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 Post subject: Books: Jo Returns to the Chalet School
PostPosted: 27 Mar 2017, 22:58 
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This one took ages to do. :? Anyway, this week's discussion thread is the twelfth book in the series, Jo Returns to the Chalet School, first published in 1936. This book covers the winter term following Jo's departure from the CS as a pupil. Louise Redfield is now Head Girl, and sundry established characters such as Anne Seymour, Paula von Rothenfels, Margia Stevens and Elsie Carr have been made prefects. Jo comes down to visit the school and ends up remaining there most of the term when there is an outbreak of illness at Die Rosen, preventing her from returning. She decides to use the time to write her first book, as well as helping a new girl who arrives at the CS in unusual circumstances. This is also Mademoiselle Lepâttre's last term as headmistress, as a serious illness means she never returns to the school again.

At the beginning of term assembly, the girls are surprised and delighted when Jo pays them a visit to wish them a good term. Mademoiselle also posits the idea of the girls using their Hobbies time this term to make toys and clothes for the poor children of Vater Stefan's parish in Innsbruck.
Jo extends her stay at the school from overnight to a few days, with the result that she is still there when it emerges that Peggy and Rix, just arrived at the Sonnalpe from Ireland with their parents and siblings, have caught measles, and Die Rosen will have to be quarantined.
After arguing in vain with Madge to be allowed to return home, Jo agrees to stay at the CS for the duration of the quarantine. She settles down to writing her first proper book; a school story for Robin and Daisy. She names the heroine Malvina Featherstone, the best friend Flavia Meredith, and the villainess Rosetta Fernandez. With a working title of 'Malvina Wins Through', she sets to work.
Five days later, Jo has completed seven chapters, and has become a trial to live with as she becomes wrapped up in her writing, paying little attention to what is said to her, and losing both sleep and her appetite. At this point, Matey intervenes and demands to read what Jo has done so far.
After reading it, Matey trenchantly tells Jo that Malvina is a plaster saint and Rosetta too evil to be true, but that she can see Flavia and the head-girl as real characters. She advises Jo to keep her characters as real as possible, and that she should tear up the manuscript and begin again. She confiscates Jo's writing materials for the weekend and sends her out for a walk to the Post to get some fresh air. As she walks, Jo realises Matey is right, and resolves to only work in the mornings, and a little in the evenings, from now on.
When she arrives at the Post, Jo encounters an English girl of fourteen, who blandly informs her that she has run away from her elderly guardian and his sister at Garmisch and has come up to the Tiernsee on her own. Jo, knowing how worried they will be, orders her to send a cable to them at once, then takes her back to the school. On the way, the girl informs Jo that her full name is Hildegard Mariana Sophonisba Heriot, after her mother and great-aunts, but that she has called herself Polly since she was little.
When they arrive at the school, Mademoiselle, after dragging the full story from Polly, sends a cable of her own to the girl's guardians, and sends her off to St Clare's for the present until she has heard from them.
Polly's guardian, Mr Wilmot, arrives at the school two days later, and after an interview with Mademoiselle and a deeply penitent Polly, it is arranged that the latter will be enrolled at the CS.
Jo returns from a weekend staying with Frieda, and after hearing the latest news about Polly from Matey, she reads over her written chapters with a fresh eye and realises how bad they are. She takes them down to the incinerator and burns them.
The next day, she starts again with a new heroine, this time named Cecily, and sets the book at a day school. She bases the science mistress on Miss Wilson, and draws upon several pranks from previous Chalet annals, such as Evadne blowing up the science lab.
After a while, Jo makes the discovery that she has mixed up two of the prefects in her tale, and must rewrite either one early chapter or five later ones. Cursing herself for not making out lists at the beginning, she settles down to it, and finds it so fascinating that she does a roll for the whole school, including staff, and then put ticks next to the people who have appeared so far. [Oh, the irony!]
After rewriting the offending chapter, Jo hits a wall in terms of inspiration and goes down to Abendessen in a bad temper. After snapping at Corney Flower, she pays the staffroom a visit, where Miss Stewart advises her to give the book a rest for a day or two before going back to it. Jo takes her advice and decides to type up what she has done so far instead. By the time she has, the writer’s block has cleared and she goes ahead swimmingly until she has only two chapters to go.
