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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Genius at the Chalet School
PostPosted: 28 Sep 2017, 19:13 
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JayB wrote:
Lovely to see Elisaveta again. A pity EBD killed off her husband, there doesn't seem to have been any reason for it. Veta is as brave as always, though. I suppose King Carol had assets in Switzerland and elsewhere that he was able to access when the Nazis invaded Belsornia and that's what they're all living on.


There's a poignant but lovely conversation in which Elisaveta talks to Jack about her worries about bringing up her children, especially her sons, without a father, and Jack reassures her that she's doing a wonderful job. It's rare that one of the CS men gets to be involved in an emotional discussion. I don't know why Raphael had to be killed off, either. I could have understood EBD feeling that, for the sake of realism, one of the characters had to be left a widow with young children because of the war, but this was an accident in peacetime, and Elisaveta had already lost her home.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Genius at the Chalet School
PostPosted: 28 Sep 2017, 21:38 
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Yes, Jack is lovely in that scene. But it does seem sad that Veta, having already lost her country, should lose her husband too!

She says her father doesn't want them to join him in Australia. One would think he'd want to have his only child and his grandchildren nearby, so that he could give his support.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Genius at the Chalet School
PostPosted: 29 Sep 2017, 16:24 
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JayB wrote:
She says her father doesn't want them to join him in Australia. One would think he'd want to have his only child and his grandchildren nearby, so that he could give his support.


He might think Veta has better prospects Switzerland -- friends to lend support/provide a social life, a good school for his granddaughters, perhaps a better chance of meeting a new man? Perhaps she wouldn't have those benefits out on a ranch in Australia.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Genius at the Chalet School
PostPosted: 01 Oct 2017, 13:49 
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You ask why Elizaveta's husband had to be killed off for no reason - but that's life isn't it? Real life! People do die or are killed when least expected, even in the prime of life, as Raoul was. It seems to me that EBD was being very matter-of-fact there about the sheer randomness of life. And also, thereby, showed the real, true grit in Elizaveta's character.

To be honest, I'm often astonished she didn't kill one of her characters off when they were running from the Nazis. That seems more puzzling than killing Raoul off. But then I'm easily puzzled. :dontknow:

ETA to add that perhaps she thought that killing off the poor jeweller being attacked, and the priest who saved them, was enough...

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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Genius at the Chalet School
PostPosted: 01 Oct 2017, 16:46 
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I've always wondered about the contrasting of Veta's sensible approach to brining up a family on her own and Jo's hysterics when she doesn't know for sure that Jack is dead...

But that's probably me.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Genius at the Chalet School
PostPosted: 01 Oct 2017, 17:00 
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If Jack had died, and Jo had had to bring up her family on her own, most likely the senisble approach would have appearred. We don't know, but Veta might well have been hysterical in the first throes of her grief.

I might be misremembering, but I think there is a big difference between the stages we see them both at. Jo might like to be the centre of the action (centre of attention, some might say - not me :D ) but she's not a spineless jellyfish.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Genius at the Chalet School
PostPosted: 01 Oct 2017, 17:23 
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We only really see Jo when she's just got the telegram and is in shock. The next time we see her, the focus is on Fiona. And then Jack reappears. When we see Elisaveta in Genius, she's had several years ( I think) to come to terms with things.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Genius at the Chalet School
PostPosted: 01 Oct 2017, 18:17 
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Quote:
...perhaps she thought that killing off the poor jeweller being attacked, and the priest who saved them, was enough...

And then Herr Marani being killed off at the end of the book.

I like Jo in Genius, more so than I do in Mary Lou. She's not so overbearing as she is sometimes, and she's very kind to Nina in the 'Welcome to Cecily' scene, taking the time to let Nina hold Cecil, and making Nina feel that Freudesheim was another house where she was welcome. She wouldn't have been unreasonable to say to Nina, kindly, that she must pop off back to school now.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Genius at the Chalet School
PostPosted: 02 Oct 2017, 10:33 
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I didn't find Nina unbelievable, she does see things around her and seems to care, its not all the music with her


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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Genius at the Chalet School
PostPosted: 02 Oct 2017, 11:08 
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I think that the issues with Nina hold true in every generation, and make for interesting discussion. If someone is particularly gifted, whether it's at music, or art, or ballet, or sport, should they be focusing on that to the exclusion of everything else? Do you take the view that, if it doesn't work out, there's always the option to pursue alternative career paths later, so you should give it your best shot now? Or is it too risky to put all your eggs in one basket like that? Nina, Margia and Jacynth all (presumably) go on to have stellar careers, but there are a lot of sad stories about people who thought they were destined to be top level musicians or top level sports players and couldn't cope when they didn't make the grade. And is it realistic that she could be accommodated at the CS, rather than that a specialist school? I think there's a lot of scope for discussion over it all :D .

