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 Post subject: Books: A Leader in the Chalet School
PostPosted: 12 Dec 2017, 01:32 
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Evening all, and a cold one it is too, here on the central belt, anyway. Hope the snow isn’t wreaking too much havoc to those affected.

Anyway, this week’s feature book is A Leader in the Chalet School, first published in 1961 and covering the Easter term following Ruey. This book introduces Jacynth ‘Jack’ Lambert, daughter of Ruth and Tommy and niece of Gay, and named after Jacynth Hardy. Jack and her older sister Anne begin at the school a term late after catching mumps. Jack’s first term at the school is filled with pranks and an admiration for her dormitory Len Maynard, and she becomes embroiled in a rivalry with Margaret Twiss. Meanwhile, Margot faces a crisis of confidence when Vb is threatened with demotion, and Professor Richardson makes a second ill-fated attempt to blast off into space.

Note: I’m working from the paperback version of this book, which according to the NCC has ‘minor frequent cuts’. If I’ve missed any important points, please flag them up.

Notable events:

Eleven year old Jack arrives at the school and is placed in Pansy dormitory, where Len Maynard is prefect this term. Len escorts her from the dormitory down to the Junior Middles’ common room to hand her over to Wanda von Eschenau for sheepdogging. She chats to Jack as they walk, and is amazed to learn she is related to Gay Lambert, who is now married with twin girls.
Arriving at the common room, Len summons Wanda, and they learn that Jack is named after Jacynth Hardy, who lives with the Lamberts when she isn’t on tour. Both Len and Wanda agree that Jack suits her much better as she is obviously a tomboy. Len departs for her own common room after telling Jack that if she needs any questions answered that Wanda can’t manage, to come and ask her instead.
Jack takes Len at her word and bombards her with questions every evening, much to the shock of the rest of Lower IIIa, who point out that she should be asking Wanda, her sheepdog, instead. Jack replies that Len is her dormitory prefect and she has every right to ask her, as there are things Wanda might not know or get wrong.
At the end of the first week, Len confides in Con that she is getting thoroughly fed up with Jack’s incessant questions, and Con replies that it was inevitably going to happen, given Len’s tendency to take the lead and help people whenever possible. Len demands to know if she is turning bossy, remembering Mary-Lou’s words to her the previous summer term, but Con says she is just naturally helpful.
Later that morning, the school goes out for winter sports, and Jack opts to try skiing for the first time. Wanda and Renata van Buren take her in hand initially, then Len sends them off to have their own fun while she takes over, before being replaced by Josette and then Con.
Jack, who stands in awe of Head Girl Josette, is amazed at how casually Con speaks to her, and mentions it later to her form mates. Her remark catches the attention of one Margaret Twiss, who sneers that Josette is just a girl like themselves, and that she is only Head Girl because she is Madame’s daughter. The others promptly squash her, pointing out that if that were the case, Sybil would have been Head Girl in her own day.
That night, Len is woken up by the freezing temperature in Pansy. As she gets up to pull on her dressing gown, she hears someone moving about, and discovers Jack, also woken by the cold, trying to get into some underclothes. Len tells her to put on her dressing gown and tucks her up in bed, and on touching the radiator, finds it stone cold. She goes to seek Matey.
Unable to find Matey in her room, Len is climbing back up the stairs after checking the furnaces when she trips and drops her torch, which rolls away downstairs. Matey, who was seeing to a toothache case in Gentian, is attracted by the noise, and accompanies Len back to Pansy. They find Jack cowering in her bed, having heard Len’s torch dropping and believing it was burglars breaking in, and her yell of fright when Matey and Len arrive rouses the rest of Pansy. Matey provides everyone in the affected dormitories with an extra blanket, and Pansy with hot milk.
