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Books: The New House at the Chalet School
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Author:  Aquabird [ 20 Mar 2017, 23:40 ]
Post subject:  Books: The New House at the Chalet School

Evening all. :D Another Monday, another book discussion thread. This week, it's The New House at the Chalet School, first published in 1935. It's Jo's last term at the CS, and it's far from uneventful, what with new arrangements putting the entire Middle school in a brand new chalet, a troublesome new matron and a long lost relative of Jem's turning up in Innsbruck, to name but a few incidents. Notable events in this book:

Jo arrives at the school for the new term and is immediately sent for by Mademoiselle, who tells her that this term, the Middle school will be moving into a new chalet of their own, with Miss Wilson, Miss Stewart and Miss Nalder for mistresses, the Quartette for prefects, and a new matron, Matron Besly.
After everyone has arrived and settled in, the Quartette discuss the new arrangements and how they feel about them, as well as growing up more generally.
Term begins properly, and Jo wakes up one morning with toothache, but is too scared of the dentist to report it. She snaps at several people, including Anne Seymour, who later sarcastically suggests she use rouge to hide her white face from the staff.
Jo decides to take Anne's advice, but is caught in the act by Matey and sent to bed until she can go to the dentist. Matey also reprimands Matron Besly not noticing that Jo was poorly, much to her indignation.
Matey, Jo, Frieda and sundry others travel down to Innsbruck to the dentist, and after Jo and Frieda are seen to, they set off to pay a visit to Frieda's parents. On the way there, however, they run into a lady and two young girls who turn out to be Jem Russell's estranged sister and her daughters.
Jem is summoned to Innsbruck by Jo and Frieda, and after reprimanding Jo for going off with a complete stranger, is reunited with Margot.
When she returns to school the next morning, Jo discovers that Matron Besly has put an end to early morning reading at the new house by confiscating all of their books, including those of the prefects. The Quartette are furious that their privacy has been invaded in such a way.
Matron Besly sends for Jo and demands to know why she didn't report to her as soon as she arrived back from Innsbruck. Jo points out that she reported to Mademoiselle, and had no idea she was supposed to report to Matron also. She also queries the early morning reading ban, and Matron goes on the defensive as she realises that she may have rushed into it.
Miss Wilson arrives in the middle of the debate, and Jo covertly puts her wise to the ban, which Miss Wilson immediately reverses while also trying to save Matron's face.
The prefects hold a meeting, and among other things, are tasked with naming the new house and the original Chalet after saints, with Le Petit Chalet already declared to be named St Agnes. After a vote, it is decided to name the original Chalet Ste Thérèse and the new house St Clare's.
Up at the Sonnalpe, Margot Venables collapses from exhaustion, and Herr von der Witt is sent for to examine her. We also learn that in June Gertrud Steinbrücke is to be married to Dr von Ronchlar, who works in the San's X-ray room.
Several Middles, led by Mary Shaw and Kitty Burnett, make plans to utilise the skylights of St Clare's in order to play a trick on Corney Flower, in revenge for Corney telling Mary off for using slang.
At Abendessen, Matron Besly overhears Jo making a rude remark about her, and gets her revenge by sending Jo to redo her hair, and telling her off in front of the other girls. Jo loses her temper and retaliates, and is sent to Mademoiselle for a "behind closed doors" interview.
That night, Mary, Kitty and their gang sneak up to the roof garden of St Clare's with a creation they have named Baby Voodoo - made of a navy jumper, white petticoat and luminous paint - and lower it down on a cord outside Corney's window, hoping to wake her up and give her a fright. Unfortunately for them, Corney slumbers on soundly and they succeed instead in rousing Jo, who is still smarting from her battle with Matron Besly. She goes up to the roof garden and catches them all red-handed, and after sending them all off to bed, forgets that she has tossed Baby Voodoo down onto a piano in one of the music rooms.
