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 Post subject: Books: The Chalet School Goes To It
PostPosted: 24 Apr 2017, 21:34 
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This week, the discussion is on the fifteenth book in the series, The Chalet School Goes To It, first published in 1941, and later published in paperback as The Chalet School At War. We have another term-long gap here, with Exile closing in December 1939 and Goes To It opening in March 1940. With the Second World War now in full swing and everyone on edge after the German plane crash on the beach at the end of the Christmas term, the decision is taken to relocate the school once again to the UK mainland, this time to Armishire on the English/Welsh border. The school is handily offered a large house to settle in, with the proviso that they take on the owner's young sister, Gwensi. Notable events:

The book opens with a Staff meeting, and we learn that the Russells and Maynards will be relocating to England as they believe the Channel Islands are no longer safe, and that the Lucys and Ozannes have already gone to Armiford. Madge says that, as they themselves are leaving, they can scarcely leave the school behind on Guernsey.
The meeting is interrupted by a visitor, the Rev. Ernest Howell, who comes with a proposition; as he has been called up as a naval chaplain, he wishes to send his young half-sister Gwensi to the school, and offers them the use of Plas Howell, a mansion house on the outskirts of Howells Village in Armishire which he inherited from his godfather.
After some discussion, Madge and Miss Annersley take him up on the offer, and the school is set to open for the summer term at the new abode.
During Easter week, Jo, Miss Wilson, Frieda and the triplets make the journey from Guernsey to the UK mainland on board Nigel Willoughby's yacht the Sea Witch. On the way they are attacked by a U-boat and two German planes, but manage to escape with the help of a British fighter. Joey turns feverish with the excitement, and when they are rescued by a British destroyer and brought safely to Devonshire, she is forced to stay at a village inn for several days before being fit enough to travel on to Armiford.
Back at Sarres, most of the girls have gone for the Easter holidays, leaving only Cornelia (now Head Girl), Robin, Polly Heriot and Daisy Venables at the school, with the Head, Simone, Miss Stewart and Miss Nalder. They are busy packing up everything for the move when Miss Stewart's fiancé arrives unexpectedly from Singapore to take her back with him. Simone's parents and younger sister Renée also arrive, with the intention of going with the school and working there until they decide whether or not to go to America.
Meanwhile, at Plas Howell, Gwensi wanders around the house, angry at the prospect of the school moving in. Jo, come to inspect the new premises, encounters her and manages to win her round slightly by introducing her to the triplets and telling her about Daisy and Beth Chester, who are the same age.
By the time Jo returns that afternoon with Madge, Miss Annersley and Matron, however, the effect has worn off and Gwensi, in a temper, runs off and hides in her private den in a garden hedge. Megan, the housekeeper, is unable to find her, and after a fruitless search everyone is forced to give up. Gwensi sneaks back in that night and is found sleeping in her own bed.
Two days later, Gwensi is finally roused out of her sulks by Robin, who tells her that Jo Maynard is Josephine M. Bettany, Gwensi's favourite author. She then takes her down to meet Daisy and Beth, and by the time Gwensi has shown them the gardens and they have discussed what they could plant for the Dig For Victory campaign, she is reconciled to the idea of the school at last.
The school arrives for the new term, and numbers are up as Braemar House, a school at Medbury, has just closed, meaning that several of their girls are joining the CS. Gillian Linton and Mary Burnett have returned as Kindergarten and history mistress respectively. Juliet has given birth to a son and is moving to the area, Hilary Burn will be joining the school as games mistress in September, and Joyce Linton is engaged. Elsie Carr, Anne Seymour, Nancy Wilmot, Irene Silkworth are in the Wrens, Margia Stevens is on tour in South Africa, Miss Maynard and Miss Leslie have both had new babies, and Herr Laubach, whose wife has now died, has managed to escape Austria and will be rejoining the school later that term. The assembly is wound up with a reminder of the Peace League and the recital of a special prayer Jo has written for it.
The Fifth form have a gardening lesson with Miss Everett, and the old Chalet girls discuss their future career plans with the new girls from Braemar House.
Meanwhile, the prefects discuss the cheek and mischief of the Fourth, led by Betty Wynne-Davies and Elizabeth Arnett. As there have now been several incidents, they decide to draft Jo into their next meeting for advice. They also exchange anecdotes about the local evacuee children, and decide to hold a picnic for them to help ease them into life in the country.
Jo comes up to the school for the prefects meeting, full of indignation that Frieda has been interned on the Isle of Man. She learns from the prefects that the Fourth have taken to wearing make up and trying to be 'modern', much to the wrath of the Staff.
Before Jo can dispense any advice, however, the whole school is called together by the local Colonel, who informs them that someone has been signalling with torches in the school grounds after blackout. Everyone flatly denies having any knowledge of the affair, but the Colonel's attitude puts their backs up, and Jo makes matters worse with some tactless comments.
The Fourth form discuss the signalling affair, and try to come up with ways of catching the culprits, as they resent having soldiers posted around the grounds and a mistress constantly supervising them. Betty hits upon the idea of Plas Howell possibly having secret passages. They summon Gwensi to question her on the subject, accompanied by Daisy and Beth, but Gwensi says there are no passages.
After leaving the Fourth none the wiser, the Triumvirate discuss why the Fourth wanted to know about secret passages, and Gwensi shows the other two her secret place in the hedge. They decide to explore further back, and stumble upon the hideout of two poachers, Owen Owens and Griffith Owens, who are responsible for the flashing lights.
The poachers catch the girls and threaten to hold them captive for several days unless they promise to say nothing until they have a chance to get away. Beth, mindful that her mother is still recovering from giving birth to baby Janice and would be made ill with worry if she was missing for so long, persuades the others to give in, and they return to school late at night exhausted but unharmed.
Later that night, the air raid siren goes off, and the school shelters in the cellars. Elizabeth Arnett frets over Gillian Linton, for whom she is starting to develop an affection, and Betty laughs at her. Mr Denny leads the school in some songs to keep morale up while the bombing goes on over at Newport and Cardiff, although one bomb drops very close by.
Miss Annersley, standing out on the lawn checking for any building damage, is nearly hit by a projectile which drops in the grounds. Initially fearing an explosive, she quickly realises it is in fact a message in a cylinder with a streamer attached announcing its destination as the Chalet School. The message is from Karl Linders, brother of Emmie and Joanna, hailing them and mentioning the Peace League.
The next day, Colonel Black arrives to interview the Triumvirate, and ticks them off soundly for not fetching the authorities. Gwensi loses her temper with him, and the three girls are sent back to bed while Miss Annersley tries to smooth things over by asking the Colonel's advice on air raid shelters. Betty and Elizabeth have another argument over Gillian Linton, much to the amazement of the Fourth.
When the Head gets back to the study, she meets with Jo, who informs her that Jack is coming home on leave and that Jem has arrived back in England safely with the remaining San staff, having had a job getting away from Guernsey and having to go by way of Ireland. Frieda has also returned from the Isle of Man and will be reunited with Bruno. There is talk of establishing the San in the Welsh mountains.
One evening the staff discuss the cooling of the friendship between Elizabeth and Betty, and Simone reveals to Jo that André is coming to Armiford in two days' time so that they can be married the following day. A delighted Jo insists that she be married from Plas Gwyn, and invites her down the following day to make a wedding dress.
Jo, Frieda and Madge help Simone make her dress and plans for the wedding and honeymoon, as well as arrange rooms for her to live in for when André has leave.
The book ends with Simone and André's wedding in Armiford.