The snow carries on for several days, keeping the school tied to the house. Lower IIIa soon become bored with being kept in, and begin to speculate what would happen if the snow piled so high that they couldn’t open the doors. Jack, noticing how high the snow is already, proposes they go and open a door to see, but is instantly shot down by the others, who point out that if she does, the whole form will end up with their free time supervised, and that they will probably miss the Fifth form entertainment that evening, too. Jack, seeing that nobody is on board with her, drops the idea for the time being.
The Fifths hold their evening, miming scenes from various books and offering prizes to those from the Seniors, Senior Middles, Junior Middles and Juniors who guess the most. Jack is dismayed that, due to her lack of interest in books thus far, the only one she is able to guess is from Swiss Family Robinson. She resolves to read more so as not to be at such a disadvantage at future such Evenings.
The snow continues for another few days, and Jack gets up on the Tuesday in a bad mood. Nothing goes right for her as she has lessons returned, cheeks the mistresses and ends up with two order marks. Len spots her scowl as she passes her in the corridor, and makes an excuse to go up to the dormitory as Lower IIIa are getting ready for bed. On hearing about Jack’s bad day, she promises to help her with the returned lessons the next morning.
Len keeps her promise, and Jack has a much better day as a result. She finds two parcels hidden in her handkerchief case that she had forgotten about, and puts them in her pocket for later, as she is spoiling for mischief after the day before.
When the girls go to change library books, Renata offers Jack the one she has just finished, with the remark that she will enjoy it. At the same moment, Margaret Twiss sees it and demands it as she has been waiting all term for it. Jack refuses and gets in first with her request for it, much to Margaret’s annoyance.
Later that morning, Margaret has a bad time during a singing lesson and Jack grins infuriatingly at her. Lower IIIa then has English with Miss Andrews, and Jack does it so badly she is told off, while Margaret is praised for her neat correct work. She asks to go for a drink, and while she is out of the room, Jack surreptitiously puts cobbler’s wax on her chair. Margaret returns and sits down, and when she stands up at the end of the lesson with the rest of the form, the chair sticks to her gym tunic (I thought they were ditched in favour of the dress?). Miss Andrews makes enquiries, and Jack owns up. She is given another two order marks, meaning she will miss the Saturday Evening, and ordered to pay for the damage done to the tunic.
Margaret tries to enlist sympathy from the others over her tunic, but as Miss Andrews had forbidden the form from talking about it, she finds herself rebuffed. Renata also points out that she has taken a dislike to Jack from the start and so had basically asked for it.
Meanwhile, Jack, smarting over her punishment and having to miss the Evening, decides to use the contents of her second parcel: bubble bath she has purloined from her mother’s drawer before leaving home. She goes about with a mysterious air which attracts Len’s attention, but she has no chance to question her about it at the time.
Jack uses the bubble bath in one of the bathrooms in the staff corridor, which is out of bounds to the girls. Peggy Burnett is the victim, and her yell of shock attracts the attention of Nancy Wilmot, Kathie Ferrars and a crowd of girls. Peggy is furious and vows to find the culprit.
Len remembers Jack’s air earlier on, and demands to know if she was responsible for the bath prank. Jack, now scared of the ruckus she has caused, admits to it, and Len shepherds her to Miss Burnett to confess. Jack looks so hangdog and her confession is expressed so oddly that Miss Burnett bursts out laughing and is much kinder than she intended to Jack. She insists that, as any of the mistresses could have been the prank victim, Jack must apologise to all of them, and also miss the first day of winter sports in favour of an ordinary walk instead.
Len goes to Miss Burnett to ask if she can be the one to take Jack on her walk, explaining that she feels partly responsible for the bath prank, as she had noticed Jack was revved up but didn’t do anything about it. She receives permission, and takes Jack on the walk. She tells Jack to stop and think before she does mad things, and advises her to leave Margaret alone, pointing out that damaging people’s property is going too far when it comes to pranks. That evening, Jack tells her that she intends to apologise to Margaret the next day, and wants to model herself on Len.
