This week's book discussion is The Chalet School and the Lintons,
first published in 1934. When published in paperback this title was split into two books: The Chalet School and the Lintons
and A Rebel in the Chalet School.
The book opens just before the Christmas of Exploits,
and covers the term which follows. Mrs Linton, mother to fifteen year old Gillian and fourteen year old Joyce, is diagnosed with TB and goes out to the Sonnalpe for treatment, and Gillian and Joyce are entered at the CS for the coming term. While Gillian settles in without problems, Joyce quickly begins to cause trouble, with near-disastrous consequences. Notable events:
Sir James Talbot, a doctor acquaintance of Jem's, diagnoses Mrs Linton with TB and advises her to go to the Sonnalpe at once for treatment, and to enter her two daughters as boarders at the Chalet School while she is there.
When Mrs Linton tells the girls they are going to school abroad, Joyce is ecstatic at the idea, but Gillian is astute enough to realise there is an underlying reason for the sudden removal. It is only when they reach Paris that the nurse in charge of the journey, fed up with Joyce's exuberance and petulance, informs her just how ill her mother is, much to Joyce's horror.
When the party finally reach Wiesing, Mrs Linton is whisked off to the San, and Gillian and Joyce are met by Jo and Jack Maynard, who take them up to Die Rosen. When they get there, Joyce makes a bad first impression with her slangy vocabulary, tactlessness towards Stacie and lack of enthusiasm for kissing the Robin goodnight.
The new term begins, and Joyce soon learns, to her great dismay, about the slang rules.
While helping Simone, Frieda and Marie to set up chairs for assembly, Joyce picks up on Marie's lack of enthusiasm for her cousin Thekla, and on studying the latter more closely, is rather struck by her air of superiority.
As the Lintons settle in, Joyce begins to gather a following among her peers thanks to her beauty, although she is disgruntled that they do not include form leaders such as Evvy and Corney.
After taking an eventful prep with the Middles one evening, Jo informs the other prefects that she believes some note-passing has been going, although she was unable to prove it.
Ten days later, Simone catches Joyce, Thekla and Kitty Burnett passing notes and reports it to the other prefects, who haul them in for inquisition. After informing them of how unfavourably the school looks on note-passing, Thekla and Joyce are told to go to Matron for the next two Saturday evenings, and Kitty is sent off in disgrace.
Joyce next decides to hold a midnight feast, and picks out several girls to invite, including Thekla. They buy the goods during a trip to Spärtz and hide them in the cupboard of the sewing room where they plan to have the feast.
The feast is duly held, and Thekla creates a sensation when she produces raw smoked bacon as her contribution. Later that night, Joyce has a violent bilious attack from all the food she has eaten, Mary Shaw is also sick, and Thekla rouses her whole dormitory with a wild nightmare brought on from eating the raw bacon. Matey, guessing that they have been eating things outside of the usual school food, doses the three of them with castor oil.
Luise Rotheim confesses to Miss Annersley about the feast, and after telling the feasters off, she docks them of cakes, jam, sweets and fancy-bread for a week, and decrees their pocket money will be held until half-term and only doled out for necessary expenses.
The staff entertain the girls for an evening with a performance of Mrs Jarley.
During a Domestic Science lesson (newly begun that term), Lower Fifth make réchauffé and apple pies for the rest of the school for Mittagessen, but Cornelia mistakenly takes a tin of garlic cloves from the cupboard, which end up in half of the pies baked, much to the disgust of everyone unfortunate enough to taste them.
Half-term arrives, and Jo, the Lintons and several other girls go up to the Sonnalpe to stay. Jem comes to meet them, and Jo notes that he is clearly over the moon about something. On getting him alone for a minute, he informs her that she has a new niece, born the night before, and who has arrived earlier than expected. Jo, having had no idea that Madge was expecting, is gobsmacked.
When they arrive at the Sonnalpe, Jo is delighted to learn that Stacie is now able to walk a few steps, and Jem says that if she continues to progress as she has done, she can rejoin the CS for the summer term. She then goes in to see Madge and the new baby, and is outraged to discover the baby has red hair.
The girls staying at the Sonnalpe hold a name-party for the baby, and come up with some startling ideas. Cornelia also startles the others by revealing that her own full name is Cornelia Naida Anastasia Flower.