Thoughts on this book? What do you think of EBD's decision to move the school again so soon? Do you think Armiford was a good location? We have a friendship being established between the Triumvirate, and one cooling between Betty and Elizabeth; what do you think of these portrayals? Do you like all the war and Home Front details? What about the poachers storyline, and the message from Karl Linders?

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School Goes To It
PostPosted: 24 Apr 2017, 21:54 
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I suppose she had no choice: the CS reopened in Guernsey at the end of August 1939, and the Nazis took Guernsey in June 1940. Poor EBD probably had loads of wonderful ideas for the CS crowd's new life in the land of the La Rochelle crowd, and never got chance to use them!

This is a real war book: there's very little in it that isn't directly related to the war, apart from Elizabeth and Betty's falling out and we don't really see much of that. It's the only one that is: Highland Twins, Lavender and Gay are much more about school events and personal issues. So it's a brilliant piece of social history, with the girls getting involved in the Dig for Victory campaign and Enid talking about knitting socks, etc. I'd like to have seen Madge and Joey being more involved in the war effort, though. I appreciate that they'd have been exempt from compulsory war work because they had young children, but I feel that Madge in particular would have got involved with the "Jambusters" (Women's Institute members getting stuck in on the Home Front) or something similar. Maybe she did, and Joey too, but it's not mentioned.

