Apologies for the delay with this one, but I was in no fit state to be posting anything this time last week, believe me.
Anyway, this week's discussion is on The Chalet School In Exile,
first published in 1940. Real life takes control of the series here, with first the Anschluss and then the outbreak of the Second World War at the forefront of the action. The school is forced to leave Austria and relocate to Guernsey, and Jo, Jack, Robin, Miss Wilson and several others are forced to go on the run to get out themselves after falling foul of a mob in Spärtz. Notable events:
The book opens in February 1938 up at the Sonnalpe. Robin, now fourteen, overhears part of a conversation between Madge and Jem about the rise of Nazism in Austria, and Jem expressing his concern about it. Robin asks Madge later about it, but Madge advises her not to worry about it as she doesn't think it is likely to affect them.
Later that day, Jem takes Jo and Robin down to the school. We learn that Marie and Wanda's mother has recently died, and Marie has given birth to a son. They and Eugen are going to America at the end of the week to stay with Eugen's family there. Frieda has gone to stay with Bernhilda and Kurt in Genoa, and Simone is still at the Sorbonne.
Jem gathers the staff together to inform them that he is moving the school up to the Sonnalpe at half-term, as he has heard covertly from a medical friend that Germany intends to bring Austria into the Reich, meaning the establishment of the Gestapo in the country, with the result of possible unpleasantness for the school. He believes they will be safer at the Sonnalpe, and has taken a big hotel, Der Edel Ritter, for the purpose.
The school returns after half-term, and while on the train the prefects receive a nasty shock when a woman they believe to be a Gestapo spy passes their compartment and overhears an anti-Nazi remark by Giovanna Rincini.
The girls are surprised and delighted to learn that everything has been moved up to the Sonnalpe, and they are welcomed to the new buildings by Miss Annersley, Madge and Mademoiselle Lepattre. Madge gives them a welcoming speech, and urges them to take the motto 'Be Brave'.
The Anschluss is signed, and Jem is summoned to a meeting with some local German representatives. One of them warns him to dismiss his Austrian doctors and Madge to removed her Austrian and German teachers and girls if they want to avoid any trouble. The staff all choose to stay, but many of the girls are made to leave at the end of term. Herr Marani refuses to send Maria to a Nazi school and insists she stays at the Chalet.
On the last night of the term, the girls hold a meeting and form the Chalet School Peace League, vowing to promote peace and unity between their countries whether they should meet again or not. Joey is invited to sign it, and she suggests getting the staff and such Old Girls as can be contacted to sign it also. They agree to hide it the next day in a secret cave Robin knows about.
The next day, Jo, Jack, Robin, Hilary Burn, Jeanne le Cadoulec, Evadne and Cornelia set off on a picnic, intending to hide the document during it. They find themselves followed by the woman from the train, Frau Eisen, and her son Hermann.
Robin and Hilary, intending to hide the document during a game of hide and seek, realise they have been followed to the cave by Hermann who is lying in wait for them at the entrance. After some exploring, they contrive to find another way out through a cleft high up in the wall and make their way down to the Sonnalpe, missing the others who have been looking for them.
When Jo and the others finally arrive back home frantic with worry, Jo is so relieved that she faints into Jack Maynard's arms and calls him a solid lump of comfort. Later that evening they become engaged.
The next chapter opens a month later, and a Gestapo agent arrives to arrest Jo, Robin, Jack and the others who were on the picnic, acting on the information from Frau Eisen and Hermann. Although the British consul is able to prevent the girls from being detained, he can do nothing for Jack, and he warns the Russells that they will have to leave Austria. They decide to move everything to Guernsey to start again there.
As everyone prepares to leave Austria, a party of girls from the school, along with Jo and Miss Wilson, go down to Spärtz for a last minute shopping trip. As they are having Kaffee in the Gasthaus, they spot an angry mob chasing old Herr Goldmann, a local Jewish jeweller. Robin dashes out to his rescue, followed by the others.
Miss Wilson manages to get Robin and Herr Goldmann back into the Gasthaus to safety, then goes back out to rescue the others. They are saved by Vater Johann, the priest, who gets them safely into the church and shows them a secret passage under the altar which, after a long climb upwards, comes out next to Robin's cave. When they finally reach the top, the girls are horrified to discover that Miss Wilson's hair has turned white.
The party hide in Robin's cave, and manage to get Daisy safely to the Sonnalpe via a herdsman. She relates the tale to Jem, who goes up to meet the party with food. They decide to hide at the Zillerthal, and try to contact the King of Belsornia to try and get out of Austria that way.