The staff take their ease one evening, and Miss Derwent remarks on the generally poor standard of work in Vb, save for Margot, Ruey, Francie, Pen Grant and one or two others. The mistresses agree that Vb need shaking up, and are pleased when the Heads come in with the news that the form are to be given an official warning at half term that they must either pull up or be demoted to Inter V.
Talk turns to the triplets, and it is noted that Len seems to be taking Lower IIIa, especially Jack, in hand, while at the same time leaving Con and Margot to their own devices. Miss Annersley also says that if Margot continues her steady work, she will be moved straight from Vb to VIb the following year.
Half-term arrives, and the triplets and Ruey go home with Ted, Ros, Ricki and Francie. On the first day, Margot, brooding over the warning Vb has just received, initially declines their morning plan of visiting the San, but Len notices something is wrong and coaxes her into coming.
After visiting the San – where they learn that Naomi Elton is undergoing another major operation that afternoon which will hopefully right all her problems – Len and Margot take a separate route back to Freudesheim, and Margot confides in Len her fears of being demoted. Len points out how well she and Ruey and Francie have done that term and assures her the Head wouldn’t be so unfair. Margot cheers up at this.
The next day, Jack proposes taking the girls to Montreux, but Len asks to stay behind in order to have a chat with Miss Annersley, and also to invite Mary-Lou over for English tea. She walks to the San with Miss Annersley, and tentatively tells her about Margot’s fears. Miss Annersley tells her that Margot can’t have listened to her properly, as she will have no need to fear being demoted if she keeps up her high standard. She also says that Margot and the other workers have to take the lead and make work fashionable in Vb, the same as it is in Va. Len agrees to try and pass on the hint.
Meanwhile, Mary-Lou rings up Jo and asks if she can come over at once to talk to her privately. When she arrives, she tells Jo that she has received a cable from Commander Carey with the news that Professor Richardson and another man, who had previously made an unsuccessful space flight attempt and narrowly escaped death, made another attempt two days previously and have gone. Jo thanks Mary-Lou for bringing the news and ponders when to tell Ruey and the boys the news, eventually deciding to wait for an official letter before saying anything.
The second half of term begins, and Margot sets to work at once on her mission to improve the standard of Vb. She finds several people awed enough by the Head’s warning to pull up anyway, and her fellow hard workers also back her up, so that the mistresses are stunned at the sudden huge leap in quality of work.
One evening in the common room, a bored Jack slips out and strolls along to Hall, where she begins to read the Honours boards with great interest. Just as she reaches Gay’s name and is stunned to learn that she was the first winner of the Margot Venables Prize, Gwen Parry comes in and catches her. She gives Jack a bad conduct mark for breaking rules and, when Jack refuses to say what she was doing in Hall, marches her off to the prefects’ room for the rest of the free time before prep, much to Jack’s fury.
A letter from Commander Carey to Jo confirms what he said in his cable to Mary-Lou, but after a further week of no news, Jo is forced to tell Ruey that her father appears to be gone for good this time. The triplets go with Ruey to Freudesheim for this, and Jack, still smarting over Gwen’s rebuke, is aggrieved that she misses out on Len’s counsel as a result.
Margot confides in Len that although most of Vb have pulled up, Prudence Dawbarn and her particular satellites have slid back into slacking again. Len advises that they ask Priscilla to have a word with her twin. Priscilla readily agrees, with the result that Prudence does begin to pull up again.
Jack waits her chance, and when walks are ordained, fills Gwen’s walking boots with water so that when she pulls them out of her locker, she is soaked. The prefects rally round her, and determine to find the culprit without reporting it to the staff if it can be helped.