I'm not sure how likely it is that a Luftwaffe bomber would have dropped a message for the school :roll:, but never mind.

I like Simone's wedding, but I wish that EBD'd let her parents and sister be there. It's not as if they were absent because of the war - hadn't they gone on holiday? (I try to ignore the infamous comment about Simone being "too dear and sweet" to remain single!)

It must have been very strange writing all this in almost real time, and not knowing what on earth was going to happen.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School Goes To It
PostPosted: 24 Apr 2017, 22:24 
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By chance, I happened to re-read this for the first time in a while the other day. I know a lot of people on these boards find Joey annoying, always dropping in on the school etc. I don't really mind Joey myself, but it did lead me to wonder whether the root of this might have started in this book. There's a passage where the staff are chatting in the staffroom, and Joey's also present (plus triplets playing on the rug). There's no real explanation given for Joey to be there, however on reflection, Jo is aged 21/22 and has limited other adults for company (aside from Frieda except when she's interned), since Jack is away on the front line, many of the staff are now her peers (Simone, Mary Burnett, Grizel), so perhaps in this book it would make sense for a lonely young mother whose husband is away, and who's moved to a new area, to go and visit her friends for company. The war lasts 6 years, so I could believe that visiting the school and staying involved in daily activity might be a habit that evolved from this period, when perhaps there was more reason for it.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School Goes To It
PostPosted: 24 Apr 2017, 23:13 
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That makes a lot of sense. It would have been completely natural for Jo to visit her friends regularly, and habits, once formed, are fiendishly hard to break, even if one wants to do so. And I can't see any reason why she would have wanted to stop the visits....

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School Goes To It
PostPosted: 24 Apr 2017, 23:20 
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Interesting point about Jo, dvsdab - very true to life, but then I think Goes to It really is. It's slightly breathless, and full of details of wartime life, rather like a Mass Observation Diary. I love that we're shown glimpses of things from a number of different points of view - from bored fourteen-year-olds wanting to try lipstick and the latest way of wearing a headscarf, and Gwensi's natural resentment at losing her home and her half-brother, to the blustering Col Black, so ill-at-ease interviewing the school, and the cameraderie of the air-raid night in the cellars.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School Goes To It
PostPosted: 24 Apr 2017, 23:55 
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If Frieda was interned then why wouldn't Joey's Anna be also ?


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School Goes To It
PostPosted: 25 Apr 2017, 00:34 
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Honey&nuts wrote:
If Frieda was interned then why wouldn't Joey's Anna be also ?


They wouldn't dare! How would Joey manage without her? Why was Anna not interred though?

I found this a moving book and a nostalgic one. Some of the readers must have had their own homes bombed and although the CS was not bombed the readers must have felt that at least the CS girls were in the same situation.

All the war details and information about life around 1940 in Britain so interesting.

I think EBD portrayed well Elizabeth and Betty. Then one matured and changed but not the other.

Robin and Daisy interact well with each other and with Jo. It is also good to see the friendship of Daisy, Beth and Gwensi because all three were lacking friends before.

The La Rochelle people are now quite well integrated into the CS series.

A bit too much of a coincidence the capsule or whatever it was actually landing in the school grounds. Congrats though to EBD for not dropping other nationalities at what must have been a patriotic time. I am not condemning other nationalities here - all human beings together - but I think EBD comes over in the wartime books as a person ahead of her times - a good person who does not condemn or stir hate just for thexsake of doing so.

I so envy the ease with which Joey manages her family of three!


Last edited by Audrey25 on 25 Apr 2017, 00:46, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School Goes To It
PostPosted: 25 Apr 2017, 00:44 
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It sounds as if internment wasn't exactly the most efficient of operations, and I gather that exceptions were sometimes made. In fact even in the book, Jo comments that Maria and Frau Marani have not been interned, nor Gottfried and Gisela. "That's what I can't understand - why they should leave Gottfried and take Frieda, who is his sister." Possibly because Gottfried is a doctor, or maybe it was Jem's connections again...

