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 Post subject: Books: Tom Tackles the Chalet School
PostPosted: 05 Jun 2017, 22:04 
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This week’s discussion thread is on the second novella of the series, Tom Tackles the Chalet School. This was first published in two halves in the Second (1948) and Third Chalet Book for Girls (1949), before being released as a full book in 1955. This story covers the Easter term after Mystery, and introduces twelve year old Tom Gay, who goes on to become a prominent character in the same year as Bride Bettany, Elfie Woodward, Primrose Day et al. Tom, brought up by her father to be as much like a boy as possible, is initially disgusted at the idea of being at school with girls, whom she deems untrustworthy, but after some adventures and misunderstandings, soon settles in to become a Real Chalet School Girl. Notable events:

New girl Tom Gay, brought to the study by her mother on her first day at the CS, makes an immediate impression on Miss Wilson with her boyish attitude and the character in her face. She sends for Bride Bettany to take charge of Tom and show her their dormitory.
Bride is surprised when Tom initially refuses to give her real name, and even more surprised when Matron, on receiving word from Miss Wilson, also calls her Tom.
After being shown around the dormitory, Tom eventually confides in Bride that her real name is Lucinda Muriel, but that she refused to go to school unless she could be called Tom, to which the CS authorities have agreed. Bride agrees not to tell anyone what Tom’s real name is.
A week into the new term, the staff discuss Tom with interest. Miss Wilson explains that Tom’s parents had hoped for a son, but when none came along, her father had tried to make up for it by calling their only daughter Tom and educating her like a boy.
Jo turns up to issue her usual invitation for the new girls’ tea party at Plas Gwyn, and Tom asks Bride why Jo is so involved with the school, believing there is some sentimental reason behind it, as her father has taught her that girls are usually sentimental. Elfie Woodward overhears this and indignantly tells her there is no sentimentality at the CS. She also informs her that Jo is the author Josephine M. Bettany, but Tom has never heard of her.
Tom continues to struggle to fit in, a task not made easier by her uneven previous education; although in Upper Third generally, she takes some subjects with Upper Second, and others with Upper Fourth. She also scorns girls who look after their appearance, although the majority of her form are still too young to care much beyond being tidy enough to pass muster with Matey.
During prep one evening, Anne Webster gets Tom’s attention and makes signs indicating she wants to borrow a rubber. Tom, who has been told by her father that girls think nothing of being underhand and considers making signs and passing notes to fall into that category, speaks aloud as she hands over the rubber, disturbing Daisy, who is taking the prep. Anne owns up that she was the cause of the noise, and after prep is over the form tell Tom that talking is not allowed in prep. When Tom says she won’t make signs or pass notes, the others point out that the no-talking rule is to avoid disturbing the others, and that they own up at once if they’re caught. Tom goes off to supper thinking that perhaps her father has got it wrong about girls being underhand.
Tom writes to her mother admitting that the CS isn’t too bad after all, and that she and Bride went to tea at Jo’s. Bride has lent her one of Jo’s books and she admits it isn’t such muck as most girls’ books are.
Bride writes to her mother in India asking when they will be coming home, and tells her that though she thinks Tom is odd, she rather likes her.
Daisy writes to Robin at Oxford, relating the story of what happened with Tom and Anne in prep, and stating that ever since then Tom has been scowling at her whenever they meet and gone out of her way to be rude to her. She can’t think what else she may have done to get across Tom except for the incident at prep, and asks Robin for advice, as she doesn’t want to worry Jo, who is not well and is having trouble with Stephen teething.
Miss Wilson writes to Miss Annersley with the same problem, and states that Tom’s attitude is beginning to affect both her work and her appetite and cannot be allowed to continue. She too asks for advice on how to handle the situation.
Robin replies to Daisy in a postcard, advising her to get Peggy to get Bride to tackle Tom about what’s bothering her.
Miss Annersley’s reply to Miss Wilson advises that she get Matey to take Tom out of school for a day or two, which she has good reason for doing if she isn’t eating.
Mollie Bettany writes to Peggy and Bride announcing that Dick has resigned from the Forestry and they will be returning to England in time for Easter, as an old Bettany great-uncle has recently died and left The Quadrant, a huge old house on the North Devon coast near Bideford, to Dick.
It is revealed that Tom’s attitude towards Daisy stems from some remarks Miss Linton had made to Upper Third about not talking and making signs in prep. Tom believes that Daisy must have sneaked to Miss Linton about the rubber incident in prep, and is particularly upset because she has begun to develop a hero-worship for Daisy.
