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 Post subject: Books: The Chalet School and Barbara
PostPosted: 28 Aug 2017, 23:57 
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This week’s feature book is The Chalet School and Barbara, first published in 1954 and picking up more or less where Joey Goes left off, covering the school’s first winter term in the Alps since Jo Returns. With the school set up, the San already in business and the Maynards settled in at Freudesheim, it’s time for the school to arrive en masse. Among them is this book’s protagonist, Barbara Chester, younger sister of Beth and Nancy, whose frail health has prevented her from attending school until now. She chums up with her cousin Vi Lucy and Mary-Lou and Co., but it isn’t all plain sailing for her when classmate Mary Woodley becomes jealous of her friendship with Vi. Notable events:

The book opens with Beth and Barbara on the train heading to Basle, the day before term is due to begin. Beth is going to Freudesheim to take up her post as nursery governess to the Maynards, and Barbara is to stay there as a day-girl for a term to break her into school gently. She declares to Beth that she intends to stand on her own feet at school and won’t come running to her for help all the time.
At Basle, the girls are met by Frieda, who takes them to her flat for lunch and shows them Gretchen and Carlotta. She informs them that they cannot go to Freudesheim as Len, Con and Charles are not well, and Jo fears measles. Just then, Jo rings up to confirm that it is in fact German measles, and while Beth can go to Freudesheim as she has had it, Barbara can’t and must go straight to the school as a boarder, much to Barbara’s delight.
Rosalie Dene meets the girls off the train at Interlaken and shows them the sights before they head up to the Platz, where she drops Beth off at Freudesheim and takes Barbara on to the school.
The rest of the girls make the journey to the school, and Mary-Lou and her gang discuss the new gentian blue uniform among other things, remarking that they were not happy at first at losing the brown and flame to Glendower House, but admitting that the new colours have grown on them. Buses take them from Interlaken up the motor road to the Platz, and Miss Burnett tells the girls that there are thirty or forty chalets, a couple of shops and two churches there, in addition to the school and San, with the Maynards living in an ex-guest house and the Graves and Peters sharing another near the San.
Barbara, having spent the night in her cubicle in Leafy dormy, is thrilled when she wakes up the next morning and realises where she is. Miss Annersley enters and invites her on a walk, and Barbara heads off to have a bath and then get dressed. Matron arrives, and is unimpressed both at Barbara’s lack of hair-brushing skills and the messy state she left the bathroom in. After showing Barbara how she expects things to be done, she sends Barbara off on her walk.
Miss Annersley takes Barbara to Freudesheim, where she exchanges a few words with Beth from a safe distance over the fence, telling her how she has got on so far. She spends the rest of the day with the staff and helping to unpack the stationery, before at last the other girls arrive, and Vi, who has made up her mind to look after her, brings her in with the Gang.
Barbara shows Leafy’s inhabitants up to it, and soon finds herself the centre of attention as the girls realise she has had time to learn her way around and pick up sundry pieces of information thanks to her early arrival. They go down to Abendessen, then they have Prayers, and Miss Annersley welcomes the girls to the new school.
The prefects, headed by the new HG Julie Lucy, hold their first meeting and dole out the jobs. On the Head’s suggestion the Second Games job is created, and this year goes to Clem Barras, backing up Annis Lovell as Games prefect.
The next morning, the Head announces that there will be all day expeditions, with each form exploring a different place. Barbara finds herself placed in Upper IVB, who are going to Unterseen on their trip, along with Upper IVA which contains Vi and the others. They head down on the mountain railway, and Miss O’Ryan teases them by announcing that she is going to Basle to pick up the new maths mistress, leaving the girls agog as to who it is.
Miss Dene takes the Gang and several others to Unterseen, and explains some of the history to the girls. Vi finds herself beginning to get over her vague dislike of Barbara dating back to the latter’s invalid years, and Barbara herself begins to find her footing among the Gang, much to her delight.
