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 Post subject: Books: A Problem for the Chalet School
PostPosted: 02 Oct 2017, 23:45 
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This week’s discussion thread features A Problem for the Chalet School, first published in 1956 and covering the summer term following Genius. Rosamund Lilley and Joan Baker, two girls from a working-class background but with very different personalities, join the CS. While Rosamund settles in and strikes up a friendship with Len Maynard, Joan struggles to fit in. Notable events:

Rector and Mrs Gay, parents of Tom, have decided fund an all expenses paid scholarship for the CS, and have chosen fourteen year old local girl Rosamund Lilley for it. Rosamund, who has missed out on a place at the High School due to illness, is deeply dismayed at the idea of going to the CS, believing that the other girls will look down on her working class roots. Her teacher Miss Keatinge, who breaks the news to her, assures her that such a school wouldn’t have kept a girl like Tom, and that as Rosamund wants to be an air hostess or lady courier when she grows up, going to school in Switzerland will be a brilliant opportunity for her to pick up foreign languages. Unconvinced, Rosamund sets off home.
Outside the school gates, she is met by her friend Joan Baker, who demands to know why she is so late. Rosamund, not wanting to tell anyone her news until she has spoken with her parents about it, evades the question, and Joan calls her high and mighty, hints at some of her doings the evening before with a Vic Coles of unsavoury reputation, and goes off in a huff. Rosamund pays her no heed.
When Rosamund arrives home, she finds Mrs Gay having tea with her mother, and learns a bit more about the school. As she is leaving, Mrs Gay tells Rosamund that the scholarship is a thank-offering from the Gays following the Rector’s promotion back in Changes, which had allowed Tom to go to Switzerland for her final year. Joan, coming along the road, spots them talking, and after Mrs Gay leaves, accuses Rosamund of sucking up to her and renounces their friendship. Once again, Rosamund pays little heed, much to Joan’s astonishment.
At Freudesheim, three weeks after giving birth to Cecil, Jo is sitting up and feeling perfectly fit. Len comes in with a cup of coffee for her, and Jo, who has had a letter from Tom Gay about Rosamund, asks her to take on sheepdogging her when she first arrives. Len cautiously agrees to think it over. Jo is pleased, believing that if she is busy looking after Rosamund, Con and Margot won’t rely on her so much and will learn to look after themselves.
The school arrives for the new term, and Len picks out Rosamund and takes her off to the Splashery, then the Middles’ common room, and shows her the general procedure, and Rosamund is awed to learn that her mother is Josephine M. Bettany. They have Kaffee, then Len takes her up to Marigold dormitory and helps her unpack her night case. Being kept so busy, Rosamund has no time to think of home.
On the first Saturday morning, Rosamund begins a letter home, but still has far more to say when the bell goes for elevenses. Len hears her sigh and asks about it, and Rosamund explains. Betty Landon overhears, and suggests that she buy an exercise book from Stationery and keep a diary that she can fill in each evening, and send it home when she is finished. The idea starts a craze amongst Upper IVa which keeps them occupied for most of the term.
Rosamund receives letters from home in turn, and her mother informs her that Joan’s father has won £25,000 on the Pools, and they are selling up and moving to Worthing, and Joan and her sister Pam will be going to a good school. Joan has broken off her friendship with their mutual friend Kath Stevens, stating that she can no longer be friends with someone who goes to a Parish school, and Kath is very hurt about it. Rosamund’s sister Dorothy gives her the news that she is going to have a baby, and asks her to do some knitting for it, which Rosamund at once resolves upon. Her other sister, Charmian, advises in her letter that she work hard at her languages as she is getting a real chance at the CS in that regard, though she doesn’t think the standard of work in general will compare to the High School which she herself attends.
Rosamund asks Len if Jo would lend her a pattern to make a coat and cap for Dorothy’s baby, and Len advises her to ask Mlle de Lachenais for some wool and needles, and join them on a visit to Freudesheim on Sunday where Jo can give her a pattern and start her off.
Miss Annersley receives a letter from Joan’s grandfather, asking if she can accept Joan at the school immediately, as Joan has expressed a desire to go to the CS and learn foreign languages. Miss Annersley is reluctant to accept a new girl partway through a term, especially when she knows nothing about her prior education. She guesses from Mr Baker’s allusion to Joan already knowing a girl at the school that it is Rosamund, and the latter’s complete lack of French and German has so far been a problem for the staff which she does not want to double by taking another girl in the same boat. After talking it over with Miss Wilson, they decide to visit the rest of the Staff to canvass their opinion.