Matron sends Tom to bed in the dormitory after another non-eaten meal, and Vanna Ozanne comes up to get a clean handkerchief. She remarks in passing to Tom about Daisy being a sport, setting Tom to wondering just why she minds so much if Daisy is a sneak, given she has very little to do with her, being much older and a prefect.
After reading some of Jo’s books to pass the time while in bed, and finding that her girl characters are just as decent and honourable as boys, Tom plucks up the courage to ask Matey if girls really are like that. Matey counsels her that young girls are just like boys in many ways, and that while soppiness isn’t encouraged at the CS, a younger girl having admiration for an older girl isn’t a bad thing for either of them if the older girl uses her influence wisely.
Heavy fog keeps the school penned up indoors, and the Sixth forms and Staff organise a gym tournament, followed by a paper games competition, to allow the girls to blow off steam and tire them out.
Two days later, the fog has cleared but snow has fallen. As it is a clear day, Miss Wilson sends all the girls out for a walk, divided into small groups each in charge of a Senior. Daisy leads a group containing Tom, Peggy, Bride, Sybil, Elfie, Daphne Russell and the Ozanne twins to the Round House to drop a parcel off. Madge advises them to get back quickly as more snow is coming, and offers to keep all the girls bar Tom and Elfie until Jem gets back from the San to run them home at one o’clock.
Daisy, Tom and Elfie set off back to school to let Miss Wilson know the others are staying at the Round House, as the phone line is down so they can’t just ring up, and they don’t want her to worry. On the way, just as the snow is starting again, Elfie sprains her ankle, pulling on Daisy’s arm and wrenching it badly as she falls. Daisy is forced to carry Elfie on her back through the snowstorm, earning Tom’s admiration at how she is getting on with things without complaining about her arm. They are within half a mile of Plas Howell when a car comes past; it is none other than Jem with the rest of the party who were left behind at the Round House, as it is now after one o’clock. He takes them all back to the school, and Tom, Daisy and Elfie are sent to the San.
While Daisy is recuperating in the San, Tom comes to visit her and asks her point blank if she sneaked to Miss Linton about the prep incident. An astonished Daisy says of course not, and reiterates that girls are just as strict over sneaking as boys are. Tom apologises for thinking she was a sneak and they shake hands.
During prep one evening, Nella Ozanne falls backwards while tilting her chair and bumps her head. Matey sends her to bed despite her protests that it is Hobbies night and she is urgent to get on with gluing together the dolls’ furniture she is making for the Sale. Tom, who has already made a dolls’ house and is finishing up a box, ponders whether she could spare enough time from her own project to do the gluing for her, and makes up her mind to it when she overhears the Triumvirate discussing Jo’s latest idea; to award a signed Adrian Barrass seascape to the form which has the best stall at the Sale.
The school buckles down to making items for the Sale. One night shortly before it is to be held, Miss Wilson, Madge, Matey and Mlle de Lachenais go to the stockroom holding all the goods to be sold in order to do some pricing. Tom, woken up by a nightmare brought on from eating contraband of Primrose Day’s, hears them and assumes they are burglars. She sneaks down and locks them in, then is so overcome with fright that she dives back to bed and falls asleep without telling anyone what she has done. The staff are left locked in until Hilary Burn finally hears them and lets them out.
The Sale is held with an Alice in Wonderland theme, and the Third forms win the seascape prize for the best stall. Tom’s dolls’ house, under the name Tomadit, is won by a countess, Lady Erroll, who donates it to the children’s ward at the San. In total the school raises £180 for the San.
Two days before the end of term, Dick and Mollie, now back in England, arrive at the school to see Peggy and Bride, and persuade Miss Wilson to give the girls a half-day holiday so that they can get to know Peggy and Bride’s friends. Jo also confides to Hilary Burn that she is expecting again.

So, thoughts on Tom and how she settles in? Do you like the storyline about her admiration for Daisy? What about the snowstorm? Did you like the subplot of the Bettanys arriving back from India? What about the Sale?

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Tom Tackles the Chalet School
PostPosted: 05 Jun 2017, 22:18 
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I like Daisy going to Robin for advice. It looked as if Robin was being lined up to play a big part in the series as an adult ... but then she was shoved out of the way :(.

There's never a big Anti-Soppist storyline in the CS, in the way that there is in the Dimsie books or in EBD's own A Head Girl's Difficulties, but this book and Rosalie do seem to be mainly about admiring people and Grand Passions. I'm not sure that it's the best of storylines, but I really like Daisy and I'm glad that she gets to be Tom's heroine :lol:.