Len, noticing that she has seen very little of Jack since half-term, makes a round of Pansy one evening before Kaffee, startling Jack when she appears suddenly in her cubicle. Noticing her guilty look, Len demands to know what the problem is, and Jack unwillingly confesses about Gwen. Len points out that Gwen only did what any prefect would have done, and marches her off downstairs to wait in the common room while she sends Gwen to her.
Gwen gives Jack her opinion of her doings and tells her she will clean the boots as punishment, but then asks what hobby would interest her, so that she doesn’t become bored again. On hearing that Jack likes engines and machinery, she offers to bring some of her brother’s old toy trains and tracks with her next term to start her off on a collection, much to Jack’s delight.
Miss Bertram comes to take Saturday morning mending and prep with Lower IIIa, but as she is beginning with a bilious attack, she finds fault with everything the girls do, infuriating Jack, Margaret Twiss, Rosemary Wentworth and several others. Matey soon spots her and marches her off to bed, but she insists on returning to school on the Monday despite still not feeling entirely fit, as Miss Andrews is in San with flu. When she opens the drawer in the mistress’s desk for a pencil, a toy snake springs out and, having a fear of snakes on top of her illness, she promptly faints, much to the girls’ horror.
Gaudenz carried Miss Bertram off to her room, and Matey reports the incident to the Head, who questions all of Lower IIIa in turn on whether they put the snake in the drawer. Every girl denies it, but when it is Jack’s turn, Renata hisses at her. The Head pulls her up immediately, and tells the form that they have until that evening for the culprit to confess, after which, they will be put into silence for a week.
When Lower IIIa is finally left alone at the end of the morning, everyone except Wanda, Barbara Hewlett and, surprisingly, Margaret Twiss, vows to cold-shoulder Jack until she confesses to the trick. Jack denies all wrongdoing, but has a miserable time of it. Nobody confesses to Miss Annersley, and she is forced to put them all into silence. Anne Lambert and Len both go to her to ask to talk to Jack, but she refuses to let them, pointing out that it’s Jack’s own fault she has gained such a reputation for mischief.
Miss Andrews is sent off to Freudesheim for a change of scene to get over her flu, and the triplets and Ruey go to spend the Sunday there. Having been out of school all week, Miss Andrews has so far not heard of the snake incident, but on hearing about it from Len and Con, she is horrified, and reveals that it was she who put the snake in the drawer, having confiscated it from someone and shoved it in the drawer without thinking.
The next morning, Miss Annersley summons Lower IIIa to the study and informs them of the truth, and apologises for not believing them. Everyone is then stunned when Margaret Twiss bursts into tears and confesses that she knew the truth all along, as she saw Miss Andrews putting the snake in the drawer, but didn’t confess to it as she was glad that Jack was getting the blame for it.
Miss Annersley sends the other girls away, and gets the full details from Margaret, who confesses that she has disliked Jack from the start because she has palled up with Wanda, whom Margaret has always wanted for a friend. Miss Annersley sends her to bed for the rest of the day after a serious talk on how wrong her behaviour was, and forbids Lower IIIa from mentioning the affair to her again.
Meanwhile, Jack, Barbara and Wanda wallow in their triumph at being in the right all along, and keep the rest of the form, especially Renata, at arm’s length as they uneasily wonder how to make amends for not believing Jack. Margaret, when she returns to school the next day, apologises to Jack and asks to be friends, and Jack accepts her at once.
Len discovers what is going on, and asks Jack if she said her prayers that morning. On hearing that she has, she asks her to consider the words of ‘Our Father’, much to Jack’s surprise. She also points out that Jack partly asked for the treatment she received with her wild behaviour, and that she has to learn to think before doing mad things.
Jack finally grasps what Len meant about forgiving people, and sets to work at once to make amends with first Renata, then the others in the form, admitting that it was partly her own fault she was blamed for the snake incident. Lower IIIa settles down, and the staff, learning from Rosalie Dene that Len was responsible for resolving the incident, decree that she is definitely a leader in the school.

