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 Post subject: Books: The New Chalet School
PostPosted: 03 Apr 2017, 23:49 
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This week’s discussion thread is The New Chalet School, first published in 1938. For the first time since Princess/Head Girl we have a gap in the series, with a full undocumented term passing between 0Jo Returns and New, and big changes are afoot for the school.

The book opens with a staff meeting taking place at the end of the Easter holidays. Miss Annersley bears several pieces of news: she has been offered the post of Headmistress since Mademoiselle Lepâttre’s condition has deteriorated and her teaching days are definitely over; and Miss Browne of St Scholastika’s has come into an inheritance, so she has sold her school to Madge and Mademoiselle “for a mere nothing” so that she can retire back to England, enlarging the CS by over forty girls. A fourth chalet is to be built, and there will also be changes to the setup next term in that the Houses will no longer be split into Juniors, Middles and Seniors, but will all have a mix of each.
The girls arrive back at the Tiernsee for the new term, and Anne Seymour and several former St Scholastika Seniors discuss life at the Chalet. They later meet up with Gillian Linton, who informs them that Jem has bought the old St Scholastika’s building as a summer home, so that Madge and Jo will be down at the lake for the term.
Madge and Jo meet the girls at Seespitz to welcome them, then walk along to their new summer home, which they have come down to assess and measure. We learn that Captain Humphries and Bette’s husband, Dr di Bersetti, were killed in a climbing accident that January.
Madge, Jo and Robin dine at a newly built hotel on the lakeside, the Seehaus, and Madge and Jo are each hit with a pellet from a catapult. Jo, scanning the guests, spots a pair of children, clearly twins, who give themselves away with their mannerisms. Later, as they are walking round to Seespitz, they encounter them again, and after Jo snaps the boy’s catapult and makes some scathing remarks about Italian royalty, they run away, swearing revenge. Madge reveals that they are the children of the Prince and Princess Balbini, the latter of whom is dying at the Sonnalpe.
After arriving and seeing their dormitories, the Seniors congregate in the common room for Kaffee and to discuss the various happenings. Outside, the twins sprinkle snuff into the room and cause everyone to have a sneezing fit.
On the first morning, the girls separate for walks after Frühstuck. The Seniors, on the way back, decide to inspect the games shed and find the lock and the lower half of the door covered in chewing gum. The twins, listening nearby, are delighted to hear their disgusted remarks.
The prefects hold a meeting, and Jo drops by. They tell her about the snuff and the chewing gum, and also about a box of frogs which had been sent to Mademoiselle Lachenais the day before. Everyone in the school denies any knowledge of the incidents. Jo guesses that the twins are behind it, and warns the prefects to be on their guard. She also reveals that the half-term trip for Madge’s birthday this year will be to Salzburg, much to everyone’s delight. Their joy is interrupted by a series of stink bombs thrown into the school.
The next prank victim is Jem, who falls foul of Mario’s catapult while walking along the lake path. He catches Mario and gives him a sound whipping. The Prince and Maria come along and spot them, and the Prince backs Jem up. Maria, hearing the story later from one of the other hotel children who was hiding with Mario, is furious and rushes out to warn Jem they will have their revenge. He scornfully takes the wind out of her sails with remarks about vulgarity and ill-breeding, and walks off.
One wet day the twins and their hotel friends, the Mystic M gang, are spotted hanging around outside the school, and Miss Annersley insists on them coming in out of the rain. She takes them round the school, and the boys, left alone in the hall for a few minutes, remove the fuses from the fuse box and cut several wires, leaving Ste Therese in darkness for the night. Miss Annersley is furious, and rings up the Seehaus to complain to the Prince.
The next day, Gillian reveals to the other prefects that the Princess Balbini is not likely to survive the week. They spot the Prince marching the twins into the school to apologise to Miss Annersley for what they did to the fuse box. He begs her to accept Maria at the school, and she reluctantly agrees to take her next term. She also urges him to warn the twins about their mother’s impending death, citing her own unhappy experience as a girl.
One particularly hot day, Jem rings up the summer house to ask Madge to search around the lake for the twins, as their mother is about to die and has asked to see them one last time. At the same moment Jo, sent to fetch Jackie and Sybil in from the garden, bursts in with the news that Maria Balbini has kidnapped Sybil. A mass search is begun, but they are nowhere to be found, and at sixteen o’clock Jem rings up again to say that the Princess has passed away.
Madge tells Jem about Sybil, and he comes down at once with Rufus to join the hunt. They track them as far as Maurach, and learn that there is a smallpox outbreak at the Gasthaus there. Jem then goes for the mountain train to head back to the Tiernsee, and spots Herr Anserl with the truants and Sybil, having caught them in Spärtz.
Back at the summer house, Jem informs the twins that their mother had asked for them but has now died. Maria faints with the shock, and she and Mario are put to bed. Later that night, Jo hears Maria sobbing and comforts her.
More smallpox cases are reported in the valley, and the Sonnalpe doctors come round to the school to vaccinate everyone, but the Staff are still on edge. Louise and Gillian, having spent a lot of time at the Sonnalpe with their relatives, have guessed that Mademoiselle will not be returning, and the prefects are sobered at the thought. Meanwhile, Ida Reaveley informs them that she has heard some of the Middles out on the roof garden of St Clare’s at night, and they concoct a plan to catch them in the act.
Louise, Paula, Ida and Gillian camp out in Miss Wilson’s study to catch the Middles, and Jo, looking for a bed at the school for the night, drops in on them unexpectedly. They go up to the roof garden and catch a large group of Middles staging a midnight play. The next day, the prefects hold a meeting to discuss the punishment, and Nancy Wilmot suggests they be made to hold the play in front of the entire school, or else receive a Head’s Report each.
Fuming, the Middles elect to hold the play, which was written by Elizabeth Arnett. She is most indignant that the tragedy she had written is received by the audience as a comedy.
Half term arrives, and while most of the school go to hotels in Salzburg, Jo, Robin, Irma and Paula go to stay with Wanda, where they discover that the Balbinis are cousins of hers, and that the twins are staying with her for the present. They and the rest of the school spend a glorious time sight-seeing in Salzburg.
On the way back, one of the charabancs is trapped on the road by torrential rain, and its occupants are forced to spend an exciting if uncomfortable night in it.
The end of term garden party is held, and the girls make a Guides show of it. Jo shows Louise a copy of Cecily Holds the Fort, which has just arrived. Anne, ironing some signalling flags, is distracted and leaves the iron switched on and face down, with the result that Hall catches fire. It is extinguished without much damage, but Louise dives into Hall to try and save Jo’s book and has to be dragged out by Hilary, and both of them are scolded for losing their heads in such a manner.

