-odd books - but come on!

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School and Jo
PostPosted: 21 Feb 2017, 02:26 
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This is one of my favourites and it's lovely to see that moment between Joey and Marie because it's usually Joey dealing with Simone's crying fits.

But I really don't like how quickly Eustacia forgives Joey for being such an ahem ... b* to her.

Joey wildly irrationally blames E for something that she could not have helped and while I sympathise that a lot of it is because of her terror and fear for the Robin, E is still ill at the time and she could easily have had a setback from the way Joey treat her.

And then suddenly everything is forgiven and OK again.

But I do love seeing Joey grow into the role of being Head Girl and becoming more responsible while still doing some nutty things.

Cheers,
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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School and Jo
PostPosted: 21 Feb 2017, 10:03 
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I think it's a reflection of the strong writing in the Tyrol books that books with strong plots, books with fantastical plots, and books with episodic plots are all a good read.

We see Joey in her first term as Head Girl here, and I actually quite like the portrayal, even though she's nowhere near the "best Head Girl ever" status she retroactively gets later. She's trying, but she's also easily distracted and emotionally volatile, and although a strong personality, not quite mature enough for the role. Her interference in Juliet's romance is also one of the few times as a schoolgirl she spontaneously butts in to help. It makes sense, because Juliet is someone she cares for, and contrasts with her illogical anger towards Stacie over Robin's illness. (ie, she's not the paragon of understanding and helpfulness she's also retroactively described as).

The Guide thing is pretty bizarre, but EJO does the same 'orphan adopted by the Guide troop' thing, but more melodramatically, with international patent thieves, a criminal gang, kidnapping and assault, a long-lost mother in a TB hospital, and the need to transport the orphan (who doesn't even know her real name) across international borders. I do wonder what Miss Wilson thought when she discovered that being Guide Captain meant responsibility for an adopted orphan, though...

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School and Jo
PostPosted: 21 Feb 2017, 11:19 
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The scene with Jo and Juliet on the train, when Juliet opens her heart about her broken romance, and then Jo says something like "I love you. Love brings understanding." must be one of the most emotional scenes in the whole series. Like the much later scene in which Nell Wilson talks about how nearly losing Hilda has made her realise how much she loves her, it's not something that surely even the most ardent Anti-Soppist :wink: could really object to - it's genuinely moving. It's a very deep and adult conversation: Juliet talks about how her parents' treatment of her destroyed her self-worth, and then the affection she was shown by Madge, Jo, Robin and Grizel (nice that she mentions Grizel) gradually built it up again ... only for the O'Haras to knock her right back down. It's not just Donal, it's also Kay, who was kind to Juliet when she was lonely and homesick and then dropped her like a hot brick when she found out about her family history. It's a very emotive and believable scene.

It also makes it all the more odd that Juliet is hardly mentioned after her marriage, but that's in the future.

It's quite a coincidence that the Hillises and Donal should have chosen the Tiernsee, of all the places in all the world, to holiday at, especially as Juliet must have told Donal and Kay that it was where she was based, but never mind ...

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School and Jo
PostPosted: 21 Feb 2017, 11:58 
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Yes, this one's a rich book, with a lot of significant content. It isn't one I've re-read as often as some of the others, despite liking the fact that Jo does take a hand in putting things right between Juliet and Donal. Whatever we may think of the O'Haras, they didn't know Juliet that well, and a lot of families do seem to have a basic 'Them and Us' survival strategy against outsiders, especially if trouble arises.

Joyce wrote:
I really don't like how quickly Eustacia forgives Joey for being such an ahem ... b* to her.

Joey wildly irrationally blames E for something that she could not have helped and while I sympathise that a lot of it is because of her terror and fear for the Robin, E is still ill at the time and she could easily have had a setback from the way Joey treat her.

And then suddenly everything is forgiven and OK again.
I know what you mean, but I think this is a situation that couldn't have been shown in any other way in a book for this age group at this date. It's setting the young reader a good example - that forgiveness is A Good Thing (and especially if it's not easy for the forgiver). Such matters may also have been more to the forefront of EMBD's mind than usual, given that she had recently joined the Roman Catholic church - and Confession (and thereby Absolution) tends to be a significant difference between Catholics and Anglicans (even those Anglicans who are 'high church' and go to Mass, Benediction etc).

I can't help thinking that the moral element of EMBD's writing, especially when it's made plain, is one of the areas where the modern reader often struggles a bit.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School and Jo
PostPosted: 21 Feb 2017, 13:09 
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My copy of this book went astray as did the replacement copy so I have not read it much in fairly recent years.

When I was young and reading the book I loved the Oberammergau part and thought the dressing up very funny and bad.