So, thoughts on this Easter term entry? This is Jack Lambert’s debut in the series, how do you think EBD handled her introduction? What about Len’s mentoring roles, both with Jack and Margot? What about the Vb and Professor Richardson subplots? What do you think of the snake in the drawer incident and the resulting effects on Lower IIIa?

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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Leader in the Chalet School
PostPosted: 12 Dec 2017, 01:58 
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One thing that I find interesting is that Len is repeatedly described as a leader when it comes to Jack, when it's really *Jack* who is driving the relationship. It's not like Len saw a junior who was struggling, and stepped in (the way Mary-Lou might have) - Jack immediately attaches herself to Len and makes a lot of demands, and Len is helpless when it comes to doing anything about it.

With Margot, I remember that I absolutely hated group punishments. I was generally well behaved, and really resented being kept in for a group detention due to other people's bad behaviour, and the teachers' inability to handle it. And if the teacher is unable to manage to get their students to work, passing the responsibility on to the classmates (with the threat of failing a year!) is pretty horrible. Although I do know that being threatened with failing a year because other people were slacking would have sent my parents through the roof. I can picture one of the hard working girls writing home in a panic over failing, and their parents wanting to know what was going on, and why they were paying high school fees for this.

With Jack in general - I find she's one of the most realistic of the later series characters. At the same time, I don't like her. She's self-centred, and a bully, and she has a vindictive streak. If she were a background character like Francie, she could be an interesting example of a slow maturation of a character over multiple books. But I think we're supposed to see her as a sympathetic character and a future Head Girl and I just can't buy it.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Leader in the Chalet School
PostPosted: 12 Dec 2017, 04:51 
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I do have the hardback of this book but don't know when I last read it or whether I will ever read it again.

I can hardly believe that nasty Jack Lambert is the daughter of nice Ruth or a relative of Gay.

It is also painful when EBD tries to convince us that Len is a leader. Why could she not have let Len be and had Ted as the leader? Although I really liked Rosamund I also found it hard to see her as a leader, in the early days at any rate. I always get a shock when Ros takes charge over the cleaning of the Chapels. Maybe though she was a leader by that stage of her schooldays.

One thing I do find strange is that Josette follows on as HG from one who was brilliant. Yet we never see Josette having any doubts as to her own capabilities. It might have been a bit more authentic if we had seen her briefly not so confident. I suppose though she was the founder's daughter so maybe had a natural confidence from that.

One of my least favourite booka in the entire series.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Leader in the Chalet School
PostPosted: 12 Dec 2017, 05:00 
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jennifer wrote:
And if the teacher is unable to manage to get their students to work, passing the responsibility on to the classmates (with the threat of failing a year!) is pretty horrible. Although I do know that being threatened with failing a year because other people were slacking would have sent my parents through the roof.


It also directly contradicts what Miss Annersley says to Kathie in New Mistress when she says that the girls should not be punished in bulk.

I had a teacher in primary school who would dish out lines, detention etc to the whole class. Which was wildly unfair to the people who did behave. Class punishments don't work anyway. The people causing trouble don't give a damn, and the well behaved people just think "well, if I am going to be punished anyway I might as well misbehave."

Jack is vindictive with her pranks - she sticks Margaret's dress to the chair because she is mad at her and fills Gwen's boots with water because she does what any prefect would do and scolds her.

It shows the start of a quite nasty character which would increase later on.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Leader in the Chalet School
PostPosted: 12 Dec 2017, 11:10 
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When I first read this, I thought that the "leader" was meant to be Jack, rather than Len! It's around this time, maybe even earlier, that EBD keeps insisting that Len is just like Joey and that both of them are just like Mary-Lou – when in fact they're three very different people. Joey very rarely "butted in" at school, even though she starts being described as a "champion butter-in", and Len, whilst she's a perfectly nice and pleasant girl, really doesn't have the leadership qualities of either Joey or Mary-Lou.