Tom would probably be on the Jeremy Kyle show if she were around now, though! It's amazing that she turns out so well. What sort of parent teaches their daughter that girls are all silly and dishonourable? Canon Gay seems to have had serious issues :roll: :lol:. And didn't it occur to Mrs Gay that it wasn't really ideal for Tom to be effectively taught that being a girl was a bad thing? Tom turns into a lovely character, but it's surprising that she wasn't completely screwed up!

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Tom Tackles the Chalet School
PostPosted: 05 Jun 2017, 23:38 
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I liked this book although it was quite obvious where one part ended and the other started. At least though it gave us one more Armishire book and a book with Bride and friends.

Tom is straightforward and honest but so too were Bride & Co although maybe in a slightly less obvious way. I wonder if Tom's father was completely wrong in his views of girls? I don't have brothers, sons etc but I have heard that boys are more straightforward and easier to bring up than girls ???

Tom could have gone in with a crowd of girls who would have made mincemeat of her although that is probably far more true of nowadays than the late forties. On the other hand the people in my working life I found the most unpleasant and bi----est were a group of very macho men.

I guess it was having her father's views rammed down her throat and her own youth and inexperience with people that made Tom doubt Daisy.

Love all the letters. Love the way Tom called her parents mater and pater although this was maybe dropped in the Armada version.

Interesting seeing Hilary Burn as games mistress and it would have been good to have her in a few more books. She seemed to be very much part of the inner circle though and I wonder what the other mistresses thought.

Obvious this book was written in more innocent times regarding Hilary arriving back at the school about midnight as Jack's car had broken down when he was giving her a lift home. I think eyebrows would be raised if this happened nowadays.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Tom Tackles the Chalet School
PostPosted: 06 Jun 2017, 03:24 
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Aquabird wrote:
Tom eventually confides in Bride that her real name is Lucinda Muriel


Always loved that Tom's real name was so soppy :D Apologies to anyone called Lucinda. Or Muriel.

Quote:
Tom goes off to supper thinking that perhaps her father has got it wrong about girls being underhand.


One has to wonder what on earth her father thinks of his WIFE to teach his daughter these things.

Quote:
Daisy leads a group containing Tom, Peggy, Bride, Sybil, Elfie, Daphne Russell and the Ozanne twins to the Round House to drop a parcel off. Madge advises them to get back quickly as more snow is coming, and offers to keep all the girls bar Tom and Elfie until Jem gets back from the San to run them home at one o’clock.


It's so contrived :D So many of the group stay with Madge it makes no sense for them ALL not to stay.

Quote:
to award a signed Adrian Barrass seascape to the form which has the best stall at the Sale.


do we ever hear about this award again?

Overall, I absolutely love this book. Tom is such a great character and she remains so funny and original throughout the rest of the series. Even though she changes, she doesn't 'reform' and is blunt and forthright right to the end.

Does anyone know why the Armada paperback with Tom on the cover sliding down a staircase railing, is so expensive? It's on Fishpond for A$233 and on Abe it goes up to 157 pounds. Was it a small print run? Or are those sellers taking the piss?

Cheers,
Joyce

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Tom Tackles the Chalet School
PostPosted: 06 Jun 2017, 03:42 
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This has one of my favourite exchanges of the whole series in it:

Quote:
“I’ve just been having a chat with Elsie Carr, their P.T. mistress - remember her in Tirol, Daisy, when you were a very small girl? - and asked what the weather was like here as at their end it was coming down wholesale. I told her that hockey was definitely off, but offered her water polo in exchange, which she declined with regrets and thanks.”


I just think that's gorgeous, and deserves the shouts of laughter that greet it as it's so wildly unexpected! It's also nice to see what another old girl is doing.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Tom Tackles the Chalet School
PostPosted: 06 Jun 2017, 14:04 
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Joyce wrote:
Does anyone know why the Armada paperback with Tom on the cover sliding down a staircase railing, is so expensive? It's on Fishpond for A$233 and on Abe it goes up to 157 pounds. Was it a small print run? Or are those sellers taking the piss?


I think they must be extracting the Michael, yes. I picked mine up on eBay a year or so ago for under £3.

This isn't one of my favourites of the books but I reread it last week. It definitely ties up a lot of plot ends that were missing from reading later books.