I liked that when Jo was to be Head Girl she was not very keen on taking on the post. This was unlike most of the girls chosen who would have been madly keen. I liked too that at the end of the book she admitted it was not as bad as she had thought.

Later on, EBD seemed to change the type of head girl/person Jo had been. We hear about her being a butter-in in the style of Mary-Lou. Whilst she certainly was that as an adult and with some of the people she loved, such as Juliet, she gave no evidence of caring all that much what happened to the average girl. Whilst Joey was probably in the better half of head girls, was she in the stupendous Gisela/Mary-Lou etc category?

Although, I am glad Robin did not have TB I wonder if she had done, how Joey would have coped? Would she have found extra strength or just fallen apart? Also, would she have forgiven Eustacia then? I also love Jem's summing up of Joey's character to Madge after it was discovered Robin was in the clear.

It was interesting too seeing how one person can cause such disruption even in a good way as Joey did at Die Rosen the weekend Robin was found to be all right. Joey's intense nature must have been dfficult to handle. Did Jack also find it difficult later on in recent years? Was that the reason for the "doses" and sending her to bed at the slighest hint of trouble. Did he find it easier to have her out of the way?

It's interesting too that Joey tells Marie and Frieda about Robin's possible trouble but Simone is not told. I can understand Frieda but why Marie and not Simone? Surely one or the other would have been more appropriate?

One last thing, I rather like the sarcastic remark which I think Jo makes in this book to Gisela (?) about the wonderful children she and Madge are going to have thanks to the "training" said children will have received. Apologies if I have this wrong - cannot remember the detail clearly - but sounds more like they were training dogs.

This wad edited only to change a typing error in one


Last edited by Audrey25 on 21 Feb 2017, 13:50, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School and Jo
PostPosted: 21 Feb 2017, 13:21 
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Marie was just in the right place at the right time - she happened to be visiting the Sonnalpe on the weekend that Madge told Jo what was going on with Robin. What I don't get is that Madge said "Evvy is too young" - I never got the impression that Evadne was particularly close to Robin. The Mensches and the Bettany-Russells were family friends and spent a lot of time together in the holidays, which would account for why Madge said it was OK to tell Frieda, but it seems unfortunate that it means that three of a group of four friends will have a secret which isn't to be shared with the fourth.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School and Jo
PostPosted: 21 Feb 2017, 14:58 
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I never thought leaving Simone out of the secret made sense, and it made even less sense when she apparently knew about it in later books :roll:

I do like this one, and I think as a kid the idea of the girls 'adopting' Biddy seemed lovely - reading as an adult it seems bizarre though. Although I'm sure if the prefects hadn't been able to come up with a solution, Mademoiselle would have stepped in.

Also, as a child I was mostly bored by the romance storyline, but I was glad it all worked for Juliet - now, I feel much more ambivalent about it.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School and Jo
PostPosted: 21 Feb 2017, 17:27 
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One thing that stands out for me in this book is that it's the first time we see Miss Annersley taking the initiative rather than being a fairly anonymous new staff member.

I appreciate seeing the combined forces of Marie and Jem finally get Joey to see how unreasonable she's been to blame Eustacia for Robin's setback. (And am thankful Jo doesn't give the "I'll know who's to blame" speech in Eustacia's hearing, and acts kindly in the end.)

In my literary world, it's fairly normal for Guides (or Girl Scouts, really) to "adopt" an orphan. However, they normally rope in a proper guardian for the finances (if they can't use their skills to track down a long-lost relative/godparent) and work hard to make the girl feel part of the company/troop. I wasn't comfortable with the lady's maid/village school concept, and was relieved that in later volumes Biddy became such a key part of the CS.

I also always find it interesting to compare EBD's Oberammergau with Lovelace's in Betsy and the Great World. Betsy doesn't even see the play, as it's 1914, but is moved by the atmosphere and those she meets there (including Anton Lang.)

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School and Jo
PostPosted: 21 Feb 2017, 18:30 
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Maybe they thought that telling (an emotional) Simone would mean that she would want to cling round Jo to sympathise which would keep reminding (and upsetting) her. It is mentioned that it wasn't talked about once Frieda had been told, so maybe they thought Simone would be apt to put her foot in it..........!!

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School and Jo
PostPosted: 21 Feb 2017, 19:43 
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I always think it quite amusing that it is the emotional, sentimental Simone who gows up into this practical, sensible, down to earth person.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School and Jo
PostPosted: 21 Feb 2017, 20:19 
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I agree that Simone probably wasn't told because it was thought she might become very emotional, which was the last thing Jo needed. Marie and Frieda were much more level headed and would give Jo the right kind of quiet support. (I know Simone had improved a lot since the early books, but this wasn't the time to put it to the test.)