Meanwhile, the staff discuss what to do about Polly, whose prior education was run on mid-Victorian lines and so she is, consequently, about fifty years behind the times in her work. Miss Annersley proposes that they get Jo to coach her in history, geography, essay-writing and German, as she will have to stay at the school for another month due to the fact that David and Bride have now begun with the measles in the last week of quarantine. Jo agrees to help.
With some qualms, Jo takes Polly for a lesson in history and German, and is relieved to find it goes well. At Mittagessen, Miss Denny presses her to take three other girls for German coaching three afternoons a week. When Jo rings up the Sonnalpe to tell Madge, she is informed that Rix, now over his measles, has been playing with a neighbouring boy over the fence and contracted whooping cough from him, meaning Jo will have to remain at the school for even longer. Resigned, she goes back to Cecily and finishes it.
One evening at Hobbies, Polly, who has taken up painting, borrows a book of Herr Laubach’s to copy a design, not knowing that the girls are not allowed to touch it. She falls and crumples some of the pages while taking it back, and Herr Laubach catches her and Gillian Linton with it. After seeing her work and hearing about the Hobbies club, he goes to see the other girls at work, and asks Jo to cut some puzzles for his invalided wife. Jo agrees and also begins to visit her, and brings Jeanne le Cadoulec down to show her how to weave lace to sell.
Polly, inspired by the doings described in the many school stories she has read, spots the alarm bell which has been installed to rouse everyone in Briesau in the event of another flood or fire, and decides it would be a good joke to ring it in the middle of the night and cause some excitement, not knowing that it would rouse not only the school, but the whole valley.
The next day, Polly owns up, and is told by Mademoiselle and Jo how thoughtless and silly she has been, and how she has upset a good many people by having them turn out of bed in the middle of the night, including Stacie whose back has been hurting again. After Polly has been dealt with, Jo reads back over Cecily and firmly removes any pranks that she feels might inspire young readers to try and copy them.
Mademoiselle and Miss Stewart fall ill at the same time, and Miss Annersley and Jo are forced to take on their classes between them. Dick and Mollie arrive to say goodbye to Jo, as they are returning to Indi, and are leaving Jackie behind at the Sonnalpe, as Mollie is pregnant again, due in April. They give Jo a typewriter as a birthday and Christmas gift.
During prep one evening, Alixe von Elsen sneaks outside during her piano practice to let off a balloon near the ventilator leading into the prep room, not knowing that Jo is taking the prep instead of Anne Seymour. Jo guesses what has happened and send Alixe off to Matron for the full wet feet treatment, and metes out repetition to Alixe’s partners in-crime.
Half-term approaches, and Mademoiselle, though up and about, is still far from well. Miss Stewart, still very ill with laryngitis, is resisting being sent home as she doesn’t want to put the extra pressure on the school with her absence. Jo, with some prompting from Madge, offers to stay for the rest of the term so that Miss Stewart can be sent home without any worries. Mademoiselle takes her up on it, and offers to have Robin down for half-term, to Jo’s delight.
Half-term arrives, and it begins to snow heavily. The staff invite the remaining girls at the school to a sheets and pillowcases party. Everyone joins in enthusiastically, although there is a minor upset when the Robin, dressed as an angel, finds the enamel on her halo has stuck to her hair and has to be cut out of it.
The next day the snow has stopped, and the girls and staff decide to build statues in the snow. That evening, after darkness has fallen, Jockel, who works on the school grounds, encounters them unexpectedly and receives a terrible fright, believing them to be devils. The girls rush to see, and Jo even runs right outside with no coat on, much to Miss Annersley’s horror.
Just as the girls return for the second half of the term, Mademoiselle collapses and is rushed up to the Sonnalpe for an emergency operation. The elder girls are told, and everyone sits up to wait for news. They are eventually told that the operation has been a success, but Mademoiselle is still very weak.
To cheer the girls up after their fright, Miss Annersley doles out the parts for the Christmas play. Meanwhile, Jo is finally allowed to visit Die Rosen, where she is shocked at the changes in her nieces and nephews, especially Peggy, who had been seriously ill for a few days. She recounts a tale to Madge about a Dommy Sci lesson where Joyce Linton had mixed up the saffron and sulphur tins, with disastrous results.
Several letters arrive for Jo while she is at the Sonnalpe, including from Marie, who is to be married after Christmas. The final letter she opens is from the publisher she has sent Cecily to, saying that they have accepted it. She vows to send the money to Vater Stefan for the poor children in his parish. The school, the Sonnalpe colony and Mr Lannis and Mr Flower also send gifts and money to help him.
The term ends with the Christmas play, which Vater Stefan attends, and Jo has the idea that they should also put on a performance after Christmas for the children in his parish, much to his joy.