It amuses me that Len is so shocked that Gay never contacted the school to tell them that she'd moved to New Zealand, got married and had children. OK, some people do like to keep in touch with their old school or university, and you get the "news of old boys/girls" columns in school magazines (if the CS had one?), but surely the majority of people only keep in touch with their particular friends. (Maybe EBD forgot that Gay and St Mildred's secretary Gill Culver were close friends? Or maybe they'd fallen out!)

Jack is a very nasty piece of work, and I really wish there hadn't been so much focus on her. I know I'm always saying this, but why not focus on Ailie, Janice and Judy, three mischievous-but-nice girls and potentially strong characters, with strong links to Chalet School and La Rochelle history, instead? And how lovely Ruth Lambert produced a daughter as horrible as Jack is a mystery! Most schools have pupils like Jack, and gangs like the one she leads, and she'd have fitted right in at somewhere like Malory Towers, but it's strange to see someone so unpleasant given such a prominent role at the Chalet School.

And then there's the insistence that it's not a crush/Grand Passion, and that Jack's only obsessed with Len because Len can answer her questions. What questions? And why is Len the only person who can answer them?!

Oh, and as for Professor Richardson literally vanishing into thin air … words fail me :lol: .

I'd really like to have Josette and Jo Scott take control at this point. They were best friends in Kenya, and I think they'd have made a good team. But Josette gets pushed into the background, even though she's Head Girl, and Jo doesn't feature much after Excitements.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Leader in the Chalet School
PostPosted: 12 Dec 2017, 13:52 
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Alison H wrote:
And then there's the insistence that it's not a crush/Grand Passion, and that Jack's only obsessed with Len because Len can answer her questions. What questions? And why is Len the only person who can answer them?!
Well, I also have to apologise for repeating myself, but I cannot see any real sign of Jack having a crush on Len, and no passion is involved except a very childish anger when Len is not available to her; there is also no indication that Jack takes any real pleasure in Len's company, or is thrilled when Len takes notice of her - she doesn't even look forward to seeing her except to get things fixed by her.

What I do see is a very immature child who is unable to cope without her mother, and who demands that Len be a mother-substitute. I agree that the questions are not always much in evidence!


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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Leader in the Chalet School
PostPosted: 12 Dec 2017, 18:27 
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I can't see Jo having any time for a Junior when she was at school (except for the Robin of course). Mary-Lou would have been very kind but firmly put her in her place. Neither would have been 'helpless.' What were these questions and why couldn't her friends or Form Mistress have answered them?


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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Leader in the Chalet School
PostPosted: 12 Dec 2017, 19:16 
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This book is the beginning of the end of my love affair with EBD's books. I am afraid once Jack appears the whole series goes downhill apart from the odd exception, mainly holiday books.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Leader in the Chalet School
PostPosted: 12 Dec 2017, 19:28 
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I read this when I was the age at which it was aimed so had no real problems with it or Jack at that point.

I still don't see Jack as particularly nasty or vindictive in this book, immature I feel is the right description. She does things without thinking them through - her reaction to Gwen is resentment at being spoken to (probably not uncommon among the Middles- most children see people exercising discipline and control as unreasonable). She doesn't have the experience to realise that's the way it is at school and to take it out in grumbling. Similarly with the cobbler's wax - she didn't set out to damage Margaret's clothing and her action was in line with the way a lot people would have felt in that situation - but don't do. Her latching onto Len - the only "big" girl to whom she has any access - is a sign of immaturity and uncertainly.

Interestingly, showing how a character is thinking is one "trick" authors to give readers empathy with difficult characters, and we see Jack, on more that one occasion (not only in this book) thinking about how she feels and analysing her behaviour. I feel EBD did see her as a naughty-but-nice Middle but was no longer able to write such a character.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Leader in the Chalet School
PostPosted: 12 Dec 2017, 20:37 
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To me, Jack comes across as, yes, immature, but also just not terribly bright. She leaps to conclusions, doesn't think anything through and can't see anything from anyone's viewpoint than her own....