Lessons begin on the Monday, and Upper IVB make the acquaintance of the new maths mistress, who turns out to be Nancy Wilmot. She makes a favourable impression on the girls compared to Miss Slater, but the girls struggle with having to do that morning’s lessons in French. The Head takes pity on them and excuses dictée prep for the term, and half their repetition.
Mary Woodley of Upper IVB compains to Betty Landon that she doesn’t think much of either Barbara or Sue Meadows, the form’s other new girl, and doesn’t understand what Vi sees in Barbara. Betty points out that they’re cousins, and that Mary is just jealous because she wants to be friends with Vi herself. She strolls off leaving Mary furious.
The girls get ready for a walk, and Barbara sees Caroline Sanders shoving her library book into her shoe locker. Having got into trouble for doing the same thing, she advises Caroline to take it to the common room, but Caroline says she hasn’t time, and they leave the Splashery. Mary, who overheard them, goes to Caroline’s locker and pulls the book out so that it will be found by Matey.
Mary-Lou, Barbara and the rest of the Gang go on their walk with Miss Wilmot, and on the way they meet Jo, who informs them that Hilary Graves has had a baby girl, Marjorie Edith, that morning. She also tells Maeve Bettany that her father and Peggy are bringing her mother out to visit shortly, and Peggy will then be rejoining Welsen for another year.
When the girls return from their walk, Caroline gets intro trouble with Matey, who found the library book lying in front of her locker. Caroline goes straight to Barbara and accuses her of pulling it out to get her into trouble. Barbara denies it, but Mary wades in and baits her further about it, infuriating Barbara, but before she can say anything further the gong rings for Mittagessen.
Vi spots that Barbara is angry about something, and after the meal tries to take her off somewhere private to find out what. However, Mary interrupts them, determined to get her word in first, and tells Vi that Barbara pulled Caroline’s book out of her locker. Vi indignantly dismisses her claim, then runs off to confront Caroline and the others, who admit to jumping to conclusions about Barbara. Vi tells them off, then goes to find Barbara and tells her that everything has been sorted out. Barbara has by the time worked out that Mary was also in the Splashery with them, and that she wants to drive a wedge between her and Vi.
The Upper IVs and Lower IVA take the train up to the Rösleinalp, intending to walk back down again. When they reach there, the mistresses divide them into groups. The Gang and Barbara and two others join up with Miss O’Ryan, and they start walking down the mountain path. The snow comes on as they walk, and they miss the turning for the Oberhofen station. The other groups make it there safely, and two mountaineers set forth to rescue the lost group and take them to their chalet for food and a heat, before stopping the mountain train on its way down and putting the party on it to get them safely back to the Platz.
The next day, Miss Annersley reads them that year’s Christmas play, Strangers at the Inn, written by Madge. She also informs them that Mr Denny, who has been away recovering from a long illness, will be returning at the end of the week. After Kaffee und Kuchen, the girls go to prep, and Sue Meadows, who has henceforth been a day girl and kept very much to herself, has to stay the night because of the weather, alongside the triplets. The girls are astonished to learn that she struggles with repetition, having so far had the impression that she is brilliant at all lessons.
Half-term arrives, and the girls next go on a trip to Berne – minus Mary-Lou who has fallen down the stairs and ricked her ankle. They visit amongst other things the Zytgloggeturm, the bear pit and the Natural History Museum.
The snow begins, and when a clear day arrives the girls head out for their first attempts at skiing. Miss Annersley arrives later on with a frown, having had a tussle with Sue Meadows’ aunt, Mrs Elstob. Sue is on the Platz as a companion to her cousin, Leila, who is seriously ill with tubercular hip, and Mrs Elstob doesn’t want Sue boarding at the school when she is supposed to be Leila’s companion. Due to the weather, however, she is forced to give in and let Sue be a weekly boarder, going home whenever it is fine enough.
The staff hold a party for the girls, and provide a variety of activities, followed by a magnificent Abendessen.
The Christmas play is held, and Madge visits the school to see it. She declares herself quite satisfied that the school is off to a good start.

