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 Post subject: Books: The Chalet School In Exile
PostPosted: 18 Apr 2017, 00:25 
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Apologies for the delay with this one, but I was in no fit state to be posting anything this time last week, believe me. :P
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!

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School In Exile
PostPosted: 18 Apr 2017, 02:55 
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Welcome back and thanks so much for continuing with this.

To Exile. I know this is regarded as one of the favourite books of the series for many people and so much happens it's hard to keep up.

I was always impressed at the amount of effort put into the restarting the school in another country. I imagine many people in the same boat, would simply give up and wait till the war was over before starting up again.

And what happens to the girls in between time - do they go to another school? And then get pulled out to return to the CS? Or is that why they restart with such smaller numbers?

The formation and vow of the Peace League is lovely but did they ever meet 'once a year'?

But the spy thing always confused me. Why exactly was a little boy following them?

And what exactly was Gertrude supposed to find out? If she had managed to get hold of the Peace League names, then so what? The Nazis had already told the parents to bring their daughters back to Germany so they already knew which girls had been at the school.

Cheers,
Joyce

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School In Exile
PostPosted: 18 Apr 2017, 07:37 
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Glad you're feeling better.

I also think it was wonderful that EBD wrote this book. She could just have ignored the war completely, as EJO did, or, if she really felt that it would be inappropriate to leave the school in Austria, say that Madge and Jem had decided to move everything to England (or Guernsey) to be near a suitable school for David and Rix. Or she could have mentioned the Anschluss but not had the very powerful scenes in Spartz.

I think some of the spy stuff, and the escape from Austria on foot (years before The Sound of Music!) is a bit OTT, but spy stories for children were popular during both world wars. My other minor gripes are that we miss Joey's wedding, and that it's Jem, rather than Madge, who chairs the meeting at the beginning. All that talk about it being safer near the "British colony" sounds like something out of a book on the British Raj. What were Jem and Jack going to do to defend the girls and mistresses if the Nazis attacked the area?!! But I suppose it's meant to set the mood of danger.

So much happens!! I'm sad that Margot Venables is killed off. And it's sad about Mlle too, but she'd been ill for a long time. I like seeing Simone back as a teacher. And I think Robin is a real heroine in this book. And so is Madge, for reopening the school when she could have decided to pack it in. But the main thing is EBD bringing real life into the books in such a powerful and dramatic way, especially with the murder of the Goldmanns. Of all the CS books, this is the one that stands out the most for me.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School In Exile
PostPosted: 18 Apr 2017, 07:48 
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Hope you feel better now and thank you for continuing with this and with such a "blockbuster" of a book.

Exile must probably be the most famous book of the whole series, and rightly so. I cannot praise EBD highly enough for writing this book.

It would be completely different if it had been published towards the end of world war 2 or after it was over. It wasn't though. It was published in 1940 near the start of the war when Germany had looked as if it could have won.

It is not being fanciful to suggest that if they had they might have sought their own revenge on Elinor Brent Dyer whose writings could have had a great deal of influence on the young.

She doesn't hold back at all. She mentions Hitler and a couple more of his high command by name and not in the most respectful of terms. She mentions Hitler as being anti-Christ. Did she mean THE anti-Christ in, I think Revelations? She mentions concentration camps and what was being done to the Jewish race. She obviously thought her young readers should know what was going on. She says as much three or so books later when we have Miss Wilson discussing with Miss Leigh exactly what young girls should be told about the war.

The other huge point EBD made was that her readers should not hate the German people but only the Nazis. That was the whole point of her Peace League; to show her readers that we could still love and be friendly with all people of the world but that only the bad bits should be disliked. That still holds now for all countries and races. EBD was way ahead of her time and should be given due credit.

Otherwise it is a marvellous story. Of course it is not perfect and I have my pinpricks about which I will post later on but dozens of characters walk across the stage of what is Exile and none of them fall down.

If this book was ever filmed Joey would be in practically every scene. At the beginning of the book, on the surface at any rate, she is still very much a schoolgirl. Less than two years on she is perfectly credible as the loving wife of Jack Maynard and a mother. This book is a perfect example of the fact that gaps are a good thing so that maturing and other action can happen offstage.

Her romance and marriage to Jack is realistic and must have made good reading at the time. Of the males, it is Gottfried though to whom the most credit must go. It must have been heartbreaking for him leaving his beloved Austria in such circumstances but he is incredibly brave. It is a shame that with Jo's marriage to Jack he took over Gottfried's place in the San and the series.

I think that possibly the other character that really shines is Robin. Even at the beginning of the book she is much more grown-up, talking to Madge on an adult-to-adult basis. She is incredibly brave in the book and takes part without a fuss. She is also the first to recognise Gertrud(e) is a Nazi.

Miss Wilson, Hilary, Cornelia, Maria, Madge, Jem all play their parts.

EBD was so right to write this. Not just for our entertainment but much more so for her young readers in 1940 who were living through this.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School In Exile
PostPosted: 18 Apr 2017, 16:58 
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It has only recently struck me that the advice to dismiss Austrian staff was not actually about them being Austrian at all. The Germans regarded the Austrians as Germans (if you see what I mean!) and many Austrians thought the same way. There was no substitution of Austrians by Germans or even Austrian Nazis.