So, what do you think of this term? Do you enjoy Jo’s attempts at writing her first book? What do you think of Polly and her escapades? This is the last term with Mademoiselle Lepâttre in the driving seat, what did you think of her dramatic exit? Post your thoughts below!

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Jo Returns to the Chalet School
PostPosted: 28 Mar 2017, 07:40 
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Her splendid eyes grew misty at the thought ... With the memory of the exquisite little face, framed in its short thick crop of black curls, floating before her mind, Jo felt suddenly sick at the thought of how nearly the Robin had been exposed to infection.


Jo isn't the only one who feels suddenly sick at that point: it makes me want to throw up :lol:. And couldn't she have shown a bit of concern for Peggy, who had caught measles and been very ill?

I really like Polly, but I wish she'd been allowed to be the heroine of this book. Jo has left school now - why not let her get on with the next phase of her life, instead of calling the very next book "Jo Returns to the Chalet School"? The Quintette were strong enough characters to carry any storyline, and Biddy, Alixe & co were a very strong group of Naughty Middles.

I think Mlle Lepattre had to go, because she really wasn't a very good headmistress, but I'm sad about the way it happened. There are a lot of far-fetched exit storylines in the series, so it wouldn't have been stretching the imagination too far if someone - maybe one of the family she used to work for in Taverton? - had conveniently died and left her enough money to retire early on?

It's a nice book generally, though. EBD must have wondered how things were going to go on once her original heroine had left school, but this is quite a strong start to a new era.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Jo Returns to the Chalet School
PostPosted: 28 Mar 2017, 07:55 
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Yes, the Robin bits are really cringey in this book IMO. She's still written as though she's about six, when in fact she's now twelve, the same age Jo was at the start of the series! :roll: Other than that though, this is one of my favourite Tyrol books. I really like young adult Jo, and I think she's at her best here apart from the odd moment of thoughtlessness, like rushing out into the snow without a coat on. And I love all the authory bits - I wonder just how much of it came from EBD's own experience?

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Jo Returns to the Chalet School
PostPosted: 28 Mar 2017, 09:21 
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The bit where she mixes up two of the characters and wishes she'd made proper notes always makes me laugh, given how often EBD mixes up names, ages etc :lol: .

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Jo Returns to the Chalet School
PostPosted: 28 Mar 2017, 11:27 
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Aquabird wrote:


The next day, she starts again with a new heroine, this time named Cecily, and sets the book at a day school. She bases the science mistress on Miss Wilson, and draws upon several pranks from previous Chalet annals, such as Evadne blowing up the science lab... Polly, inspired by the doings described in the many school stories she has read, spots the alarm bell which has been installed to rouse everyone in Briesau in the event of another flood or fire, and decides it would be a good joke to ring it in the middle of the night and cause some excitement, not knowing that it would rouse not only the school, but the whole valley.
The next day, Polly owns up, and is told by Mademoiselle and Jo how thoughtless and silly she has been, and how she has upset a good many people by having them turn out of bed in the middle of the night, including Stacie whose back has been hurting again. After Polly has been dealt with, Jo reads back over Cecily and firmly removes any pranks that she feels might inspire young readers to try and copy them.


One of the things I like about the CS books is the (sometimes OTT) pranks, and I wonder how interesting Jo's book would be with all the pranks taken out.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Jo Returns to the Chalet School
PostPosted: 28 Mar 2017, 11:40 
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Elle wrote:
Aquabird wrote:
After Polly has been dealt with, Jo reads back over Cecily and firmly removes any pranks that she feels might inspire young readers to try and copy them.

One of the things I like about the CS books is the (sometimes OTT) pranks, and I wonder how interesting Jo's book would be with all the pranks taken out.
:D I don't think she means all the pranks, just the ones that might inspire copying - though I admit that it would take some ingenuity to think of others - perhaps something peculiar to the location?


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Jo Returns to the Chalet School
PostPosted: 28 Mar 2017, 13:26 
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I suppose EBD is a writer who tends to have her characters have adventures with a few pranks thrown in while EB's school stories have pranks with a few adventures (that usually end up with a moral lesson the size of an anvil). So maybe Joey took out the pranks but left the adventures.