So, thoughts on the first Swiss book? What do you think of Barbara and her friendship with VI, and the Mary Woodley storyline? Do you like the trips the girls make? What about the descriptions of the school and the Platz?

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School and Barbara
PostPosted: 29 Aug 2017, 00:52 
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This was a great book to start off the Swiss part of the series and of the books to come only a few came near this standard. It is probably one of my favourite books in the series.

I am sorry I only have it in the abridged Armada version which probably missed out loads of little detail. Interesting it was one of the first four Armada books issued in 1967 along with School At, Jo of and Exile. My copy cost me 2/6 or £0.125!

This book is very much led by the Chester/Lucy families whom EBD was writing a lot about around this time. I might have preferred Clem as HG but Julie was fine and it maybe worked better from the family point of view. The fact EBD appears to have forgotten that it was Betsy who was the clever one irritates me.

Loved seeing Beth and Barbara together when Beth had such a bad time with baby Barbara in the La Rochelle books. I thought Barbara showed courage starting as a boarder and liked her friendship with Vi. I always think Vi is the girl with everything - brains, talents, looks, family, friends more than any other girl.

This book, above all others, makes me realise how privileged the CS girls were. Fees and all the other extra expenses like travel, excursion, winter sports and all the gear must have cost a fortune.

Liked the excursions in this book although the history was laid on thick. Liked involvement of older staff like Miss Denny and, indeed, Hilda still on excursions. A little of Biddy goes a long, long way!


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School and Barbara
PostPosted: 29 Aug 2017, 03:40 
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Love this book and a great introduction to the Swiss part of the series. Everything is new from the uniforms, to the setting, the games they can play etc and more scope for interesting expeditions.

One of the main reasons I loved this book as a child was the way Vi stepped in immediately to defend her cousin and stop the bullying tactics being used against her.

That said, we also see how other girls who were not Gang members felt about being left out of that group.

Maybe if they had not been so exclusive and allowed other girls to join them a bit more (we literally see them walk off and deliberately exclude the others) then Mary wouldn't have felt the way she did.

Cheers,
Joyce

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School and Barbara
PostPosted: 29 Aug 2017, 06:24 
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I quite like the books that focus on the La Rochelle gang; there's a bunch of likeable characters, and the outside of school connections add a nice depth to the story, as they don't just interact in a school setting. Vi worries about looking after Barbara, who she has mostly seen at home where she's been spoiled by her mother, and is pleasantly surprised to find that she is actually quite nice, for example.

The info-dump scenes aren't too bad here; they do read like a paraphrase of a guide book, but it's a new setting, so it hasn't gotten repetitive.

The jealousy/bullying thing is nicely done, particularly in the way the girls solve it themselves. Vi stands up for Barbara, and Mary's attempt to frame her quickly unravels. In the later books, similar jealousy storylines seem to involve staff or prefect involvement to sort them out.

I find Sue Meadows to be an interesting character. She's not an unpleasant girl by any means, but she is someone who keeps to herself and never really makes close friends, through multiple years at the school. I can understand how being almost the only day girl in the school would have been really isolating, as she'd have missed a lot of the social aspect of boarding school.

One thing I do find interesting from a structural perspective is how the triplets and Joey are sidelined for the first part of the book, as they are in quarantine at Freudesheim. For one thing, it means that the girls at school are all discovering the new setting at the same time, instead of having the triplets, who have already had a chance to explore, explaining things.

I am curious about what happened to Beth since leaving school. She had ambitions while at school - first to be a gardener, and is later planning on Oxford. But from this book, it seems like she's mostly been helping out at home, and is now taking on a governess-like job.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School and Barbara
PostPosted: 29 Aug 2017, 06:38 
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I think this is a lovely book. Everything about the new location, even getting caught in blizzards :lol:, is fresh and exciting at this point. We've got a new girl who's genuinely keen and enthusiastic. Joey and Mary-Lou both play their part, but don't take over the world like they do later on: the Gang come across really well, and I like the way Vi deals with the bullies. I also like seeing Miss Dene and Miss Annersley getting to go on the days out: it doesn't happen later on!