It was nice to see the return of the Bettanys. Do I recall rightly that Bride had bought a set of knitted reins for Maeve? I'm not sure whether these were for restraining small kids or for playing horsie. Either way, seemed a strange gift for a sibling old enough to go to school.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Tom Tackles the Chalet School
PostPosted: 06 Jun 2017, 16:17 
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I'm not as familiar with this as with most of the other CS books, but this seems the right place to air my doubts about Tom. Her parents wanted a boy, so treated her as such, I suppose people did stuff like that. But how fortunate that Tom turned out to be tall and strong and good at woodwork and cricket! What if she had been a physically small and frail girl, in the Rosalie mould, who actually enjoyed traditional female pursuits? I don't mind EBD creating the scenario of a girl being brought up to despise things girly, but I'm uneasy with Nature having considerately co-operated!


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Tom Tackles the Chalet School
PostPosted: 07 Jun 2017, 04:44 
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This one's a favourite of mine. It's one of the few that I read as a kid, and it also features my favourite group of the series.

I will say that Tom's father is a piece of work, though. First, he makes it clear that he really wanted a boy and she's second best. Then he tries to mould her into a typical boy, to the point of renaming her. And he teaches her that girls are inherently dishonourable and foolish, so she's lucky he's raising her as one of the superior gender.

It's a good thing that Tom is basically a level-headed, even tempered girl, or her introduction to the CS would have been a disaster of Eustacia-like proportions. I could see a different personality going on about how horrible and sneaky girls were and alienating everyone else, refusing to attend domestic economy classes or participate in things like dance nights, getting into fist fights, and otherwise being obnoxious.

Jack Lambert's tomboy tendencies seem much more natural - she was naturally inclined that way, and bonded with her father over tinkering with machinery. I agree that it's lucky Tom was reasonably inclined towards sports and math, and not interested in frilly stuff, or she could have been very miserable growing up.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Tom Tackles the Chalet School
PostPosted: 07 Jun 2017, 17:49 
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AilidhNoor wrote:
Joyce wrote:
Does anyone know why the Armada paperback with Tom on the cover sliding down a staircase railing, is so expensive? It's on Fishpond for A$233 and on Abe it goes up to 157 pounds. Was it a small print run? Or are those sellers taking the piss?


I think they must be extracting the Michael, yes. I picked mine up on eBay a year or so ago for under £3.



It's relatively rare. Being one of the later hardbacks, there wasn't the same number of hardback reprints as there were with the earlier hardbacks. There was (I believe) only a single Armada reprint (the other Armadas that were only reprinted once are equally expensive ). The GGB reprint did bring down prices but that's been out-of-print for some years as well.

There's a clear demand for it - it comes up over-and-again when people are looking for books to complete their collection.

While I'd say the top prices are ridiculous when you can get a hardback much more cheaply, even the lowest prices are too high for most people's pockets. There are lucky buys around, as there are with many books, but £3 isn't a routine price for Tom by any means.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Tom Tackles the Chalet School
PostPosted: 08 Jun 2017, 03:04 
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Victoria wrote:
There's a clear demand for it - it comes up over-and-again when people are looking for books to complete their collection.
...There are lucky buys around, as there are with many books, but £3 isn't a routine price for Tom by any means.


I remember when I got my paperback copy in Hong Kong before GGBP had started up. I casually mentioned on a CS forum that there were a couple more copies still there. I guess that's why I could not figure out why it was considered rare. Now we know - they were all sent out to Asia! :D

Within a day, there were frantic requests for copies and I ended up buying up every copy of the book the store had and (ironically!) sending them back to the UK.

From one fan to another, I only charged the price of the book and postage but I could easily have charged a bomb and people would have been willing to pay it.

Cheers,
Joyce

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Tom Tackles the Chalet School
PostPosted: 08 Jun 2017, 12:05 
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Victoria wrote:
There's a clear demand for it - it comes up over-and-again when people are looking for books to complete their collection.
...There are lucky buys around, as there are with many books, but £3 isn't a routine price for Tom by any means.


Good grief. I'll bear that in mind if I'm ever short of cash then :)


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Tom Tackles the Chalet School
PostPosted: 09 Jun 2017, 10:40 
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I have to say I didn't really enjoy this book. In fact, I don't think I even finished it. It had a really disjointed feel to it, and just didn't work for me.

I found Peggy and Bride's absolute delight and excitement at their parents returning home totally unbelievable. They would have barely remembered them, and would surely have been quite upset and anxious about leaving Madge and Jem who would have been like parents to them for most of their childhood?f

Also, in the next book, Three Go..... Molly and Dick are still out in India and the children are still living at the Round House, so it doesn't even make sense.