This is one of my favourite CS books and I actually love how the story is balanced between an unusual new girl and Joey experiencing being on the other side of the authority line. It's just a shame we don't see more of Peggy later on.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Jo Returns to the Chalet School
PostPosted: 28 Mar 2017, 15:08 
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This is the book that got me back into the CS after a gap of many years, when my daughter brought it home from the school library. She was hooked, I was re-hooked, and we acquired most of the Armadas in the next few years. So I have a soft spot for Jo Returns - I don't mind in the least that Jo has the main part, she had been the school's leading light and I think the way she transitioned from schoolgirl to young adult/author is beautifully done. I love that she gives her first real earnings to charity, too. Polly is a lovely character, and one of the few we see back in the CS after the flight from Austria. I'd love to know what illness EBD had in mind for Mademoiselle, though...


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Jo Returns to the Chalet School
PostPosted: 28 Mar 2017, 16:49 
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Alison H wrote:
The bit where she mixes up two of the characters and wishes she'd made proper notes always makes me laugh, given how often EBD mixes up names, ages etc :lol: .


☺EBD - writing from experience!

Would like to quote other parts of previous posts but doing this on phone so cannot.

The bit about Robin is definitely a bit much. The funny thing is, apart from possibly David when he is first born, the youngish Jo does not seem particularly engaged with her own nieces and nephews. It is all Robin. Did she look on her own nieces and nephews as the possession of their mothers and was Robin her way of keeping even?

Could this also be the reason she took on Daisy who was actually Jem's niece? All the time that the Bettany children are with Madge I don't think we hear once of Joey even entertaining them. The one time she could have helped Madge was when Madge was not keeping too well before Ailie's birth. Joey was away though for the summer in the Yorkshire moors. I presume the Bettanys were with a relative of Mollie's.

I did like the fact that EBD went into detail over the writing of Joey's first book and that it was not plain sailing. EBD also gave a lot of good advice to her readers on how to go about writing a book. I also liked tgat Jo gave her first earnings to charity.

I liked this book and liked Polly. I liked Jo giving something back and her initial nervousness at teaching Polly.

I agree EBD needed to put in a more effective and charismatic head teacher but now that I am older I do not like Mademoiselle's illness. I wish she could have have had some good, happier reason for leaving. Maybe though death or marriage were the only acceptable reasons for leaving the CS.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Jo Returns to the Chalet School
PostPosted: 28 Mar 2017, 19:44 
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I have always been especially fond of this book. It is a bit contrived, the way Jo doesn't even get to visit Die Rosen, but I loved Polly and wish she had carried on in the series - maybe returning as a teacher? The half term fun is lovely, and the sheets and pillowcase party a delight. Jo's obsession with the Robin is a bit annoying, but it doesn't detract too much. I also wish Mademoiselle could have had a happier ending - couldn't they have introduced a childhood sweetheart?


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Jo Returns to the Chalet School
PostPosted: 29 Mar 2017, 02:15 
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Elle wrote:
One of the things I like about the CS books is the (sometimes OTT) pranks, and I wonder how interesting Jo's book would be with all the pranks taken out.


I agree, but some of my favourite CS books are also the ones where not much happens except for normal school stuff (and the odd snow storm) like Barbara or Ruey which doesn't involve many pranks.

I like Returns except the girls saying how much they will miss Joey and lo and behold - she appears.

I wish EBD had shown a bit of tension regarding how the prefects really felt about having her there - it's like being promoted then having the ex-manager constantly wandering into your team meetings.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Jo Returns to the Chalet School
PostPosted: 29 Mar 2017, 10:44 
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Audrey25 wrote:
Alison H wrote:
The bit where she mixes up two of the characters and wishes she'd made proper notes always makes me laugh, given how often EBD mixes up names, ages etc :lol: .


☺EBD - writing from experience!

Would like to quote other parts of previous posts but doing this on phone so cannot.

The bit about Robin is definitely a bit much. The funny thing is, apart from possibly David when he is first born, the youngish Jo does not seem particularly engaged with her own nieces and nephews. It is all Robin. Did she look on her own nieces and nephews as the possession of their mothers and was Robin her way of keeping even?