I'm also curious about what happened to Beth. Presumably she's just been at home, acting as a sort of governess to Barbara. And I'd like to have seen a bigger role for Hilary Graves, maybe involving the fact that she and Nancy Wilmot, who becomes such a central character, are old friends. But, generally, I really like this book.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School and Barbara
PostPosted: 29 Aug 2017, 08:28 
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I'm another who likes this book very much - a real breath of fresh air and energy. It must have been a lovely fresh start for EMBD too - she was sixty by this point, had been a published author for over thirty years, and had created dozens of books and hundreds of different characters. It seems to me that you can sense the real relief with which she returns to an Alpine setting and can concentrate on a reduced cast of people.

Much though I think we all regret the side-lining of the Russells and Robin, among others, perhaps it isn't surprising that she cut back on the sheer size of the CS 'canvas', and was possibly even advised to do so for practical reasons. The EBD-isms were mounting up, and there's also a limit to how much explanation of the past you can include for new readers (even so the footnotes get tedious, especially when some of the books referred to were out of print).

Joyce wrote:
...we also see how other girls who were not Gang members felt about being left out of that group.

Maybe if they had not been so exclusive and allowed other girls to join them a bit more (we literally see them walk off and deliberately exclude the others) then Mary wouldn't have felt the way she did.
Maybe so - but it's realistic. And how successful is it as a rule when adults intervene in these matters, which is what it would have entailed? At least Mary-Lou's gang doesn't engage in group bullying in the way that Jack Lambert's does.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School and Barbara
PostPosted: 29 Aug 2017, 09:59 
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Noreen wrote:
And how successful is it as a rule when adults intervene in these matters, which is what it would have entailed? At least Mary-Lou's gang doesn't engage in group bullying in the way that Jack Lambert's does.


Oh yes, there's no way anyone could have intervened and 'forced' them to accept more members. But it's just interesting to see things from a non-Gang member's POV.

And yes, at least the members have their own voices and you do see them 'push' back against ML occasionally and put her in her place. I simply cannot imagine ML bullying someone let alone the individual Gang members allowing it.

cheers,
Joyce

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School and Barbara
PostPosted: 29 Aug 2017, 10:25 
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I too like this book though rarely reread any of the other Swiss ones. Barbara is a very appealing child, so anxious to make up for the lost years and "get things right". She and Vi make a lovely pair of friends and Vi's relief that Barbara is not as she has previously known her, is delightful.

I have always loved the "culture and history dumps" so I am very happy to have a whole new country to discover through EBD's (not always accurate!) eyes.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School and Barbara
PostPosted: 29 Aug 2017, 12:25 
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cestina wrote:

I have always loved the "culture and history dumps" so I am very happy to have a whole new country to discover through EBD's (not always accurate!) eyes.



I enjoy those too Cestina, in fact they were a big part of why I read the books as a child.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School and Barbara
PostPosted: 29 Aug 2017, 13:01 
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janetbrown23 wrote:
cestina wrote:

I have always loved the "culture and history dumps" so I am very happy to have a whole new country to discover through EBD's (not always accurate!) eyes.



I enjoy those too Cestina, in fact they were a big part of why I read the books as a child.

Yes me too. I was a huge fan of the Young Traveller series as well. Did anyone else read them? I still have a few. Mine all looked like this one.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School and Barbara
PostPosted: 29 Aug 2017, 14:59 
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I've just read this and was struck just how much Rosalie Dene was involved in the school in this book, not just as the secretary.She met Beth and Barbara, she appeared to play the piano, perhaps even took them for exercises in the gym, went on excursions, certainly a busy lady.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School and Barbara
PostPosted: 29 Aug 2017, 15:33 
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The infodump during the Swiss excursion was interesting on a first read, but I skim through it on re-reads. A little too guide book-y for me, though it does make me want to visit Switzerland and see all the history for myself.