The people who did lose their jobs were Jews who, incidentally, made up a high proportion of doctors. The people who benefitted from the removal were generally Austrians.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School In Exile
PostPosted: 18 Apr 2017, 17:22 
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I was in the Jewish museum in Berlin a couple of years ago and as far as I can remember Jews started being dismissed from professional jobs in Germany in the early 1930s. Later on they could only shop between 4 and 5 in the afternoon, were not allowed to eat cakes and had to wear a medal/badge which identified them as Jews.

It was not only Jews who were persecuted. We have the treatment of blacks, the British "Empire" and it goes on and still goes on. For all men ( and women) to be equal.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School In Exile
PostPosted: 18 Apr 2017, 19:55 
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This book has been used whenever anyone dismisses EBD as a writer. This is a story that manages to combine the adventure story and realistic accounts of war and was published during the War. I remember asking my mother how could people deny the Holocaust when this information was in a young adult piece of fiction. She said that although there were rumours at the time, it was so hard to believe it was true.
And it is one of my top three Chalet titles, especially because when most writers might have stopped once they reached safety, there is an action packed three months more! So satisfying on so many levels.
And thank you for the synopses! Glad you feel better.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School In Exile
PostPosted: 19 Apr 2017, 01:37 
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Someone on this board called this book an adventure story that happens to involve a school, and I think that's spot on. It's intense to read in the 21st century with the benefit of hindsight; I can only imagine how anxious children of the 1940s felt reading it in real time.

I agree with everyone about EBD being ahead of her time by distinguishing between Germans and Nazis. I hadn't considered EBD herself might be in danger had the Nazis won -- that's a great insight and chilling to think about.

Gertrude Beck is the highlight of this book for me. EBD could have left the Nazis behind and focused on the school and its antics. Introducing Gertrude increases the tension and drama and emphasizes EBD's points: Nazis are evil, they're everywhere, and they don't represent all Germans. Gertrude isn't that much different from her peers -- she likes nice food, has fits of high spirits, loves her mother and demonstrates foolhardiness yet extreme bravery by trying to get back to Germany. If it weren't for Nazism, she'd be a fine example of a Chalet School girl.

I think the months between Jo's escape from Austria and the decision to restart the school would be fine fill-in material. You'd have the Bettanys and Maynards building a new life and mulling the school's future, letters from far-flung Chalet School characters, Jo's wedding and the general scene of a country at war. It could be "The Chalet School in Limbo"!

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School In Exile
PostPosted: 19 Apr 2017, 10:55 
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Alison H wrote:
I think some of the spy stuff, and the escape from Austria on foot (years before The Sound of Music!) is a bit OTT


Was so disappointed years later when I read the book and the family actually took a train. And apparently in the movie the mountains they were on lead to Germany!

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School In Exile
PostPosted: 19 Apr 2017, 11:12 
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Joyce wrote:
Alison H wrote:
I think some of the spy stuff, and the escape from Austria on foot (years before The Sound of Music!) is a bit OTT


Was so disappointed years later when I read the book and the family actually took a train. And apparently in the movie the mountains they were on lead to Germany!

The Von Trapps may have taken a train but I can assure all of you that the escape on foot is in no way exaggerated. There were many of them, one in my own family, and of course such escapes across borders and through the mountains continued in Eastern Europe throughout the communist period as well. Mostly resulting in the death of those trying to make it across to the west.

The storyline is no more unlikely than the the way the current refugees across the world are risking their lives and enduring intolerable conditions.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School In Exile
PostPosted: 19 Apr 2017, 13:11 
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mynameisdumbnuts wrote:
I agree with everyone about EBD being ahead of her time by distinguishing between Germans and Nazis. I hadn't considered EBD herself might be in danger had the Nazis won -- that's a great insight and chilling to think about.
Yes - I don't know if she was on the list of those regarded as hostile to the regime, but no doubt it would have been updated.

Unfortunately I haven't kept a record of which journal it was published in, but in the 1990s I read an article by a present-day Nazi sympathiser who complained that EMBD was unfair to the Nazis in her writing.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School In Exile
PostPosted: 19 Apr 2017, 13:37 
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!

I recently read an Agatha Christie set and written during the war - fascinating for the insights into how people thought then but when you compare the two EBD shines even more.

ETA - I really don't like the writers writing at the time of the war who totally ignored it - I can understand why people wanted escapism, but it seems bizarre.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School In Exile
PostPosted: 19 Apr 2017, 15:23 
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Loryat wrote:
!

I recently read an Agatha Christie set and written during the war - fascinating for the insights into how people thought then but when you compare the two EBD shines even more.

ETA - I really don't like the writers writing at the time of the war who totally ignored it - I can understand why people wanted escapism, but it seems bizarre.


I feel that by writing Exile and even more so - Goes to it - EBD was empathising with her readers who would have had relatives in the forces and maybe even joined up themselves.