Arriving at the staff room, they overhear the mistresses holding forth about Upper IVb, whose standard of work so far that term, with the exception of Margot Maynard, has been appalling. It is decided that the timetable will be rearranged so that Upper IVb (except Margot) has to do lessons with Lower IVa for a full week.
Miss Annersley then hands over Mr Baker’s letter, and the staff confirm that, although Rosamund will no doubt catch up quickly, her lack of languages has been a problem for them. Mlle proposes that they send a prospectus and ask if Joan cannot wait until the winter term, and if not, then at least ask for some more information about her. Everyone agrees with this.
It is also revealed that a new form – called The Shell here – will be created next term for girls like Len and Con who are too young for the Fifth but too advanced for Upper IVa, and also girls like Jo Scott who could do with some more groundwork before going into the Fifth. A new mistress will be employed for it, and Maria Marani, who is coming to replace Beth Chester as mother’s help to Jo, will be helping out with teaching junior languages. Gottfried and Gisela are coming to join the San on the Platz, and Bernhilda and Kurt are moving to Berne.
Tests are arranged to pick the Tennis Sixes, and Rosamund, sitting watching with the triplets and Emerence, is awed at the play of the girls, especially Katharine Gordon and Blossom Willoughby, and vows to work hard at her own tennis to learn to play like that.
When the girls go in to change into evening frocks, Matron comes into Marigold dormitory and sends Rosamund down to the study. Arriving there, she is horrified to find Joan waiting, having been accepted that term after all. Miss Annersley tells her to take Joan up to Tulip dormitory and give her over to Elinor Pennell there, and then take charge of her again after she has changed. Dismayed, Rosamund leads Joan out of the study. Joan is determined to get Rosamund under her thumb again, thinking that a few threats to reveal details of Rosamund’s background will do the trick.
Rosamund goes down to Hall for the Saturday Evening, which this week is paper games. She runs into Mary-Lou, who sees her looking worried and asks if she can help. Rosamund thanks her but decides not to confide in her just yet.
Joan, escorted to Hall by Elinor, is wearing a dress that is too old for her and too much make up, and is deeply scornful when Rosamund leads her over to the table she is sitting at with Len and Con. She shocks them when she offers to peep at the letter for their game before it starts, and at the way she jeers at Rosamund. Later on, she is deeply scornful of the devout atmosphere at Prayers, and also at the expectation that she wash before going to bed and must take a bath in the morning. Although she begins to feel that she won’t be able to stick it all, she is determined not to miss out on anything Rosamund is getting.
The next morning, Rosamund wakes up worried about what to do about Joan that afternoon, when she is supposed to be going to Freudesheim with the triplets. Mary-Lou spots her worried face at Frühstuck and asks what the problem is. Rosamund explains her dilemma, and Mary-Lou assures her that she must go to Freudesheim, and she will ask Betty and Alicia Leonard to look after Joan while she is away.
Joan comes in, wearing another grown up dress and a lot of make up, and looks down on the plain dresses of the other girls. Matron spots her attire and gives her a dressing down, makes her take off the make up and sends all her grown up dresses home with the request that more suitable ones for a schoolgirl be bought. Joan bursts in on Rosamund, Emerence and the triplets and vents her opinion of Matron and the school, much to their anger.
On the way back from church, Rosamund informs Joan that she will be away that afternoon, and Joan demands that she ask the triplets to invite her along to Freudesheim too. Rosamund is horrified at the idea and refuses, and Joan threatens to tell everyone that she is a charity pupil, and that her father is a market gardener and her mother was a housemaid if she doesn’t. Although Rosamund knows her scholarship isn’t charity, she still fears the others will look down on her if they learn about her parents’ background.
That afternoon the triplets and Rosamund go to Freudesheim, and Jo notices that Rosamund seems worried about something. She shows Rosamund their rose garden as a way of getting her to open up. Rosamund tells her about her father’s work, and decides to confide her fears to her. Jo assures her that her background is irrelevant and that at the school, it is only she herself and her conduct that matters.
The next day, Joan is horrified to discover that absolutely everything is to be done in French, from lessons to dormitory duties. Elinor patiently explains the bath rota, but Joan deliberately omits having one to get one up on the authorities. On the morning walk, she is disgusted to find that Rosamund has already picked up some French, while she herself knows none.
The first lesson is maths with Miss Wilmot, who patiently sets out to explain – in English followed by French – what they have been doing to Joan and find out what she already knows. Joan mistakes her calm manner for weakness and is extremely rude, and is sent out of the room. Realising that she will get no admiration for impudence here, she meekly lies low for the rest of the morning.