I had no idea EBD wrote about the Chesters/Lucys/Ozannes in another series until I joined this board, so the backstory was lost on me. I think EBD does a decent job of conveying the concerns of Vi, Beth and Barbara for readers who aren't familiar with the La Rochelle books.

I like that Barbara remains a presence throughout the rest of the series and doesn't fade out like newly introduced characters. I also like that she and Vi remain good friends. Vi really shines in this book; she's a strong secondary character. She would have been first fiddle in her form if Mary-Lou hadn't come along.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School and Barbara
PostPosted: 29 Aug 2017, 17:39 
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I like this book, and indeed the Swiss books in general up until Theodora, where I lose interest. I enjoy the 'new start' atmosphere and EBD's obvious enthusiasm at the school being back in the Alps at last. Barbara is very likeable - love the bit where she's all excited at finally getting to wear her uniform :D - and as it seems clear that EBD wanted Mary-Lou and the Gang to be the main focus of the next few books, it's a nice idea to bring in someone totally new who eventually joins up with them, so that we see it all from her point of view.

The Platz sounds like a nightmare to live on in the winter, though, especially for the doctors' wives like Hilary (heavily pregnant) and Phoebe (rheumatic) who couldn't ski. Marooned indoors for days or even weeks on end thanks to the weather, no way of ordering small kids outside for a few hours of peace, no way of even getting to the station to collect your mailbag, let alone down to Interlaken to get supplies in, and delivery vans unable to get up the mountain with anything either. And how did the San staff and ambulances manage to get about when there was a blizzard on and the place was feet deep in snow? We're told in one book - New Mistress I think - that it's five feet high at one point!

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School and Barbara
PostPosted: 29 Aug 2017, 17:57 
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The Mary Woodley plot line fizzles out quickly -- a marked difference from other girls who try to make trouble, such as Eiluned (sp) or Victoria in "Summer Term." Mary's a one-and-done girl. On the one hand it's nice, especially considering how heavily EBD relies on the jealous girl trope later; on the other, you have to try harder, Mary!

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School and Barbara
PostPosted: 29 Aug 2017, 19:43 
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Aquabird wrote:

The Platz sounds like a nightmare to live on in the winter, though, especially for the doctors' wives like Hilary (heavily pregnant) and Phoebe (rheumatic) who couldn't ski. Marooned indoors for days or even weeks on end thanks to the weather, no way of ordering small kids outside for a few hours of peace, no way of even getting to the station to collect your mailbag, let alone down to Interlaken to get supplies in, and delivery vans unable to get up the mountain with anything either. And how did the San staff and ambulances manage to get about when there was a blizzard on and the place was feet deep in snow? We're told in one book - New Mistress I think - that it's five feet high at one point!

Having lived for three winters in just such an environment I can tell you that actually, like most conditions that we face in life, you adapt to it quite well. The photos 1, 2 and 3 that I link to show by no means the highest snow levels we had to deal with. Yet participants continued to arrive for the conferences from November through to March/April, we continued to feed them, and one of my great pleasures was sitting in the small library I was in charge of and watching the British Army trying to learn to ski across our carpark. With varying success :D

It was very funny in Spring, when the ground levels went back to normal after you had been walking along tracks several feet higher than usual.

And in fact it can be very similar here in the Czech Republic although I now live in a village and not an isolated conference centre in the middle of a forest.

The children, heavily swathed in warm clothing, can play outside, the roads are cleared with astonishing efficiency, the trains still run and life goes on unless it is very unusually bad weather. It becomes very hard to identify people from their body shape though, if you see them across the town square, since they become almost circular in their warm clothing!