London, Clydeside, Merseyside and goodness knows where else were being blown to bits every evening and by having a night raid near the CS in Goes To It, EBD was letting her readers see that their heroes in the CS were going through the same. She was also encouraging her readers to be brave.

I also think all the gardening in those books was actually included because as well as being topical it gave good practical advice.

Would like to add that although I am using British examples here, I am aware other parts of the world were going through hell too as parts still are.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School In Exile
PostPosted: 19 Apr 2017, 20:40 
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This is an exceptional book and one that made a big impression on me as a teenager. Im really appreciating everyones insights into EBDs motivations for including certain elements and using the story to reach out to the real worries her readers would have had at the time.

The story is gripping every time I read it, and frighteningly relevant to this day, but somehow never grim whilst not by any stretch of the imagination treating events lightly either.

If I wish anything had been changed, it would be that this was in fact 2 books. This is in praise of the writing rather than a criticism! For the first book, Id have liked to see more of what happened at the Sonnalpe and heard more from key characters like Eustacia and Biddy and Gillian for instance, and then how all the characters eventually ended up in Guernsey and planned to re open, seeing Joeys wedding and again hearing feom key characters, this book ending with the stage set for the reopening and resolve to carry on.

Then the second book covering the events of the first term in Guernsey with more chapters on local interactions in amongst the existing half of the book.

But thats really my way of saying... more of the same coz what a flippin amazing book ! ☺


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School In Exile
PostPosted: 20 Apr 2017, 02:26 
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cestina wrote:
Joyce wrote:
Alison H wrote:
I think some of the spy stuff, and the escape from Austria on foot (years before The Sound of Music!) is a bit OTT


Was so disappointed years later when I read the book and the family actually took a train. And apparently in the movie the mountains they were on lead to Germany!

The Von Trapps may have taken a train but I can assure all of you that the escape on foot is in no way exaggerated. There were many of them, one in my own family, and of course such escapes across borders and through the mountains continued in Eastern Europe throughout the communist period as well. Mostly resulting in the death of those trying to make it across to the west.

The storyline is no more unlikely than the the way the current refugees across the world are risking their lives and enduring intolerable conditions.


Oh of course, and I was in no way making light of the plight of refugees.

It's just that I read the SofM book at a time when I still thought movies followed the book, and was swiftly disillusioned on that front.

To me, one of the most moving aspects of Exile is Maria. We seldom hear or see much or her despite the fact that she is one of the original Chaletians, so to see her grief and pain depicted so vividly is something EBD does not shy away from.

Cheers,
Joyce

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School In Exile
PostPosted: 20 Apr 2017, 07:54 
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Yes, the death of Herr Marani, who was such an important and well-loved character early on, in a concentration camp is another very brave and powerful storyline. It's not dwelt on too much, because the books were meant for children, but the fact that it's included at all says a lot about the book.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School In Exile
PostPosted: 20 Apr 2017, 11:28 
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Alison H wrote:
Yes, the death of Herr Marani, who was such an important and well-loved character early on, in a concentration camp is another very brave and powerful storyline.


Yes, she doesn't shy away from concentration camps. She has Friedal (sp?) and Bruno escape from one and we are told much later on that Luigia di Ferrara also died in one. I always wished EBD had delved a bit deeper into that story and told us more about why Luigia was in the camp.

Cheers,
Joyce

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School In Exile
PostPosted: 20 Apr 2017, 13:16 
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The most likely reason is because she was a nun. There are stories of religious figures being arrested, often because they resisted the Nazis, either openly or subtly.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School In Exile
PostPosted: 20 Apr 2017, 13:33 
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This is a wonderful book. Some really brave sad and ethical writing about the War and the Nazi regime, and also a book where quite a lot changes for some of the central characters of the CS books to date.

EBD is very truthful and realistic about the War and how it would have impacted on many of those who peopled her books. We have girls being ordered out of the school, and some sent to work in factories. Brothers being sent to fight for the Nazis. Families desperately trying to escape, leaving their homelands behind them. And tragic deaths in concentration camps, including that of Herr Marani who was a much loved character in the early CS books.

On a more personal level, this book is really when Joey leaves her schooldays behind and becomes an adult. It is also the book where Robin really grows up, starts to act her age and becomes a likeable character.

It really has everything. Adventure, tragedy, romance, touching reunions and surprises.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School In Exile
PostPosted: 20 Apr 2017, 15:10 
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On a more mundane level, why the choices of godmother? I don't understand them. Miss Wilson - yes. Con Stewart - was that because she already had the name EBD wanted to call one of the triplets? Miss Nalder - because she too had been a guide leader in Camp?

Why was Robin not the actual godmother instead of standing in for Miss Nalder? Why was one of Jo's great friends not the third godmother. Frieda and Marie are represented with their brother and husband being godfathers so why not Simone who had just lost her cousin who was one of the school founders?

Why had Jack not got a single godparent of his choosing?

Why did EBD saddle poor Len with such a ghastly name. I know it was a name she used herself but really?

Then later Reg and Len Entwhistle! Really?


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