There's a link to one young man's experiences of being interned on the Isle of Man here.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School Goes To It
PostPosted: 25 Apr 2017, 03:38 
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This piece of revisionist history always annoyed me. Napoleon in his time was feared and hated in the same way Hitler was/is regarded.

Quote:
Oh, what a world it is! And all because of one man’s ambition!’
‘That is probably very much what your great-great-great-grandmother said at the time of the Napoleonic Wars,’ returned Miss Annersley drily.
‘Napoleon didn’t use poison gas; and he didn’t bomb helpless cities either,’ retorted Jo, firing up in defence of that other would-be world conqueror who had always been a hero of hers.
‘Aeroplanes and poison gas weren’t invented in his time. We can’t know what he would have done with them if they had been,’ replied the Head, ringing the bell...


I wonder if EBD/Joey knew that three days after the fall of France in 1940, Hitler went to visit the same tomb that she visited in School. Napoleon was apparently his hero as well.

dvsdab wrote:
There's a passage where the staff are chatting in the staffroom, and Joey's also present (plus triplets playing on the rug).


I think the staff are so close to her that they regard her as one of themselves so she drops in to see them constantly.

But when she interrupts the meeting with the Colonel she goes a bit to far. It really is none of her business and she should have packed up the babies and gone home.

Alison H wrote:
I'm not sure how likely it is that a Luftwaffe bomber would have dropped a message for the school :roll:, but never mind.

I like Simone's wedding, but I wish that EBD'd let her parents and sister be there. It's not as if they were absent because of the war - hadn't they gone on holiday? (I try to ignore the infamous comment about Simone being "too dear and sweet" to remain single!)


And Karl manages to drop the message in exactly the right place! :shock:

Getting the parents out of the way is EBD's method of allowing Joey to take over Simone's wedding.

By all means help her with the dress and breakfast, but arranging to have the entire Bethany/Russell clan of kids as her bridesmaids is going a bit too far. If you read the passage, she 'asks' but sounds more like "I've arranged it already."

Audrey25 wrote:
I think EBD portrayed well Elizabeth and Betty. Then one matured and changed but not the other.


I really like that as well as it is very realistic when one person starts to mature and the other does not. As well as the fact that this storyline is not just dropped and we see the final result of the splintering of this friendship.

Cheers,
Joyce

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School Goes To It
PostPosted: 25 Apr 2017, 06:03 
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Honey&nuts wrote:
If Frieda was interned then why wouldn't Joey's Anna be also ?

Because it seems to have been totally haphazard. My parents were not interned, some of their friends were, not always both husband and wife, sometimes the one, sometimes the other. They all shared pretty much the same history of fleeing from the nazis.

No apparent rhyme or reason to the decisions.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School Goes To It
PostPosted: 25 Apr 2017, 07:03 
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As other people have said, internment was completely haphazard. Some Germans, Austrians and Italians who'd been in the country for many years, and had British children and grandchildren serving in HM Armed Forces, were interned, whilst people who'd only arrived in the country recently and therefore might have fallen more under suspicion weren't.

David Baddiel, the comedian, has written an interesting book about his grandfather's internment. His grandfather was a Jewish refugee, so how he was suspected of being pro-Nazi seems very odd, but many people were in the same position. But people do tend to get rather panicky in extreme circumstances and the media were seeing spies round every corner. A lot of the internees, like Frieda, were released after a fairly short time when the initial panic died down.

What *is* unrealistic is that the German and Austrian characters were allowed to enter the UK from the Channel Islands with no questions asked when the war had already begun so they were enemy aliens. And it'd be interesting to know how the La Rochelle gang were treated once they returned to Guernsey after the war: apparently there was a fair amount of tension between those who left and those who stayed.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School Goes To It
PostPosted: 25 Apr 2017, 08:51 
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Looking at Simone's wedding although Joey took it over, she gave no help at all on a practical basis. OK she does not like sewing but Madge, Frieda all gave help whilst Joey sits and does her proofs.

She does not even take the message from Simone about the rooms which she could easily have cycled with. Instead she takes Anna away from baking the wedding cake to do it. Why was she not even helping with this or getting on with ordinary chores to free up Anna? She is not even looking after the triplets if I remember rightly. Just getting on with her own activities.