Jack, Gottfried and Robin meet up with the party at Umfert, but Jack and the Robin had been discovered, and they have no choice now but to make for Switzerland and try to get across by a smuggler's way known by Gottfried. After six long days of walking, they manage it, and reach the safety of Gottfried's aunt's chalet in Switzerland.
Three weeks later, everyone except Jo, Jack, Robin and Miss Wilson have gone home. Jack manages to get a letter from Jem, advising that the Sonnalpe community have dispersed and that only he is left in Austria, awaiting compensation for the San. Jack arranges to get Jo, Robin and Miss Wilson to France that evening so that they can finally get to England.
The next chapter opens ten months later. The Sonnalpe community has now moved to Guernesey. Jo is now married, Margot Venables has passed away, Anna Pfeiffen has smuggled herself out of Austria and into Jo's service, and Madge has given birth to Josette. Marie, still in America, writes to Madge to ask her to find a house for them in England, and says that there has been no news from Friedel von Glück for nearly nine months. Con Stewart also writes to ask if the school is starting up again, as various members of staff are available to come back.
Jo goes to visit Madge, and it is arranged that the school will reopen at a big house called Sarres. Beth Chester, daughter of a new doctor friend of Jem and Jack's, will be a pupil.
The day before the school opens, Jo makes the acquaintance of Janie Lucy, who is sending her two eldest children to the Kindergarten.
The school opens on 31st August 1939 with fifty two pupils and sundry old members of Staff. Simone, who has gained her Bachot
from the Sorbonne, is also joining as maths mistress. Maria Marani is Head Girl, and Cornelia is Games Prefect.
The new term continues, and Betty Wynne-Davies and Elizabeth Arnett decide to try and make Miss Everett, the new gardening mistress, mad by hiding the gardening tools. However, Miss Everett goes straight to the Head, and the two girls only succeed in getting themselves into big trouble.
Early in October, a new girl, Gertrude Beck, joins the school. That same day, Miss Annersley announces that Mademoiselle Lepattre has passed away.
Robin grows suspicious of Gertrude, believing her to be a Nazi spy sent to the school to try and gain information on old Austrian and German girls, especially Maria Marani, whose father has been missing for over ten months. She confides in Polly Heriot, who suddenly remembers about the Peace League, and dashes off to Miss Annersley to warn her about it, but Miss Annersley believes they are imagining things and does nothing.
Gertrude attempts to find out from the girls what they were trying to hide at the Sonnalpe that day, but although she gets close to Daisy Venables, she is unable to find out anything useful. When a letter arrives from her Nazi employers demanding to know where her mother has disappeared to, she is horrified and runs off to try and get back to Germany to find out what has happened.
After a five day ride on a French barque, Gertrude almost reaches Denmark when the ship is torpedoed by a U-boat. She and some of the crew are saved by a British destroyer and taken to Scapa Flow before she is returned to the Chalet School, where she learns that her mother has escaped to Denmark.
At around the same time, Jo gives birth to triplet girls, causing huge excitement. After some teasing, she tells Madge that they will be christened Mary Helena, Mary Constance and Mary Margaret, named after Nell Wilson, Con Stewart and Madge respectively, although Margaret will be known as Margot to please Daisy.
Jo takes the babies to the school and has a chat with Cornelia. We learn that nothing has been heard of Bruno von Ahlen, and that Bette Rincini has gone to Canada with her children to be a housekeeper.
The Seniors go on a picnic to Pleinmont, and are on the spot when a German spy plane crashes on the beach. They contrive to rescue the two men inside and put the fire out, but Maria, Cornelia and Violet are badly scorched. Maria, deeply worried over the fate of her father, has a nervous breakdown. Two days later comes the news that Herr Marani's ashes have been received by relatives of theirs.
Jo goes to visit the San, and succeeds in rousing Maria by singing to her. When she gets home, she finds that Jack has arrived home on sick leave.
On the last day of term, Jo, Jack and the triplets visit the school, and discover that Friedel and Bruno have succeeded in escaping from the Nazis. Frieda is with them, and she and Bruno are now married. They have also brought over Rufus, having got him from Mr Flower and Jockel, who had contrived to pick him up and smuggle him out of Austria.
Frieda, Bruno and Friedel see the rest of the school, and Frieda reveals that it was the brother of one of the Peace League signatories who had helped the two men escape, and that the girl in question is now in prison for refusing to speak of the Chalet School. Jack reveals that he had managed to smuggle the Peace League document out of Austria during the flight, and it is given over to Jo for safekeeping.
So, a major turning point for the series here. Do you think EBD was right to bring real life events into the series? What do you think of the Peace League idea, and all the Nazi interest in it? Did you like the Jo-Jack romance and the birth of the triplets? What did you think of the flight from Austria and the resetting up in Guernsey? Post below!