The next morning, Baby Voodoo is discovered by Anna, one of the maids. Her screams of fright bring the whole house to the spot, and Baby Voodoo proceeds to give shocks to Matron Besly, Miss Wilson, several other maids, Miss Stewart and Miss Nalder respectively as he tours St Clare's. The Middles own up to creating him and are scolded, then sent to bed for the afternoon.
Sunday arrives, and Matron Besly has another run-in with Jo over supervising the girls on Sundays. Matey intervenes and attempts to smooth things over. Later on, the Seniors set off to the Kron Prinz Karl to watch a Tzigane band, and Matron Besly attempts to stop them, only for Mademoiselle herself to arrive on the scene and intervene. When they return from the KPK, Jo pranks Gillian Linton by pretending to read her fortune.
Margia Stevens revives the Society for the Suppression of Matron in order to get rid of Matron Besly, and they first decide to doctor her tea with Epsom-salts, which Ilonka and Cornelia carry out. They, along with Joyce Linton whose idea it was, own up afterwards and are scolded and given order marks by Miss Wilson.
After overhearing Matron Besly having yet another run-in with the Quartette, the SSM decide to get revenge by staring at her whenever they meet her with the aim of making her uncomfortable. The campaign lasts for three days before Miss Stewart catches Yvette Mercier in the act and puts a stop to it. She reports the matter to Miss Wilson, who guesses that the SSM has been revived and proceeds to summon its leaders and bid them put an end to it.
Biddy O'Ryan tells some Irish tales to the other Middles, and they decide on a scheme for her to tell them after lights out when they can be uninterrupted. One such tale frightens Alixe von Elsen so much that she sleepwalks during a thunderstorm and rouses the whole of St Clare's. Jo catches sight of her unexpectedly and faints with fright.
Miss Wilson guesses that Biddy's tales are at the bottom of Alixe's sleepwalking, and she sends for her and ordains that she is to sleep in her room for a week to teach her not to tell ghost stories, much to Biddy's horror.
Cornelia and Evadne go to spend a weekend with Mr Flower and the Lannises, and return with a chest of musical instruments, which they dole out to sundry other members of St Clare's with the intention of starting up a jazz band. They decide to practise in the pine woods in secret until they are able to give a concert.
Jo catches Joyce Linton sneaking off to the pine woods one morning to practise, and she and Frieda track the Middles there. The sight of Cornelia almost bursting a blood vessel in her attempts to produce a sound from her saxophone reduces them to hysterics, and they take a picture of her, before swearing Joyce to secrecy and letting her go.
The girls go on an expedition to the Zillerthal in place of the usual half-term weekend, and there is a minor mishap when the basket containing the fruit is left behind at Seespitz.
As the end of term approaches, Marie confides in her friends and Madge that she and Eugen von und zu Wertheimer are engaged. Madge and Mademoiselle also tell the Quartette that Matron Besly is leaving at the end of term, and that Margot Venables, now recovering, will be taking her place.
Jo interrupts the studying of the prefects one evening with a diatribe, and has a cushion thrown at her by Anne Seymour, who tells her to be quiet. Jo goes on her dignity, and the atmosphere in the prefects' room is decidedly chilly for several days as a result.
The seniors go on an expedition with Miss Wilson and Miss Stewart up to Mechthau, and after gathering some flowers, Anne decides to wet hers in a stream nearby. She slips and falls, and Jo dashes over to hold onto her until the others are able to make a rope of petticoats in order to pull her up.
The term ends with a concert given by the Middles, with hilarious results.