So, what did you think of this book? Do you agree with EBD giving the Headship to Miss Annersley? What do you think of the merge with St Scholastika’s? Thoughts on the Mystic M and their deeds, and their tragic conclusion? Did you like the trip to Salzburg?

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The New Chalet School
PostPosted: 04 Apr 2017, 07:52 
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I like the trip to Salzburg, but I really have a problem with what happened to the Balbini twins ... although it does amuse me that they turn out to be related to the von Eschenaus, who now have relatives in Italy as well as Prussia and Hungary. Very Habsburg Empire :D. Eustacia's story is enough of a Victorian moral tale, ending up flat on her back for two years as punishment for running away, but the Balbinis being told that it was all their own fault that their mother died without seeing them again is horrible. I'm surprised at Jem being so cruel. I usually like him, but in this book he first of all gives Mario a good walloping (OK, different times, different attitudes, but EBD rarely shows corporal punishment) and then he gives Mario and Maria that horrible lecture.

And why does no-one in CS-land ever call the authorities?! Given the circumstances, why do they decide not to ring the police to ask them to help look for the children? It was hardly going to end up in court or all over the tabloid press. OK, there was probably only one policeman for the area, but still!

If anyone was at fault, it was Prince Balbini for not telling the children how ill their mother was. And it's only in the last 20 years or so, with mobile phones, that we've come to expect people to be contactable all the time. Before then, if there was a crisis and someone was out, it was just hard luck. Kidnapping Sybil was obviously completely out of order, but they could have just been out playing and they still wouldn't have got to see Princess Balbini.