Could this also be the reason she took on Daisy who was actually Jem's niece? All the time that the Bettany children are with Madge I don't think we hear once of Joey even entertaining them. The one time she could have helped Madge was when Madge was not keeping too well before Ailie's birth. Joey was away though for the summer in the Yorkshire moors. I presume the Bettanys were with a relative of Mollie's.



Jo did take Sybil with her to Yorkshire, she was about 10 then, and she and Jo seem to get on really well together. I wonder if Jo really wasn't keen on small children, but preferred them a bit older, in spite of having so many of her own, though they seem to be left a lot with Anna when they are small.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Jo Returns to the Chalet School
PostPosted: 29 Mar 2017, 13:34 
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I think Joey's closeness with the Robin is reasonable. We're consistently told that they have a sisterly relationship and the Robin has been in her life since she was twelve - so about six or seven years at this point. Everyone, not just Joey, is relieved that Robin hasn't been exposed to the infection.

Joey isn't told how ill Peggy has been and Madge tells her 'Jem wouldn't have you told'. That suggests that Jem (and probably Madge too) were worried that Joey would go to the Sonnalpe and expose herself to the infection if she knew how unwell Peggy was. She also says she'll go to help Madge when she first hears about the measles, and it's Madge who vetoes it.

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It's just a shame we don't see more of Peggy later on.


Oops, meant Polly not Peggy!


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Jo Returns to the Chalet School
PostPosted: 29 Mar 2017, 22:05 
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I think this is one of the best books of the series and is one of the few *mature * books along with Exile, Goes to it and Oberland. We see Jo reaching and dealing with adulthood, Madamoiselle's illness, the measles outbreak and it's impact among the Bettany and Russell children plus the introduction of Polly who definitely should have played a more important role in the series. All in all a top 5 CS book for me :mrgreen:


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Jo Returns to the Chalet School
PostPosted: 30 Mar 2017, 12:48 
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I really liked that Jo didn't end up caring for her sister and brother's children but instead had a chance to write and teach a bit. It was like a third level education for her in some ways.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Jo Returns to the Chalet School
PostPosted: 30 Mar 2017, 14:03 
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I found it odd that Jo wasn't allowed to go to the Sonnalpe to help out , it seems that after school she seemed to expect to be at Die Rosen helping out while starting Her writing career, also given that in the next book New Chalet she's told to go and bring the young ones in ( just as they discover Sybil is missing ) so they still treat her as someone who is needed to help out.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Jo Returns to the Chalet School
PostPosted: 30 Mar 2017, 14:32 
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For me, this feels like the proper end to Jo's schooling, setting her on the adult path. New House has a nice happy ending for Marie, Simone is sent off to University, Frieda is happy to go home, but Jo is left a bit in limbo. She isn't happy to be leaving, she doesn't really know what she's going to do, everything is a bit up in the air.

Finally, in this book, she makes the move to being one of the adults rather than one of the girls, and she starts her writing career too. Joey has a purpose! Now she can leave school properly...


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Jo Returns to the Chalet School
PostPosted: 30 Mar 2017, 19:24 
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When I first read this book as a child I can remember feeling relieved when Jo turned up at the start of term, as I was apprehensive as to how the Chalet School could exist without her. Given that her own health problems have been a central feature from the outset, I just accepted her banishment from the measles and whooping cough-ridden Sonnalp as something that Madge and Jem would impose. I enjoyed the introduction of Polly, think I would have enjoyed having history lessons with Jo, and found Jo's first serious experiences of writing very believable - though Matron turning into literary critic was a surprise. I might have expected Miss Annersley to take that role.

I, too, wish Mademoiselle might have had a less traumatic exit. She had made it quite clear from the outset that she did not want to lead so a dignified semi-retirement to the Annexe would have seemed reasonable. Having made Mademoiselle so ill (a mystery illness?) I feel EBD was left with no option but to 'kill her off' once the school had to leave Austria.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Jo Returns to the Chalet School
PostPosted: 30 Mar 2017, 19:52 
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This is a book I haven't read but it sounds like one I would really enjoy. Sounds like Jo was really lucky to have a book published straight off though!

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Jo Returns to the Chalet School
PostPosted: 30 Mar 2017, 20:32 
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Not unheard of in real life, though - Georgette Heyer and Stella Gibbons come to mind. I suspect you would like Jo Returns, Carrie - wish I'd got a spare copy to lend you.


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