There was also a statement from a pregnant Joey about her being pleased that Stephen would have a brother. But she would have had no way of knowing, at that time, the sex of her unborn child. Another slip by EBD, forgetting this book was being written out of sequence?


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Tom Tackles the Chalet School
PostPosted: 09 Jun 2017, 11:04 
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I find that odd too. We know that Dick and Mollie have kept in touch by letter every step of the way, unlike Carola Johnstone's parents who didn't even seem sure how old she was, but they'd last seen their eldest children when Jackie/John was a baby, Bride was just coming up for three and Peggy and Rix, who'd already been with Madge and Jem for over a year by then, were just coming up for four. It's now over a decade later. Obviously it wasn't Dick and Mollie's fault that they couldn't get home to visit because of the war, but it was Madge and Jem, and Rosa, who'd brought the Bettany children up. Would they really have been so excited at the thought of leaving the family they'd been part of all that time and going to live with people they only knew through letters?

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Tom Tackles the Chalet School
PostPosted: 09 Jun 2017, 11:13 
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If Madge and Jem have done their job properly, then yes, they would have been over the moon at seeing their parents again, and being a family.

There were endless letters, presumably photos, and Madge and Jem will have always kept in front of them the knowledge that they are not the Bettanys' parents, but loving relatives.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Tom Tackles the Chalet School
PostPosted: 09 Jun 2017, 15:15 
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Who wouldn't want to be with their real parents, instead of sharing someone else's, no matter how loving they've been? And instead of being part of a huge family, there would now be just a few of them to reap all that parental affection.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Tom Tackles the Chalet School
PostPosted: 09 Jun 2017, 17:12 
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I think Mollie and Dick are in Australia in Three Go for whatever reason. I'm surprised that Mollie didn't know that Bride wore glasses and Maeve didn't know which girl was which. Surely they would have known from letters and snaps.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Tom Tackles the Chalet School
PostPosted: 09 Jun 2017, 17:40 
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Were the glasses a recent thing? It may be that with the move from India to Australia, and then Australia to the UK, the letter with that piece of news just hadn't caught up with Dick and Mollie.

It's a while since I've read this, so I'm writing from memory. I'm glad Daisy gets a chance to shine; she's one of the characters we would no doubt have seen more of if it hadn't been for the Anschluss and the War.

I think Tom's character was initially a bit of a cliche - the girl who was like a boy, like George in the Famous Five. But over the years she very much grew into her own person, and by the time they're all prefects she's one of my favourite characters.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Tom Tackles the Chalet School
PostPosted: 09 Jun 2017, 18:57 
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JayB wrote:
......she's one of my favourite characters.

She is, of course, definitely one of mine! :D

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Tom Tackles the Chalet School
PostPosted: 10 Jun 2017, 03:46 
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Mel wrote:
I think Mollie and Dick are in Australia in Three Go for whatever reason.


There are massive EBDisms because of the book being split and then being written out of order. So Mollie and Dick end up returning to the UK, going to Australia and returning again! :D

And are we ever told WHY they go to Australia? It wasn't just get on a plane back then - it would have taken days by boat and one assumes you would need a good reason to go.

And if you had furlong after 8 long years wouldn't you want to go home to see your kids? Not take a sideways trip to Australia then back to the UK.

Vintagejazz wrote:
There was also a statement from a pregnant Joey about her being pleased that Stephen would have a brother.


Throughout the series Joey wants a particular sex or twins, and lo and behold! they arrive. So maybe it was more a wish than an actual thing.

cestina wrote:
If Madge and Jem have done their job properly, then yes, they would have been over the moon at seeing their parents again, and being a family.


You also get the impression that because of Sybil's initial attitude, they were made to feel unwelcome and Madge didn't dare show too much affection towards them. While this did change, I imagine the affects would linger.

I can easily see children building up a fantasy of a happy family life when their parents come home.

Cheers,
Joyce

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Tom Tackles the Chalet School
PostPosted: 10 Jun 2017, 11:52 
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And are we ever told WHY they go to Australia? It wasn't just get on a plane back then - it would have taken days by boat and one assumes you would need a good reason to go.


Immediately after the war, all the big passenger liners were being used to bring home troops who had been serving overseas*. It might have been that they needed to leave India, and Australia was the only place they could get a passage to. Or they were advised it would be easier to get a passage home from Australia. South Africa might have been a more logical place for them to go, but when was EBD ever logical?

They'd have been leaving India regardless of any legacy, because of independence.

*My uncle served in Kenya. I remember him saying the ship home was so crowded, they had to sleep in shifts. He said no-one cared, they just wanted to get home.


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