I wish Ted Humphries and Dr di Bersetti hadn't been killed off as well. If EBD wanted rid of Ted, couldn't he have got another job abroad? And why did poor Dr di Bersetti had to die with him?

Sorry for moaning! I just find this book quite upsetting.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The New Chalet School
PostPosted: 04 Apr 2017, 10:49 
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Alison H wrote:
I wish Ted Humphries and Dr di Bersetti hadn't been killed off as well. If EBD wanted rid of Ted, couldn't he have got another job abroad? And why did poor Dr di Bersetti had to die with him?


And poor Bette seems to be an afterthought. She's left a widow with two small children to look after and it seems as if the only reason for her to have a daughter is to help Robin get over her grieving.

The Salzburg trip and getting stuck overnight in the bus always annoys me. How do they not need the bathroom? All that rain noise and constant coffee and assorted hot drinks ... oh, excuse me.

And I never understood how they extend the seats - they apparently pack the spaces between the seats with the suitcases. How would this make the seats flat? Wouldn't the girls still be sleeping sitting up like on a plane (in the back end!)?

Cheers,
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 Post subject: Re: Books: The New Chalet School
PostPosted: 04 Apr 2017, 13:24 
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For the seat thing Joyce I always see the gap between the seat and the back of the seat in front being filled with cases so that one girl would lie on the comfy upholstered seat and the other girl on the very uncomfy and knobbly cases. Both would have their feet sticking out into the aisle.
I agree that there are many harsh story-lines in this book especially the deaths of Ted and Bette's husband simply so that Robin could truly belong to the Russells and then Jo. Doesn't Melanie of the Mystic M get caned by her aunt/guardian too?
Also the removal to a summer home on the lake seems highly unlikely and why would they allow Robin to miss not only a term of school but also the higher altitude of the Sonnalpe?


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The New Chalet School
PostPosted: 04 Apr 2017, 13:33 
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Because I've only read this book in two parts and because a lot of it centres around disruption in the school and the school's structure it was never a favourite of mine.

I agree with Joyce about one girl having to sleep on the uncomfortable packing cases :?

I think EBD is having a clear out here, as she does in Exile, getting rid of some characters who are around but are barely there (Captain Humphries in this one) and as a child, since I half the time forgot he even existed, I didn't really care, although I did feel sorry for Bette. It's a shame that if only EBD has waited, Captain Humphries could presumably have been absorbed into the war (and then killed off if she still felt like it).

I think the death of the Balbini twins' mother is one of the most horrible moments of the series - not because of what Jem says but because what he says is true - Maria will always have to remember that she didn't get to say goodbye to her mother because she'd abducted someone else's baby :shock: .

ETA, I do like the staff meeting chapter at the start though.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The New Chalet School
PostPosted: 04 Apr 2017, 15:27 
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This book (or in my case, books, as I only have Armadas), has a definite transition feel: the enlargement and reorganisation of the school, the promotion of Miss Annersley, which is quite poignant when we now know what was going to happen.
I cringe when Dr Jem beats Mario. I think whatever the mores of the time, he was wrong. I think the whole notion of kidnapping Sybil is totally absurd, especially the line about them not daring to cut her sunbonnet strings - they can kidnap her but not take her hat off? Nonsense! I do enjoy the stranded bus scene, but like Joyce I am deeply troubled by the need to wee! I assume that's why the bus driver got out at one point...


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The New Chalet School
PostPosted: 04 Apr 2017, 20:46 
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I read this as 2 books ( the second part , years later ) , I always thought Maria was what would be called ' a little madam ' , but given that she was accepted at the Chalet school does she ever go ? I don't remember her mentioned .
Also I think it's this book, not sure though, that during a chat in the staff room about half term Ivy Norman mentions that as she's free from duty she was going to go to Vienna depending on the political situation, this was the first time I'd heard of real time events making it's way into childs fic, ( as a big Blyton fan going from St. Clares to Chalet school was a pleasant eye opener ) Of course it paves the way for Exile.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The New Chalet School
PostPosted: 04 Apr 2017, 21:05 
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I am re-reading quite a few of the Chalet books at the moment so I decided to read this one as I am not too familiar with it.