That afternoon Upper IVa has tennis, and Miss Burnett believes she will make quite a good player once she has corrected her faults. Joan enjoys the tennis and goes on to a French coaching with Mlle in good humour. Determined not to be beaten by Rosamund the “charity” girl, she decides to dig in and work to beat her, and show Mrs Gay that it should have been she who should have won the scholarship instead.
After two weeks at the school, Joan is still not settled in. She makes such a nuisance of herself at prep one evening that Betsy sends her out of the room, and later demands she apologise. Joan refuses, and Betsy is forced to report her to the Head, who gives her a severe lecture, docks her of her privileges and sends her to bed. The next day during a period when Upper IVa are working alone, she annoys the others so much that they tell her what they think of her, and she ends by swearing at Alicia, only to be overheard by Miss O’Ryan, who puts her in silence for the rest of the day. Mary-Lou, pondering over these incidents, resolves to talk to Jo about them, and when Len invites her to join them at Freudesheim at the weekend for tennis, she jumps at the chance.
On Sunday evening Mary-Lou goes to Freudesheim with the intention of speaking to Jo, only to find that she is staying down at Montreux looking after Winnie Embury’s children, as Winnie has appendicitis. However, Jack arrives home, and Mary-Lou puts the problem of Joan to him instead. He points out that girls like Joan, who usually leave school at fifteen, are more grown up in outlook than girls like Mary-Lou who stay on at school until they are eighteen. He advises Mary-Lou to try and make Joan feel she has a friend in her, and Mary-Lou decides to try and get at her through tennis, which she knows Joan likes.
Mary-Lou begins to take a hand with Joan, speaking to her and including her where possible, and the prefects notice it. Realising that they should be doing the same thing themselves rather than just pulling her up constantly, they resolve to take a leaf out of Mary-Lou’s book.
Arrangements for half-term are made, with half the girls going home or to stay with friends, and the other half divided up into trips. The triplets, Rosamund and Emerence are in a group for Basle, but Joan’s name is not on the lists, and she is bitterly disappointed, fearing that her behaviour means she will have to stay behind. However, it transpires that Mary-Lou has invited her to stay with them at the Rösleinalp, where she can practise her tennis on the court there. Katharine Gordon’s Aunt Luce, forgetting that she is supposed to have Katharine for the weekend, is obliged to cancel, and so Katharine joins the Rösleinalp party also.
Simone has a second son, Jean-Marie-José, with Jack to be godfather, and she asks the school’s half-term to be extended an extra day in honour. She and André also intend to send hampers of apricots and strawberries from the château for the girls to enjoy.
Half-term arrives, and Rosamund and her group go with Miss Wilmot to Basle, where they spend the afternoon viewing the various sights. That night, however, Rosamund develops toothache, and the next morning is forced to go to the dentist to have it removed. Hilary Wilson offers to stay with her while the others go off sightseeing, and once Rosamund has recovered from her ordeal, they spend a pleasant afternoon reading. As they emerge from a post office after sending some postcards, however, Rosamund spots Joan across the road and dashes over to her, only just avoiding being run over.
Hilary follows Rosamund across the road, furious with her, and demands to know what Joan is doing. When she learns that she has run away from the Rösleinalp, she dispatches Rosamund into the post office to send a wire confirming that Joan is safe with them, then marches them back to the pension to await Miss Wilmot’s return. She tries to find out what has happened, but Joan only snarls at her and Rosamund, and she is forced to give it up until the others return.
Miss Wilmot arrives, but is unable to get anything out of Joan. In the end she takes her to Frieda’s house, and gets Miss O’Ryan, who is staying there, to take charge of the other girls while she escorts Joan to the Head, who is staying at the Emburys’ at Montreux.
Eventually, Joan confesses to Miss Annersley that she overheard Mary-Lou telling Katharine that she meant to keep on being decent until Joan was as decent as any other Chalet School girl. Her pride had been so hurt that she had run away from the Rösleinalp at once. After crying all her hurt feelings out, she resolves to the Head to pull up and be a much nicer girl.
For the second half of the term Joan does her best to reform, but she is unable to screw up the courage to confess to Mary-Lou and Katharine that she eavesdropped on them. Eventually, on the last night of term, Jo invites her over to Freudesheim and tells her all about the school, and finally asks point blank what’s wrong. Joan admits what she did, and Jo consoles her. She sends for Mary-Lou and Katharine then and there, and Joan apologises. She departs for home the next day resolved to become a real Chalet School girl.

