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 Post subject: Re: Books: Peggy of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 10 Jul 2017, 18:31 
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When I was young I don't ever remember particularly admiring the characters. There was absolutely no CS character that I was aware of liking or admiring - not Jo, not Madge, not M-L, none of them. I was dimly aware of the fact I should have a favourite triplet but although I disliked Margot and Len, I didn't particularly like Con either.

I wasn't aware of this until I came on the forums 15 years ago and found all the stuff about individuals and at that point I was middle aged and still indifferent mainly to the characters.

I read the books for the stories, for the CS, not the people.

I can understand people disliking Jo and Mary-Lou who really stirred it but Peggy!!? Does this mean people are not likeable unless they have a bit of the "bad" about them? This might actually explain why it's nice, vulnerable people who are bullied.

Edited to add - I guess I never liked or admired them as they were not real people. They were characters in a book. They did not exist.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Peggy of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 10 Jul 2017, 19:55 
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I wouldn't say I admired or looked up to any of the characters, but I was certainly interested in them and wanted to know What Happened Next (the series factor), otherwise I don't think I would have read the books.

Like all of the St Briavels books, with their tennis matches and rowing boats and midnight escapades etc., I find Peggy more of a conventional school story than EBD's books often are. I wonder if that's why some people it find it less engaging that other books?

And yes, I would agree that Peggy is a touch on the passive side for an EBD Head Girl, at least in this book. But I still think she makes a much better job of it than her own younger sister, Maeve, for instance.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Peggy of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 10 Jul 2017, 20:15 
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Vintagejazz wrote:
There's a certain drabness about this book. After the excitement of the war years and the move to the Island, this book just seems to slump and drag a bit.

I suppose EBD had been marking time since the end of the war, hoping that it would be possible to move the school back to Austria. It's not long after this she took the plunge and decided on the Swiss move. She may already have been thinking about it, and planning to use Peggy and Co as the main characters in Oberland, hence Peggy being HG at sixteen - EBD already knew she wouldn't be around to do it at the right age.

And the late 1940s was a pretty drab time anyway - lots of things still rationed, not much to buy in the shops.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Peggy of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 11 Jul 2017, 02:36 
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I think there is a difference between stories and real life in the type of characters that we find interesting. In real life, people who are nice, well behaved people without a lot of drama are generally very nice to be around, and I'll take that over people who are narratively interesting but frustrating when I'm picking friends.

But in literature, you usually need the central character to be strong enough to drive the story. There needs to be some sort of character growth, something that's interesting to read about. In Girls Own, it's often a character who is likeable, but struggles with personal faults and it's those characteristics and the struggle that drive the story (Joey's impulsiveness, Anne Shirley's overly active imagination and sensitivity, Jo March's temper and tomboyishness). Or you can have a character who is sensible and nice, but is struggling with some sort of external challenge, and sometimes making mistakes along the way. Cecily in the first Abbey book might fit in that category. Or you can have an unpleasant/unhappy character who is redeemed over the course of the story (like Eustacia). They're not necessarily sympathetic, but you known that the story is going to end with a change.

With someone like Len, there's nothing about her that really drives the story. Things happen to and around her, but she starts out basically perfect, and she stays that way. And I think EBD is too fond of her to show her in a negative light, so even things like the way Len handles Jack, which could make an interesting story about Len learning how to back off on responsibility, and that keeping someone out of trouble isn't always good for them, are shown as Len being wonderful.

Mary-Lou, on the other hand, is a much stronger character. We see her mess up as a middle in a realistic way. Her desire to help people is very much a part of her basic character, and we see her struggling with how to do so effectively, asking advice when she has troubles. And particularly when she's younger, she has conflicts with classmates when she gets a bit too bossy.

In this book, Peggy is a fairly passive lead character. Things happen to and around her, but she leaves the action to other people. That works fine for a secondary character, but not so much for a lead.

Gillian Linton works well as a nice, pleasant girl for her one book. She has a conflict - worrying about her mother's health, and her sister, and having to let go a bit from micro-managing Joyce. But once that arc is over she steps back - another three or four books with Gillian as the main character would be kind of bland.

In the Abbey books, I don't think it's a coincidence that Joy gets a lot more screen time than Joan after the first book or two. In real life I'd vastly prefer to be friends or neighbours to Joan than Joy, but book after book of Joan being responsible and mature and overly conscientious would be a lot less interesting than Joy's volatility (as is seen in the Retrospectives).

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Peggy of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 11 Jul 2017, 05:56 
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Brilliant summing up, Jennifer.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Peggy of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 11 Jul 2017, 10:14 
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Audrey25 wrote:
When I was young I don't ever remember particularly admiring the characters. There was absolutely no CS character that I was aware of liking or admiring - not Jo, not Madge, not M-L, none of them. I was dimly aware of the fact I should have a favourite triplet but although I disliked Margot and Len, I didn't particularly like Con either.

I wasn't aware of this until I came on the forums 15 years ago and found all the stuff about individuals and at that point I was middle aged and still indifferent mainly to the characters.

I read the books for the stories, for the CS, not the people.

I can understand people disliking Jo and Mary-Lou who really stirred it but Peggy!!? Does this mean people are not likeable unless they have a bit of the "bad" about them? This might actually explain why it's nice, vulnerable people who are bullied.

Edited to add - I guess I never liked or admired them as they were not real people. They were characters in a book. They did not exist.


I don't think people find Peggy annoying because she's nice. It's more the way EBD tries to make her absolutely perfect and gives her no flaws; not even untidiness or being a bit scatterbrained or anything like that.

Also, the kind of people who make nice real life friends and neighbours don't always make good protagonists.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Peggy of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 11 Jul 2017, 10:17 
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Sorry, Jennifer put it so much better.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Peggy of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 11 Jul 2017, 10:54 
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I don't know ... I think it's better than when she tries to invent flaws for the sake of it, like Len supposedly being untidy when it doesn't fit with her nature, or the weird references to Con stealing sugar :lol: .

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Peggy of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 11 Jul 2017, 11:26 
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Alison H wrote:
I don't know ... I think it's better than when she tries to invent flaws for the sake of it, like Len supposedly being untidy when it doesn't fit with her nature, or the weird references to Con stealing sugar :lol: .


I agree this 'telling not showing' business is very annoying. But with schoolgirl Joey, for instance, she created a character who had believable flaws while also having lots of good characteristics. It made her a believable and likeable protagonist who could really carry a story.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Peggy of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 12 Jul 2017, 01:06 
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The way I think of it, a good character has the flaws of their virtues; they're the opposite sides of the same personality.

So Mary-Lou is a born leader, supremely self confident, and a very strong personality, and kind and caring and quick to take action. The flaw side of that is bossiness, a tendency to interfere where she isn't needed, and occasionally rubbing people wrong way.

Joey is gregarious, vivid charming, and vivid, with strongly held likes, the flaw side of that is a need to be the centre of attention, being scatterbrained, and strongly held dislikes.

Len is a classic type-A achiever. The typical flaws associated with that are a tendency to anxiety, a need to make sure that everything goes well (at least on the surface) and difficulty with failure or saying no to people.

Peggy is a mother's-right-hand type. She has a strong sense of responsibility, is well behaved, feminine and domestically inclined. The flip side of that is a tendency to bossiness towards her juniors, being a bit lost when she has to move outside her usual environment, and a subconscious conviction that her way is the best way.

With young Joey and Mary-Lou, their flaws are given stage with their virtues, and are part of the story. With Len and Peggy and older Joey we see hints of it, but we mostly see the virtues, or flaws presented as virtues, so they seem unbalanced and not as well rounded or interesting a character.

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