I only have the Armada two part version and so far I have got as far as the Salzburg trip in the very short second part.

I would say Louise seems a very strong Head Girl who is backed up by strong prefects - Gillian, Hilary, Anne, Ida etc. Nancy Wilmot is also there but I don't think creates a good impression. Every single thing she says is said "lazily". She also says something about not liking maths!

It is quite interesting though to have three girls - Hilary, Gillian and Nancy - who were all set to become prominent mistresses in the school. We also have Rosalie at the start of her career.

I am afraid I detest the Balbini twins and dislike the storyline with them and the other children. It all seems so evil and violent. The twins ' upbringing obviously had a lot to do with their behaviour. Everything must have been so strange for them with their mother so ill and their father's attention elsewhere and I know I should be more sympathetic but I just don't like them and don't like them in the book. In real life I would not go within 100 miles of them.

Jem should not have hit Mario but I suppose it was different times although still really no excuse. On the other hand there is his close bond with Jo and his appreciation of her.

Good to see Miss Annersely at the beginning of her time as head teacher. She was definitely best for the job although another couple of years later when Miss Wilson had matured a bit it might have been a close cut thing. Being joint heads a few years later was probably good.

Good to see a bit of Madge and Jem in this book. Presume Margot Venables doing her matron stint.

I like Jo in this book and good that although Jo is present Louise very much takes the lead in the rooftop incident.

EBD wrote the characters of Betty Wynne-Davies and Elizabeth Arnett exceptionally well and they always threw up sparks but really loads of interesting and strong characters.

Last things - heartbreaking about Mademoiselle. EBD was really ruthless about her and the twins. Loved the reason behind Wanda's inheritance. Such wise parents!!!


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The New Chalet School
PostPosted: 05 Apr 2017, 03:04 
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Mel wrote:
For the seat thing Joyce I always see the gap between the seat and the back of the seat in front being filled with cases so that one girl would lie on the comfy upholstered seat and the other girl on the very uncomfy and knobbly cases. Both would have their feet sticking out into the aisle.


OK, I can see that now. And yes, tough on the girls who got the 'cases' part. Though hopefully they were also given the extra blanket.

I was envisioning seats with arm rests dividing them which would mean the girls were pretty much stuck in a seated position. But I guess the armrests either didn't exist or could be moved up.

LucyP wrote:
I cringe when Dr Jem beats Mario. I think whatever the mores of the time, he was wrong.


I brought this up in another thread but I always felt it was a bit of a class thing. Jem is clearly professional and upper class, so he is 'right' to behave that way.

Would the Prince have reacted in the same way had the hotel owner (middle class) complained to him about what his children were doing? Or even if he had reacted the same ways as Joey had and taken and broken the catapult? Forget about spanking the child.

It's obviously highly unlikely the hotel owner would do something like that, but the kids were firing pellets at other guests and Madge openly says the owner will lose business if they keep behaving like that.

Cheers,
Joyce

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The New Chalet School
PostPosted: 05 Apr 2017, 09:55 
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Quote:
Later, as they are walking round to Seespitz, they encounter them again, and after Jo snaps the boy’s catapult and makes some scathing remarks about Italian royalty, they run away, swearing revenge. Madge reveals that they are the children of the Prince and Princess Balbini, the latter of whom is dying at the Sonnalpe.


Madge rightly tells Jo off for her behaviour in this incident. It show how immature she still is even though she has left school.

I agree with those of you who have commented on Jem's behaviour and how unacceptable it would be nowadays. I was never comfortable with it and remember the discussion in the other thread.

By the way Maria didn't join the CS after all. Perhaps that's another Great Mystery (see other thread)?


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The New Chalet School
PostPosted: 05 Apr 2017, 10:27 
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There's a Melanie Kerdec at the CS during the British years, but it's never clear if she's the Melanie Kerdec who was part of the Mystic M or not! Maria does appear in one of the fill-ins, but not the canon books, but I think that was probably due to the war. EBD was focusing in long-established pupils during the early part of Exile, and, although she'd have been writing the second part before Italy actually entered the war, it might still have been messy to have brought Maria in at that point.