So, thoughts on Problem? What do you think of Rosamund and Joan and their relationship? Do you think the school handles Joan correctly? What about Mary-Lou’s butting in and Joan running away?

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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Problem for the Chalet School
PostPosted: 03 Oct 2017, 01:11 
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I have mixed feelings about this book. There's such a strong class element running through it that it distracts from the better stuff.

Rosamund is an example of the "deserving" poor. She's ladylike and modest, her lower class accent is minimal and easily trained away, her mother is waiting at home with home-made cakes, entertaining the vicar's wife, when she gets home from school. There's even a mention that her family bathes regularly! Joan, on the other hand, is rude and crude, with permed hair, makeup, nail polish, and overly sophisticated clothes. She swears, 'talks about boys, is slovenly and not sufficiently religious. And when Rosamund is going home to home-made cakes, Joan is stuffing store bought cakes in her mouth and running around the neighbourhood with the (probably male) Vic Coles. Rosamund goes to the CS through a scholarship, Joan because her father was gambling and won.

The scholarship also raises some questions. Why did they start the scholarship in the summer term, rather that having her join the school in the fall with other new students? And Rosamund has no French or German and is fourteen. She's got about three years to master two new languages and catch up on work to the point where she can pass her exams well enough to go on to further training, preferably with a scholarship. That doesn't seem very practical, given that she will have to earn her living after leaving school. A scholarship to the English branch probably would have made more sense.

I rather like Rosamund - her shyness and fear of being the scholarship girl are quite realistic, as is not being enthusiastic about moving away from her family. Joan is a nasty piece of work, but she's also never allowed to live down her first term. After this book, she's generally well behaved and hard working, and is quite brave on occasion, but is still always an outsider, regarded with barely concealed distaste.

This book is older Mary-Lou at her best, though. She sees that Joan is having problems on her own, and tries to figure out how to help, even though the job is not particularly pleasant. The eavesdropping thing, though, leaves a bad taste. Joan wasn't deliberately trying to eavesdrop, and what she heard was pretty devastating for a girl who is just starting to settle down - that Mary-Lou doesn't like her, or think she's good at tennis, she's just trying to make her less embarrassing for the school. And Joan is the one who has to apologize for hearing it.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Problem for the Chalet School
PostPosted: 03 Oct 2017, 09:18 
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I think EBD depicts the class issues very well, in a sitcom kind of way. Every little nuance is in there - eating in the street, talking over the garden fence, offering to provide bank references, etc. But the snobbery makes me cringe. Why does the girl who wears make-up and talks about boys have to be working-class? Why does the difference between the rough Bakers and the respectable Bakers have to be that Mrs Lilley was once a servant and picked up "nice" ways from her mistress? Why does Joey have to test Rosamund to see if she'll talk about her family - would she have done that with someone whose dad was a doctor or a lawyer?

I dislike Mary-Lou's attitude in this: I think she comes across much better in Genius and Theodora. Why is it any business of hers what Joan does? And I know that eavesdropping is a cardinal sin in CS-land, but wouldn't anyone eavesdrop if they heard someone talking about them? And wouldn't anyone be upset if they found out that someone had pretended to be their friend in order to "reform" them? And I can't stand Mrs Gay! Going on about how the Gays used to be as poor as the Lilleys were, when I'm sure that the Lilleys did not consider themselves "poor" and would have been insulted that anyone else did, and then comparing the Lilleys' situation with the Gays not being able to afford to send Tom to a Swiss finishing school! What planet was she on?