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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Genius at the Chalet School
PostPosted: 02 Oct 2017, 19:20 
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In answer to Alison, Sir Guy seems to have chosen the Chalet School for Nina because it ticked a number of boxes:

Both he and Nina had met some of the CS girls in an informal setting. Nina got on with the girls - better as it turned out than she got on with his own daughters - and he liked them too.

The CS did provide the amount of specialism which Nina required but in a less hothouse, intense setting than a specialist school would have provided.

Sir Guy knew nothing about music. He didn't know how good Nina actually was. Nor did he know anything about specialist schools such as which looked after the pupils properly as well as teaching them and which would be best for Nina. He did know the CS.

He also seems to have wanted Nina taught a bit about how to handle finance etc. Maybe a more all round education than a specialist school would provide with "all-round" people rather than only being with those obsessed with music and no respite.

I think the CS was a good choice for Nina.

Edited to correct errors


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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Genius at the Chalet School
PostPosted: 02 Oct 2017, 20:54 
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And is it realistic that she could be accommodated at the CS, rather than that a specialist school? I think there's a lot of scope for discussion over it all.

From the school's point of view, they only had Sir Guy's word for it that Nina was a musical genius, and he acknowledged that he knew very little about music. What would they have done if she had turned out to be distinctly average?

And there's the question of teachers. They were fortunate to have Mr Denny on the staff, who was recognised in the world of music as an expert in his field. But what about a piano teacher? Did they ensure there was a suitable teacher available before they agreed to take Nina?

I think it's a difficult balancing act for the school. They could cope with one musical genius at a time because that wasn't too disruptive to the school's usual routine. But that meant the pupil in question didn't have anyone to share her studies or talk to about her work on equal terms.

On the subject of specialisation, Nina was fifteen, which was the school leaving age at the time. She wasn't actually required to be in education at all. Possibly the school wouldn't have permitted such a degree of specialisation if she'd been younger.

I think personal circumstances and personality had a lot to do with how each girl coped with her talent/genius. Margia was a much more even-tempered girl, she'd had a normal family life, and the experience of school and friendships she since was eleven. Overall she was far more well-balanced than Nina; music wasn't quite so all-consuming for her.

I don't suppose Nina would have given up her musical career to go into nursing at the outbreak of war, not knowing if she'd ever be able to reach that standard again after not playing for years. (Not that I think she'd have been wrong. Many girls could be nurses, very few could play to the standard that Margia could; she could have made just as great a contribution to the war effort as a musician, if not greater.)


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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Genius at the Chalet School
PostPosted: 03 Oct 2017, 00:46 
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I've seen the statement, multiple times, that raising a very gifted child is a lot like raising a child with disabilities. Which makes a lot of sense - for families with gifted children, family life tends to be arranged around them, down to moving to where they can get training.

I'm actually not sure where Nina falls on the genius scale. She's certainly very talented, but she's also lived for nothing but music from a very young age. It's quite possible that if she had, say, been born into Sir Guy's family with the same talents, she'd be very good, and still pursuing in a career in music, but not getting the same attention for her genius that her upbringing triggered.

I do think that for prodigies, it's immensely important that they get a good grounding in basic practical skills and socialization, because it's so easy for them to miss it in pursuit of their art. For young prodigies in particular, because eventually they are going to age out of being young and are going to be expected to have the basic life skills of an adult, and might not end up in an elevated enough position to have a personal minder following them around and taking care of them. And someone who is brilliant, wildly naive and impractical, and of legal age, can be taken advantage of very easily.

And definitely a backup plan! For every carefully raised young musical genius who ends up as a world famous performer, there are lots of budding geniuses who end up working part time in second rate orchestras and having a day job to make ends meet. Or who gets pushed out by repetitive strain injury, or illness, and can't get back in again.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Genius at the Chalet School
PostPosted: 04 Oct 2017, 18:36 
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jennifer wrote:
families with gifted children, family life tends to be arranged around them, down to moving to where they can get training.

This reminds me of Noel Streatfeild's Apple Bough, where that concept is taken to extremes.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Genius at the Chalet School
PostPosted: 05 Oct 2017, 03:13 
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Lottie wrote:
jennifer wrote:
families with gifted children, family life tends to be arranged around them, down to moving to where they can get training.

This reminds me of Noel Streatfeild's Apple Bough, where that concept is taken to extremes.


I love that book!

For a really gifted child, that's the kind of thing that I mean. Picture Nina with less talented siblings, who are uprooted and dragged to a new place every six months or year, in the pursuit of good piano instructors, and who get left with a nanny or expected to amuse themselves when Mr Rutherford is working with Nina. And end up with the same sort of spotty education Nina gets, but without plans for a musical career or any other marketable skill.