So, thoughts on this book? Do you think the new arrangement of having the Middles in a separate house worked? What did you make of Matron Besly, was she unjustly treated or did she ask for all she got? Did you like the Middles' exploits? What about the subplot of the Venables' arrival?

Author:  Joyce [ 21 Mar 2017, 01:53 ]
Post subject:  Re: Books: The New House at the Chalet School

Matron Besley is simply a repeat of the other matron in Princess who was not able to conform to the CS special rules.

While she does seem to bring a lot of trouble onto herself, Joey and co also seem to be incapable of making allowances for a new people who are still learning.

I love this book because it shows the close bond of the quartette and the description of their new bedrooms made me so jealous. I would have loved to have a room like that when a kid.

Cheers,
Joyce

Author:  Alison H [ 21 Mar 2017, 07:36 ]
Post subject:  Re: Books: The New House at the Chalet School

The stand-out part of this book for me is Margot's arrival. I find the reunion between her and Jem genuinely moving. He's so desperate to see her again that he practically runs through the streets of Innsbruck: Jo has to ask him to slow down because she can't walk that quickly. Then, once he's with Margot, he keeps hugging her and kissing her, and Jem's hardly a huggy-kissy person. It tells us so much about both of them, and their background. We've been told nothing about Jem's background previously but now we learn that their parents were the sort of person who disowned their own daughter for marrying someone they didn't approve of, and that Jem tried to stay in touch with her anyway, and we get this sad image of their mother talking a lot about Margot in her last days but never getting to see her again. And it's also interesting that Margot eventually goes back to work, although surely Jem would have supported her had she wanted that.

We're obviously meant to sympathise with Margot after everything she's been though, but I get the feeling that there's a horrible lecturing moral tale behind it all. If you defy your parents and marry against their wishes - which not one of the CS people ever does - then it will all end in tears. I really wish Margot had been allowed to be happy, instead of being killed off a few years later.

I love the orchestra. The Quintette are great: it's a shame that the need to move things on because of the war meant that we didn't get to see them as prefects. And the argument between Jo and Anne's interesting - there must have been tensions sometimes between girls who needed to work hard, because they had to get jobs, and girls who didn't. Jo's moaning about how bored she was going to be when she left school must have been quite galling to people like Anne and Simone.

Author:  Joyce [ 21 Mar 2017, 08:52 ]
Post subject:  Re: Books: The New House at the Chalet School

Alison H wrote:
And the argument between Jo and Anne's interesting - there must have been tensions sometimes between girls who needed to work hard, because they had to get jobs, and girls who didn't. Jo's moaning about how bored she was going to be when she left school must have been quite galling to people like Anne and Simone.


It's stressful to know you have to do well in exams in order to achieve your dream of going to uni/college.

But Joey shows the other side that in some ways it's just as stressful to have a 'dull' life planned out for you that you are not really looking forward to. All she really had was the intense hope that she would be able to get books published.

Of course we know she goes on to marry and have a very full life, but at that moment she must feel like she's got nothing to look forward to and she's watching her friends prepare to leave her being both physically and mentally.

Cheers,
Joyce

Author:  Loryat [ 21 Mar 2017, 14:57 ]
Post subject:  Re: Books: The New House at the Chalet School

Alison H wrote:
The stand-out part of this book for me is Margot's arrival. I find the reunion between her and Jem genuinely moving.


Yes, they're really nice scenes :)

Alison H wrote:
I love the orchestra. The Quintette are great: it's a shame that the need to move things on because of the war meant that we didn't get to see them as prefects. And the argument between Jo and Anne's interesting - there must have been tensions sometimes between girls who needed to work hard, because they had to get jobs, and girls who didn't. Jo's moaning about how bored she was going to be when she left school must have been quite galling to people like Anne and Simone.


I agree about the Quintette, although we do see Margia and Elsie (and possible Ilonka?) as subs who are rather snooty about Evvy and Corney. This always irritates me.

I agree that Joey's situation isn't all jam, although obviously easier than Simone's. But does Anne have to get a job? I thought she was pretty well off and was only annoyed because, unlike Joey, she had another year of school so couldn't mess up her exams.

Author:  LucyP [ 21 Mar 2017, 16:20 ]
Post subject:  Re: Books: The New House at the Chalet School

I love this book. It has a really happy, summery feel to me, and I could reread the bedroom descriptions for ever!
I didn't comment on the previous books with Thekla in, good though they are they feel dark somehow to me - New House is optimistic, the pranks are harmless - I love Baby Voodoo - and all seems well in the CS world. Maybe this is all the more pointed, knowing what is to come...

Author:  Loryat [ 23 Mar 2017, 14:21 ]
Post subject:  Re: Books: The New House at the Chalet School

I agree about the summery, light hearted tone Lucy.

Although poisoning the new matron was quite extreme...

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