I think it was an interesting plotline to show someone with an interest in make-up, boys, unsuitable clothes etc arriving at the Chalet School. It'd already been tried with Elma Conroy, but that book was specifically about older girls. But I wish it had been done in a way that wasn't so horrifically snobby. Later on, we get Richenda taking an instant dislike to Joan because of her "cheap prettiness", and Rosalie Dene making some very nasty remarks about how Joan's behaviour was bred into her. It really does grate on me. But I do really like the fact that Ros and Joan remain friends, despite everything. And I like the fact that Charmian Lilley is able to become a nurse, and that she makes the point that grammar schools probably provide a better academic education than somewhere like the CS.

This book always provides a lot of talking points - looking forward to this discussion :D .

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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Problem for the Chalet School
PostPosted: 03 Oct 2017, 12:17 
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The bit I find most odd is that having more or less decided not to take Joan until next term, Hilda does decide to take her and lets Joan arrive after the beginning of term, a tricky situation for anyone and even more so in Joan's. Why did they change their minds?

I like Rosamund, and her friendship with Len is well done - and continues fairly consistently through the series, unlike that with Richenda who seems to fade into the background after "her" book.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Problem for the Chalet School
PostPosted: 03 Oct 2017, 13:18 
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Oh yes, I forgot about the learning nice ways from her well-bred employer part. :roll:

I can think of five (maybe six) students over the CS series that came from more working class/self made backgrounds. Biddy and Rosamund are shown as nice, ladylike girls whose mothers were both ladies' maids who learned nice ways from their mothers. Diana Skelton are Elma Conroy are the daughters of self-made men - Diana is a snob who manages vandalism, blackmail and theft to pay for gambling debts, Elma smokes, plays cards on Sunday, and runs around with unsuitable men. Joan's father wins big at the pools, and Joan is an overly sophisticated, boy obsessed hooligan. The possible sixth is Vera Smithers, whose family made a fortune during the war, and she's a horrible snob who is expelled for writing anonymous notes.

So apparently, if your family comes from the working class, your mother had better have worked for a well-bred woman and learned nice ways from her, or you're doomed.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Problem for the Chalet School
PostPosted: 03 Oct 2017, 13:26 
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Apart from the class theme which really grated, I quite enjoyed this one. Rosamund's nice and well-rounded, not outstanding at anything in particular, just a rather shy average new girl. Len's very nice here, and I liked how Jo gave her the sheepdog commission as a subtle way of making Con and Margot less reliant on her. I'm glad EBD didn't shoehorn Jo into dealing with Joan's running away, but instead let Miss Annersley do her job. That said, Jo's bit at the end where she helps Joan screw up enough courage to apologise is nicely done. I'm sorry that Joan never gets full credit in later books for her reformation, but continues to be the subject of little jabs about her "cheapness". And I really liked Hilary Wilson's spotlight moment, staying behind with Rosamund after the dentist and dealing efficiently with Joan. I wish I was that confident and self-assured now, let alone when I was seventeen.

The plotlines that go nowhere are annoying though. We get that bit about the mistresses flaming Upper IVb and deciding to demote them, and then there's not a word more about it, not even a throwaway line later about how they pulled up afterwards or whatever. And then there's a whole half chapter about how Len can't explain how wonderful Mary-Lou is and has to ask Jo...then when they meet Jo on a walk there isn't time to explain in three minutes so Rosamund had better wait until the Freudesheim visit...then when the visit occurs it's only mentioned afterwards when Len exclaims that they forgot to ask! What was the point of all that?

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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Problem for the Chalet School
PostPosted: 03 Oct 2017, 14:15 
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Aquabird wrote:

The plotlines that go nowhere are annoying though.


And Gisela and Gottfried, as well as Maria, are supposed to be moving to the Platz, which would have been lovely. But then it never happens - and we never get to see Maria teaching at the school, only one scene showing her at Joey's. The reason given for them all returning from America was that Gottfried wanted to be nearer to Frau Mensch and Tante Luise now that Herr Mensch has died, but, in Coming of Age, Herr Mensch is alive and well!

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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Problem for the Chalet School
PostPosted: 03 Oct 2017, 14:45 
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When exactly did the Mensches go to America anyway? Maria says she hasn't seen the triplets since they were toddlers and she went to join Gisela and Gottfried in America, but Gottfried's still at the San as late as Rescue, and Natalie and Gisel are at the school in Three Go and the island books, which it's unlikely they would have been if their parents were in America. So when did they go there? :dontknow:

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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Problem for the Chalet School
PostPosted: 03 Oct 2017, 14:56 
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I think EBD got them confused with Bernhilda and Kurt :lol:.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Problem for the Chalet School
PostPosted: 03 Oct 2017, 16:16 
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Reading Problem now as an adult, I cringe at the class stuff, so well analysed in previous posts, but....
This was my first CS book. I fell in love with the school, with Jo, and especially with Len, the moment she entered with Jo's coffee, and I've loved her ever since.
So maybe I have nothing sensible to say about this - except envy at Ros's bounce-back-ability at eating cream cakes so soon after a tooth extraction!