Jo's behaviour early on is very immature, but I think the scene near the end, when she comforts the children after the very harsh way in which Jem broke the news of their mother's death, is one of her finer moments.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The New Chalet School
PostPosted: 05 Apr 2017, 13:27 
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I agree Alison, she is very kind to Maria.

I don't blame Jem too much for his harshness to the Balbinis. They have abducted his child and he's had a very stressful day. These days the police would be involved and the kids would be looking at some kind of Children's Panel :?


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The New Chalet School
PostPosted: 05 Apr 2017, 13:32 
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Loryat wrote:
These days the police would be involved and the kids would be looking at some kind of Children's Panel :?

And who is to say that is a better way of dealing with it?

(Steps back hastily in view of torrent of abuse that is likely to follow this question.... :? )

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The New Chalet School
PostPosted: 05 Apr 2017, 14:05 
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Loryat wrote:
I agree Alison, she is very kind to Maria.

I don't blame Jem too much for his harshness to the Balbinis. They have abducted his child and he's had a very stressful day. These days the police would be involved and the kids would be looking at some kind of Children's Panel :?


Yes, we see Jo in a better light at that stage, I agree.

I was thinking more of the thrashing of Mario earlier on but I don't particularly like what he says to Maria about not being there when her mother asked for her either. Yes, I can understand how stressed he would have been but nevertheless. . .

Anyone would think that we believe Jem is real and not the product of EBD's idea of the masterful, great doctor. :lol:


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The New Chalet School
PostPosted: 05 Apr 2017, 15:08 
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cestina wrote:
Loryat wrote:
These days the police would be involved and the kids would be looking at some kind of Children's Panel :?

And who is to say that is a better way of dealing with it?

(Steps back hastily in view of torrent of abuse that is likely to follow this question.... :? )

Not from me you won't, cestina! :wink:

Jem's smacking of the lad is over and done with in a matter of seconds! Like the old-time bobby on the beat giving a young lad a clip round the ear. Happened to my brother once and did him no harm at all! But then I'm old-fashioned! :roll: I certainly didn't agree with what Jem said later to the children, though, about their mother's death.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The New Chalet School
PostPosted: 05 Apr 2017, 15:33 
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MaryR wrote:
I certainly didn't agree with what Jem said later to the children, though, about their mother's death.

Oh no, I don't either. But the spanking seems utterly called for to me. And we really shouldn't be considering it from a "modern" viewpoint anyway.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The New Chalet School
PostPosted: 05 Apr 2017, 15:36 
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Loryat wrote:

I don't blame Jem too much for his harshness to the Balbinis. They have abducted his child and he's had a very stressful day.


It's one of the rare occasions where it's acknowledged that the doctors are not superhuman, and that they're likely to get stressed out as well, and can't be expected to take charge of absolutely everything. Madge, although she's finding the worry difficult to cope with, initially refuses to ring Jem at the San because she knows he'll be rushed off his feet, and doesn't want him either worrying about Sybil whilst he's trying to work or feeling obliged to leave a dying patient in order to come home.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The New Chalet School
PostPosted: 05 Apr 2017, 15:54 
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Mario getting a sound spanking from Jem has never bothered me in the slightest - I'm of the opinion the obnoxious little brat thoroughly deserved it! He could quite easily have had someone's eye out with those pellets; something similar did happen to my grandfather and left him blinded in that eye for life. So sorry, no sympathy for Mario from me on that one. I do think Jem went way OTT with the way he told them about their mother's death though.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The New Chalet School
PostPosted: 05 Apr 2017, 18:34 
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The Prince didn't bat an eyelid at the sight of a complete stranger whipping his son, it really was different times, he later said that Mario was to be educated in England as he admired the education system, He must have known that corporal punishment was in use there.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The New Chalet School
PostPosted: 05 Apr 2017, 22:44 
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Maybe a bit extreme but I wonder if Mario could have gone down the road of those two boys who so horrifically murdered that little toddler all those years ago. I really do think he was evil. Even in the way the group got into the school and went behind Miss Annersley's back to damage the fusebox. They went far beyond ordinary nasty behaviour


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