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School and Barbara
PostPosted: 29 Aug 2017, 20:39 
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cestina wrote:
Aquabird wrote:

The Platz sounds like a nightmare to live on in the winter, though, especially for the doctors' wives like Hilary (heavily pregnant) and Phoebe (rheumatic) who couldn't ski. Marooned indoors for days or even weeks on end thanks to the weather, no way of ordering small kids outside for a few hours of peace, no way of even getting to the station to collect your mailbag, let alone down to Interlaken to get supplies in, and delivery vans unable to get up the mountain with anything either. And how did the San staff and ambulances manage to get about when there was a blizzard on and the place was feet deep in snow? We're told in one book - New Mistress I think - that it's five feet high at one point!

Having lived for three winters in just such an environment I can tell you that actually, like most conditions that we face in life, you adapt to it quite well. The photos 1, 2 and 3 that I link to show by no means the highest snow levels we had to deal with. Yet participants continued to arrive for the conferences from November through to March/April, we continued to feed them, and one of my great pleasures was sitting in the small library I was in charge of and watching the British Army trying to learn to ski across our carpark. With varying success :D

It was very funny in Spring, when the ground levels went back to normal after you had been walking along tracks several feet higher than usual.

And in fact it can be very similar here in the Czech Republic although I now live in a village and not an isolated conference centre in the middle of a forest.

The children, heavily swathed in warm clothing, can play outside, the roads are cleared with astonishing efficiency, the trains still run and life goes on unless it is very unusually bad weather. It becomes very hard to identify people from their body shape though, if you see them across the town square, since they become almost circular in their warm clothing!


Well yes, EBD describes that sort of thing when it stops snowing and everyone can get out for a walk or a bit of skiing for a couple of hours, but in the majority of the winter books there are blizzards, floods, nonstop rain and gale force winds that go on relentlessly for days and cause havoc like road closures and flooded streams. Life on the Platz basically grinds to a halt during it and everyone is stuck inside except the unfortunate San staff, and even they have to give it up as a bad job sometimes. There's talk of a potential food shortage even in this first book when the snow starts, and there actually is a shortage in Mary-Lou when both Platz roads are blocked off, the railway is closed, and nobody, even experienced mountaineers, can get to the valley for a week. Not my cup of tea, I'm afraid.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School and Barbara
PostPosted: 29 Aug 2017, 21:19 
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I think she has a rather misguided view of weather in the Alps...... :shock:

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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School and Barbara
PostPosted: 29 Aug 2017, 22:05 
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One of my favourite books in the series and undoubtedly my favourite of the Swiss books. It's nice to see Vi front and centre as she is generally secondary to OOAO. The relationship between her and Barbara is believable as is the obvious delight that they get from discovering how much they like each other.

I like the fact that nothing too terrible or unbelievable happens also.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School and Barbara
PostPosted: 30 Aug 2017, 21:23 
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Haven't got much to add to comments already made - nice to see Vi taking a leading role, like the way Barbara's introduction to school is shown. Wonder what Beth has been doing since she left Oxford, must be three years before? I know the Chesters weren't as hard up as they had been, but could they really afford to keep her at home doing nothing very much? And it doesn't seem fair to Beth. She could have been earning good money as a high school mistress or in some other job, but her interests once more come second to Barbara's. Although I like the way their relationship is shown on the train.

Nice to see Nancy Wilmot, who becomes such an important character. She's an OG, but she was only at the school for a year or two, and she had her service in the WRNS then taught elsewhere for several years, so she does bring a bit of fresh air, while still being someone we know.

Major EBDism, though, when Hilda has to explain Barbara to Matey. How on earth could Matey not have known about Barbara and her history of delicacy? She'd known all three families for eleven years.

And even if she hadn't known the Chesters personally, as Matron she'd have known about Barbara being a day girl and the reason why, and she'd have heard from Jo about Beth and Barbara coming to live with her.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: The Chalet School and Barbara
PostPosted: 30 Aug 2017, 22:15 
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Joined: 19 Sep 2011, 22:32
Posts: 794
I don't understand either why Matey did not know about Barbara. If nothing else, surely she had some kind of health record for each pupil?

I am not a great fan of Nancy but at least she would have been known to some readers and she came with no baggage.

I also wonder what Beth had been doing.


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