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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Problem for the Chalet School
PostPosted: 03 Oct 2017, 18:34 
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Alison H wrote:
The reason given for them all returning from America was that Gottfried wanted to be nearer to Frau Mensch and Tante Luise now that Herr Mensch has died, but, in Coming of Age, Herr Mensch is alive and well!


A new medical breakthrough from the San :D

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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Problem for the Chalet School
PostPosted: 04 Oct 2017, 05:06 
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jennifer wrote:
So apparently, if your family comes from the working class, your mother had better have worked for a well-bred woman and learned nice ways from her, or you're doomed.


There's also Gran in Gay who learned all her 'nice' ways from being a lady's maid to Lady Whoever.

I like Joan because she stays true to herself and doesn't really see a need to change to fit in with the snobby CS girls. She takes what she needs from the school i.e. learning extra languages properly, and lets the rest go.

She never really changes and to the end the girls look down on her, even when Rosamund announces her near-engagement. Instead of being excited and happy for their old school friend, Con turns up her nose at it, even though her mum did the exact same thing i.e. marry young!

Quote:
Why does Joey have to test Rosamund to see if she'll talk about her family - would she have done that with someone whose dad was a doctor or a lawyer?


She wanted to see if Rosamund would try to hide her working class roots, a kind of reverse snobbery.

Quote:
And I know that eavesdropping is a cardinal sin in CS-land, but wouldn't anyone eavesdrop if they heard someone talking about them? And wouldn't anyone be upset if they found out that someone had pretended to be their friend in order to "reform" them?


I agree, it would be close to impossible not to listen, I suppose Joan should have blocked her ears which is what good CS girls do. :D But yes, the fact that Miss Annersley and everyone else thinks that ML behaviour was right and doesn't bother to see Joan's POV, is rather grating.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Problem for the Chalet School
PostPosted: 04 Oct 2017, 16:46 
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This is one of my favourite books of the series! :D It seems that in Joan EBD does see the 'real world' where teenage girls do wear make up and have male friends. I like the stark contrast of Joan with Rosamund and how Rosamund finally breaks free from her. One of my favourite scenes in this book, and in fact the whole series, is where Joan says something inappropriate in front of her peers ("Raspberries to that!") and the CS girls respond by going silent with mouths open in utter shock! :lol:

However, there is one thing that disappoints me about this book and it's where Joan breaks down and apologises for her behaviour...by burying her head in Joey's (I think) lap! This is very unlike the Joan at the start of the story. This action also doesn't fit in with Joan's character as she is mentioned in later books as being distant from the other girls and still prone to having unsuitable hairstyles.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Problem for the Chalet School
PostPosted: 04 Oct 2017, 16:58 
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It's possible she was wholly repentant that first term, then went back home for the holidays and returned to some of her former ways. The home-school equilibrium she manages is rather admirable: She's enough of a Chalet girl to get by at school, however much her classmates look down on her; but she remains true to herself/roots as much as she can. Though I do wonder if her friends at home made fun of "snobby" manners she picked up from school.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Problem for the Chalet School
PostPosted: 04 Oct 2017, 17:24 
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I like the way she refers to Matey as 'Frozen Limit.'


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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Problem for the Chalet School
PostPosted: 04 Oct 2017, 21:17 
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I really like Ros in this. She's quiet and shy but still makes an impression. I also think that her reaction to being sent away from everything familiar to her is realistic.

Joan seems more of a caricature of the 'working class girl with, suddenly, wealthy parents'. I like that she is a strong enough character to retain her own personality and character throughout the series.

I think Joey is balanced in this book. She has a role but it doesn't feel as though zHilda is undermined by having to ask her opinion before doing anything.