Acting in the US is particularly prone to this. In Hollywood, a parent or guardian legally has to be with the child on set. So that means that one of the parents has to quit their job and move to California, or go on location, along with the kid. If there are other children, that means either uprooting everyone, or splitting the family. Plus one child is getting the full time attention of one of the parents in a way that takes it away from the others.

Paying for top quality training, and having one parents' job be overseeing the child's career can be a strain on family finances, too, much looking after a disabled or chronically ill child.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Genius at the Chalet School
PostPosted: 05 Oct 2017, 03:49 
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For a really gifted child, that's the kind of thing that I mean. Picture Nina with less talented siblings, who are uprooted and dragged to a new place every six months or year


It's very hard on siblings.

One of my childhood friends was left with her grandparents while the parents took her genius violin playing brother round the world on tours. I guess they made the decision that he needed them more and the grandparents were happy to look after their daughter. But the family rupture was never resolved and she seldom speaks to her parents or her brother.

In Apple Bough, the other children love their brother but there is no way in the world it wouldn't create resentment. But then maybe they see the early hours training and the constant practice, and thank the good Lord they are spared!

Quote:
I think it's a difficult balancing act for the school. They could cope with one musical genius at a time because that wasn't too disruptive to the school's usual routine.


They also need the other girls to understand and make allowances for the artistic temperament.

And, as with the Hilda incident, they failed completely.

Is it fair to Hilda that she cries herself sick because Nina is a 'genius'? If she had accidentally hurt another girl, she might have been scolded but the repercussions would not have been so bad.

It's just her bad luck it was Nina she hurt and Nina decided to make such a big fuss over it.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Genius at the Chalet School
PostPosted: 10 Oct 2017, 13:59 
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JayB wrote:
I like this one. Nina is a type of character EBD hasn't done before, and I think she is successful in conveying what music means to her. The fact that music is her link to her deceased father makes it even more important.

Sir Guy comes across as a nice, conscientious man doing his best for a girl who is after all quite a distant relative.

I don't think Nina's quite so wrapped up in her music as EBD suggests, though; she notices and is appreciative when someone makes a special effort on her behalf - Cousin Yvonne and her practice room, Miss Dene and her timetable, the mistresses on the half term expedition - more so than some other girls her age might be. She's also immediately concerned when she hears that her former teacher's wife has been ill. Fundamentally, she is a kind, well-mannered girl.

I should think a lot of her rage at Hilda is her grief for her father spilling out. She's had a lot to cope with in a relatively short period of time - losing her father, the change from Italy to the NE of England in winter and a whole lot of strangers, then another change to the CS and a whole lot more strangers.

I agree Hilda gets a hard time, but I should think the mistresses are probably exasperated with her. She's seventeen and in a form with girls of 15/16, and as 'heedless' as a Junior Middle. She might well be leaving school at the end of the summer term and doesn't seem at all prepared for the responsibility of work or training of any kind. The girls should have been told to lay off her, though.

Winnie Embury is often mentioned in later books, but I think this is the only time we actually see her and hear her speak, isn't it?

Lovely to see Elisaveta again. A pity EBD killed off her husband, there doesn't seem to have been any reason for it. Veta is as brave as always, though. I suppose King Carol had assets in Switzerland and elsewhere that he was able to access when the Nazis invaded Belsornia and that's what they're all living on.

I don't know why Nina had to be the one to tell the Rutherfords about the Gornetz San. Wouldn't Alix's doctors know about it and tell them if they thought it was the best place for Alix to go?


Yes, I imagine Hilda could have been the sort of bouncy, careless teenager that would seriously get on a teacher's nerves. Most of her contemporaries would have been quite mature and responsible at that age, (particularly in the 1950s when girls in their late teens were usually quite grown up) so someone like Hilda could have been quite irritating.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Genius at the Chalet School
PostPosted: 10 Oct 2017, 20:58 
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EBD did know about people who went to specialist schools and then didn't make it - she was rather one herself. If you read "The School by the River" (one of my favourites of hers), the heroine, Jennifer, is going to make it as a performer, but many of the girls aren't going to, and know they aren't going to. They will, however, make great music teachers, and much of their training is towards that end. EBD knew herself, I think, that she was a teacher rather than a performer....


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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Genius at the Chalet School
PostPosted: 10 Oct 2017, 21:26 
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EBD knew herself, I think, that she was a teacher rather than a performer....


One could argue that, while EBD might have reached a certain level of competence as a musician, music wasn't what she was really meant to do. Her real talent was for writing school stories. But her musical training wasn't wasted, because she was able to use it to enrich her writing.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Genius at the Chalet School
PostPosted: 03 Sep 2018, 17:57 
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Reading it at the moment and there's one thing that confuses me, about Cecil. Why are Con and Josette calling her a n*****? Both her parents are white, she's clearly going to be a white kid, so why is Josette talking about her like she's black? I know this is showing my age because I was always brought up to never use that word.


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