If I have missed something I would be more than pleased to be told because it makes me uncomfortable.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School Goes To It
PostPosted: 25 Apr 2017, 10:14 
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Audrey25 wrote:
Looking at Simone's wedding although Joey took it over, she gave no help at all on a practical basis. OK she does not like sewing but Madge, Frieda all gave help whilst Joey sits and does her proofs.

She does not even take the message from Simone about the rooms which she could easily have cycled with. Instead she takes Anna away from baking the wedding cake to do it. Why was she not even helping with this or getting on with ordinary chores to free up Anna?


Oh my heavens you are right! I just reread the chapter and she doesn't do a thing except make phone calls and boss people around. Oh dear - yet another reason to dislike Joey! :(

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School Goes To It
PostPosted: 25 Apr 2017, 10:34 
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Alison H wrote:

David Baddiel, the comedian, has written an interesting book about his grandfather's internment. His grandfather was a Jewish refugee, so how he was suspected of being pro-Nazi seems very odd, but many people were in the same position.


All the people I mentioned were Jewish, except for my mother.....

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School Goes To It
PostPosted: 25 Apr 2017, 11:21 
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I would rate this as almost equal to Exile in terms of quality. There is so much lovely Home Front detail, Joey is still a lively and interesting young mother who hasn't become all knowing and smug, and the school children are really believable characters. I love the descriptions of them lolling around the garden chatting, sneaking on lipstick, trying to glam themselves up with forbidden headscarves, and generally behaving like real teenagers. This was a real lack in the later books.

I also agree that Joey hanging around the school seemed quite natural at this stage of the series. She had been closely involved with its move to Wales, was settling into an unknown place herself, her sister was still very much in charge of things, and the War time setting allowed for a sense of people sticking closely together.

I also agree, though, that her behaviour regarding Simone's wedding was a bit annoying. She effectively took over; her nieces and nephews as bridesmaids and page boys, her veil, etc etc. Simone didn't seem to make any of the decisions. And I really hate that bit after the wedding where Frieda makes that comment about Simone being 'too dear and sweet to spend the rest of her life teaching'.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School Goes To It
PostPosted: 25 Apr 2017, 12:27 
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Vintagejazz wrote:

er And I really hate that bit after the wedding where Frieda makes that comment about Simone being 'too dear and sweet to spend the rest of her life teaching'.

I have never understood why people get so exercised about this remark. It seems to me to come directly from EBD's own life, reflecting a sense of sadness that she has gone through life alone when she might well have wished for a partner herself.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School Goes To It
PostPosted: 25 Apr 2017, 13:23 
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I think the message it sends out is quite bleak and sad. It implies that unmarried women are not 'dear and sweet' or that teaching is somehow a 'second best' kind of life. The fact that she, herself, was an unmarried teacher makes the remark all the more depressing.

I really dislike it.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School Goes To It
PostPosted: 25 Apr 2017, 13:51 
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I actually like Simone's wedding - I love the wartime haste feel to it, and yet there is still a lovely family atmosphere. I think maybe that was the point EBD was trying to make - that even although what with the war marriages had to be hurried up and sometimes couldn't take place with all the family there, you could still have a lovely day.

This is one of my favourite books and I love the scene where Joey assures the Colonel that she and the babies have not been laying lights.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School Goes To It
PostPosted: 25 Apr 2017, 15:02 
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Frieda's remarks are most unfortunate. The message they send is that a woman is worth nothing if she has not got herself a man. That the "good" women all should be married.

I wonder is this the reason why Joey's age at the time of the triplets' birth is changed from around her 22nd birthday to a year younger in the later editions. This meant she must have been married at 19 instead of 20.

It is sad that EBD thought this but even sadder that she was echoing the opinion of society.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School Goes To It
PostPosted: 25 Apr 2017, 15:35 
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It's interesting that she makes that remark at a time at which women were moving into all sorts of new fields because of the war. There must have been plenty of CS girls who'd only ever intended to go home and "help mother" but found themselves going in a completely different direction. Nancy Wilmot's transformation from fairly lazy person in the Tyrol books to dynamic probable future headmistress in the Swiss books is probably an EBD-ism :lol:, but I like to think that it was because of her experiences in the WRNS.

Is this the book in which Daisy, Robin and some of the younger mistresses help local farmers with the harvesting, or is that in Highland Twins? That's a brilliant example of how people found themselves doing things they'd never have dreamt of getting involved in before the war.

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