I like Len in this and think that she starts to come into her own in this story. She becomes a person in her own right and isn't just the oldest, most responsible Maynard triplet.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Problem for the Chalet School
PostPosted: 05 Oct 2017, 01:53 
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Laura V wrote:
Joan says something inappropriate in front of her peers ("Raspberries to that!") and the CS girls respond by going silent with mouths open in utter shock! :lol:


She says "damn" at some point as well. Which is not even considered a swear word now.

mynameisdumbnuts wrote:
It's possible she was wholly repentant that first term, then went back home for the holidays and returned to some of her former ways. .. Though I do wonder if her friends at home made fun of "snobby" manners she picked up from school.


I think that's exactly what happened. Which is why I think Joan very cleverly walked the line of taking what she needed from the CS but probably laughing at them the whole time as well.

The CS girls come across as very quaint when they think "raspberries" is swearing (though maybe it is the talking back) and going into shock when someone says they have no religion. It basically shows how very narrow-minded they are that when they meet anyone outside their sphere of thinking it sends them into hysterics.

But also that they will never need to be. Let's be blunt - when will they ever meet working class girls of their own age at a social setting (not servant/mistress setting) ?

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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Problem for the Chalet School
PostPosted: 05 Oct 2017, 07:11 
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(Slight pedantry: I believe that Joan swears without it being specified what she says and the "damn'" incident is actually Val Gardiner in "Redheads" - I am happy to be corrected on that)

In my first reading I recognised the background of both Rosamind and Jo, and I feel that would have been true of many of the original readers (stereotypes become stereotypes for a reason!).

I don't want to second-guess EBD here but she must have been aware that many of her readers were not rich or even impoverished upper-midde-class. The Tyrol books were much more mixed in class (Herr Braun might have been only a "fat Austrian hotelkeeper" but no-one queried his grand-daughter going to the CS). Many of her readers would have longed to go to the CS but it would have been clearly no for them. EBD provides for the reality in making Rosamund's scholarship cover everything even pocket money.

I do find Rosamund going to the CS odd. It would make more sense for the scholarship to be to the local grammar school (which would have, almost certainly, still been taking private fee-payers at the point) but where would the story have been?
Joan turns out to be quite correct whe she says " Money talks" since, for all their concerns about it, Joan is allowed to enter the school part way through the term (but, if she did not, there would be no story)

I feel that the confusion the CS girls experience both with Rosamund (not knowing how to deal with "have a lend") and with Joan's different attitudes very real - as is Jack maynard's Conversation with Mary-Lou.

I don't see any of this as "snobbish". It seems to be a genuine attempt on the part of the grls to understand a world they have simply not met and did not realise existed. (The same culture collision still exists today). It is snobbish in that EBD chooses one way over another (so do most of us in RL whetehr we say it or just think it) but the way she chooses fits in with the general CS ethos


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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Problem for the Chalet School
PostPosted: 05 Oct 2017, 07:45 
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Jack's conversation with Mary-Lou, whilst I wish he'd told her to mind her own business, makes me smile. Most "brevet uncles" would have cleared their throats loudly, looked embarrassed, and said "Ahem, I think this might be better waiting until your Auntie Joey gets home". Gold star for Jack!

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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Problem for the Chalet School
PostPosted: 05 Oct 2017, 22:09 
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I like this book. Like Rosamund. Like the triplets and also like ML's conversation with Jack. I Iove Con's attempt to be tactful when Rosamund does not want to ask Mlle for the wool. I also like the scenes with Rosamund and Hilary and before that Rosamund's reading of her home letter and the fact the budgie is beginning to talk again after presumably missing Rosamund.

I don't mind Mrs Gay. I think her remarks about the money were made to empathise with Rosamund and to make Rosamund see that Mrs Gay did not consider herself better than the Lilleys. (sp?).

Much is made about Joan not fitting into the CS but I wonder how well Rosamund fitted in. Books later in Theodora is it ML who says that apart from her friendship with Len, Rosamund has rather stood alone? Was that due to Rosamund's own quiet nature or the fact that the CS was rather more snobby than EBD would let us believe.

Interesting to see there is absolutely no trace here of the jealousy Margot was meant to show from the very beginning towards Ros. Interesting, too, that EBD cannot decide how many children the Lilleys have - five or six. I think she could have been mixing up children with number of bedrooms.

I am glad Gottfried did not back to the Swiss San. It would not have worked him having to be Jack's No 2 and Gisela being second to Joey. A shame Jem could not have bought back the original San and put Gottfried in there. Maybe EBD also realised it would not have worked.


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