After laughing herself to tears over the list, Madge discards it entirely and names the baby Sybil, her own favourite name.
Back at school, Jo relates to Anne Seymour that she accidentally walked in on an extra coaching session Miss Norman was giving to Joyce, Thekla and several others. They had been making so much noise that Jo was sure there was nobody with them, and she was horrified to realise that Miss Norman was present and clearly unable to keep order.
The climax comes when Joyce and Co. decide to act like savages during one coaching session, and Miss Norman reaches boiling point. She locks them in the classroom and fetches Mademoiselle, who is so furious that she reduces them all to tears, demotes every girl by one form for the rest of the term, consigns them to meals at the punishment table and Junior bedtime, puts them in silence for the rest of the week, and gives them all a bad-conduct report. Thekla, who had refused to take part, is rebuked for her own past rudeness to Miss Norman, as well as for skiving the lesson and going to the Third form room to read a forbidden book where she had been caught by Frieda.
Gillian takes Jo aside during a walk and reveals that, following the ragging of Miss Norman, Joyce has been warned by Mademoiselle that she will be expelled if she gets into any more trouble, and she is worried that such a shock would be very bad for their mother's progress. Jo, after telling Gillian she shouldn't run about after Joyce so much, agrees to have a chat with her.
Mrs Linton suffers a setback which holds Jo up a little from keeping her promise, but when better news comes she takes Joyce out for a walk to the Dripping Rock, where she counsels her on her poor behaviour that term. Joyce agrees to try and pull up in both her behaviour and her work in the hope that it will help her mother's recovery.
Joyce duly begins to apply herself to her work, and ignores Thekla, who tries to whisper to her during prep.
That night, Thekla gets Joyce out of bed and into the corridor, where she orders her not to be friends with Jo. Joyce furiously refuses, and Cornelia hears them and comes to investigate. Her own exclamations in turn rouse Miss Wilson, who carts them all off to her room and demands an explanation.
Thekla lies about getting Joyce out of bed, instead saying she heard a noise and met Joyce in the corridor. Joyce, though furiously indignant, refuses to give her away. The next day, Miss Wilson eventually gets to the bottom of the matter when Corney tells her what she believes happened. Mademoiselle walks in on the scene and is told what has happened.
After discussing things with some of the mistresses, and realising that Thekla meant to get Joyce expelled in order to hurt Jo and is utterly unrepentant about it, Mademoiselle is forced to expel her, impressing upon her that if Joyce had been expelled instead, Mrs Linton would in all probability have died from the shock.
The school holds a fairy tale themed Sale opened by Frieda's bishop uncle, and Jo, fitting the chimney on the roof of the Seven Dwarves' cottage, falls on top of Miss Wilson, knocking the wind out of her.
As the Sale ends, Jem arrive in haste to take Gillian and Joyce up to the Sonnalpe, and the girls learn that Mrs Linton is dying, and the girls have been taken up to say goodbye to her.
Three days later, Mrs Linton is still clinging onto life, and Jem tells the girls that it was sudden heart trouble brought on by a shock. She suddenly rouses enough for them to realise that she had overheard gossip about Joyce being supposedly expelled, bringing on her collapse. After some attempts, Jo gets through to her enough to let her know Joyce is still at the school, and the danger gradually passes.
Minor note: Jo specifically mentions in this book during the half-term stay at the Sonnalpe that Madge was indeed 'pretty ill' after having David. I know there's been a bit of speculation about that in one or two threads as it was quite ambiguous in Head Girl,
but it's confirmed here.
So, thoughts on this book? What do you think of Gillian and Joyce? What about the various escapades Joyce is involved in? What do you think of Thekla's behaviour and expulsion? Post your thoughts below!
Personally I think Thekla was a bit over the top towards the end - and where did the deep burning hatred of Jo suddenly spring from? That seemed to come a bit out of the blue to me.
I'm of the opinion that Joyce is a spoilt brat who especially deserved everything she got from that swingeing punishment after the savages episode, but at least she does pull up after that. And I have to admit I'd probably have had a similar reaction to hers if the eleven year old Robin had come up to me expecting a goodnight kiss!
Incidentally, I love the bit when Miss Wilson catches Thekla, Joyce and Corney out of bed, and even while she's telling them off Corney's noticing what naturally curly hair and a whacking plait she has, and how young she looks.