Quote:
One thing that stands out for me in this book is that it's the first time we see Miss Annersley taking the initiative rather than being a fairly anonymous new staff member.

I wonder if EBD had realised by this time that Mdlle Lepattre as Head wasn't really working, and was beginning to plan changes.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School and Jo
PostPosted: 22 Feb 2017, 10:16 
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fio wrote:
Maybe they thought that telling (an emotional) Simone would mean that she would want to cling round Jo to sympathise which would keep reminding (and upsetting) her.


I always thought it was a bit mean not to tell Simone, but this explanation makes sense. If Joey is already upset then she really doesn't need the constant reminder trying to deal with Simone. But I wonder when and how they finally told her and how she reacted to having a secret kept from her like that.

Kathy_S wrote:
I appreciate seeing the combined forces of Marie and Jem finally get Joey to see how unreasonable she's been to blame Eustacia for Robin's setback.


Is the Jem conversation only in the hardbacks? Cos I only ever read this book in pb and while I can remember Marie being able to see the Robin situation more clearly than Joey i.e. she realises Eustacia is not to blame. But I don't recall Jem talking to Joey about it?

Cheers,
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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School and Jo
PostPosted: 22 Feb 2017, 12:02 
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I reread this last night. I'd never noticed before that most of it isn't really about school. There's the prefects' meeting and the Middles' prep, but most of the rest of it takes place outside school and/or is about non-school related matters - Robin, the weekends at the Sonnalpe, Oberammergau, Biddy, Juliet's romance, talk of OGs.

Though the beginning and end are about Jo being HG, we don't really see her doing much specifically HG stuff, other than leading the prefects' meeting, which was quite straightforward.

'Pretty Anne Seymour' is mentioned quite a lot, so I can believe that at this point EBD had her in mind as a future HG. I don't recall Louise appearing at all.

When Madge was talking about teaching at the Annexe, near the end of the book, was she hinting that she was pregnant, or thinking about having another baby?

I've gone from not thinking Donal is not good enough for Juliet to actively disliking him and his charming (manipulative) smile. If he was in an Agatha Christie novel, he'd be the murderer.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School and Jo
PostPosted: 22 Feb 2017, 12:22 
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She says that she'll teach there when the Annexe first opens, and "then, well, we'll see," or words to that effect.

Gretchen was born the following January, so, assuming that the school term ended in July, Marie would have been about three months along by then, and had started to tell people ... although Jo, even at 16 or 17, doesn't seem to get what Madge means when she says that Marie's "going to be busy"! Sybil was around six weeks younger, and she was premature, so it would have been much too early for Madge to be sure. So she was probably hinting that she and Jem were planning another baby, rather than that one was definitely on the way. Then again, EBD can be very vague about dates :lol:.

I do feel so sorry for Juliet. As she says, she'd never really felt loved and valued until she went to the Chalet School, and she was feeling vulnerable once she was away from there and in London on her own, and then she thought she'd found both a true friend (Kay) and Mr Right, only for both of them to dump her because of something that wasn't her fault. It's a far cry from the straightforward courtships that people like Gisela and Wanda have.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School and Jo
PostPosted: 22 Feb 2017, 14:33 
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JayB wrote:
I've gone from not thinking Donal is not good enough for Juliet to actively disliking him and his charming (manipulative) smile. If he was in an Agatha Christie novel, he'd be the murderer.


Totally! That's an excellent way of putting it. Actually the whole scenario is a bit Agatha Christie now you say it - the lonely young girl with a dark past, the manipulative sister, the weak love interest, and the bluff brother-in-law who can't see what's right under his nose. Mrs Hillis could be the one to get it.

Alison H wrote:
I do feel so sorry for Juliet. As she says, she'd never really felt loved and valued until she went to the Chalet School, and she was feeling vulnerable once she was away from there and in London on her own, and then she thought she'd found both a true friend (Kay) and Mr Right, only for both of them to dump her because of something that wasn't her fault. It's a far cry from the straightforward courtships that people like Gisela and Wanda have.


True. And at the same time it makes a lot more sense for Juliet to fall for this waster who doesn't really care about her - it's not something you could see Gisela doing. Her troubled upbringing is exactly what makes her vulnerable to the charming O'Haras.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School and Jo
PostPosted: 23 Feb 2017, 14:09 
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Posts: 74
Location: Southampton
It's not only weird that the Hillises chose the Tiernsee but that they seemed unaware there was a school there at all. Juliet must surely have told Kay O'Hara all about it...


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