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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Leader in the Chalet School
PostPosted: 12 Dec 2017, 21:56 
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I don't find Jack so bad in her introductory book, but I think that's because I know she gets worse later. She's like an 11-year-old on a perpetual sugar high -- impulsive, reckless, careless and thoughtless. She comes across as a girl who needs somebody/something to entertain her rather than being able to entertain herself. You'd think a girl so gung-ho to attend the Chalet School would a) know about the language rules and b) learn some French and German to prepare herself!

For someone who's supposed to be such a question mark, EBD does a poor job of showing that. I haven't finished the book yet, but the only examples I've seen are Jack wondering why Margot's bruise is that colour and asking for details about Len's family. Not particularly urgent or thought-provoking.

I've always thought Jack the leader to which the title refers because she does establish herself as a form leader very early on. You can tell Len is supposed to assume the role of mentor in this book and be a leader in her own right, but it doesn't happen. I do like the scene where she and Margot are talking about the performance of Vb. They are both cognizant of the talking-to they got in Theodora and neither wants to overstep boundaries, but I think it's realistic Margot would turn to her most level-headed sister and ask her advice.

The school's tactics to raise the bar in Vb are very unfair. The girls' performance is the school's responsibility, not any student's. I wonder how Joey would have reacted had her daughter, who has been pulled up a lot over the years for not working hard enough, had been punished once she started working hard enough. Poor Margot must have felt the goalposts were constantly shifting.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Leader in the Chalet School
PostPosted: 12 Dec 2017, 23:04 
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A minor point - why should Anne Lambert have had to wait to go to the Chalet School until Jack was considered old enough to go with? The same thing happened with Amy and Margia, but I don't think it happened with anyone else. Surely, if Ruth and Tommy considered 11 to be an appropriate age for being sent away to school, Anne should have gone when she was 11 and Jack should have had to accept that she'd have to wait another few years, and that that's life when you're the youngest!

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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Leader in the Chalet School
PostPosted: 12 Dec 2017, 23:20 
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Alison H wrote:
A minor point - why should Anne Lambert have had to wait to go to the Chalet School until Jack was considered old enough to go with? The same thing happened with Amy and Margia, but I don't think it happened with anyone else. Surely, if Ruth and Tommy considered 11 to be an appropriate age for being sent away to school, Anne should have gone when she was 11 and Jack should have had to accept that she'd have to wait another few years, and that that's life when you're the youngest!


It seems as if Jack could have been spoilt and one of those children who had to get their own way. Maybe she created such a fuss at the idea of Anne going to the school ahead of her that Anne was kept at home for the sake of a quiet life with Jack.

I think the series lost most of its sparkle when Mary Lou left . EBD wanted us to regard Len and Jack as next in line but Len, although nice, was no leader and Jack not nice enough.

I did read the last books of the series as they came out and most of the rest at the same time, at the age they should have been read. As a teenager I was not keen on Len because she was perfect. I loathed Jack because she was unpleasant. At that time I thought a bad CS book was better than no CS book but now I wonder.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Leader in the Chalet School
PostPosted: 12 Dec 2017, 23:58 
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I think the Head had the right idea in wanting Vb to see hard work as a Good Thing and something they do off their own bat rather than having to threaten them with demotion - i.e. the carrot vs the stick - but lumping in girls like Margot with the slackers was unfair, and a bit off kilter with the usual CS approach (such as the New Mistress example cited above). She should have been a lot clearer in reassuring the top six or seven girls that they were in no danger - especially Margot, who has only just settled down to steady work after years of coasting and really doesn't need demoralising at this point.

Len really needed to have a heart-to-heart with Mary-Lou about Jack, I think. Mary-Lou would have advised her firmly to stop running after Jack and insist that she ask Wanda and her form mates her questions, not be constantly harassing a Senior who isn't even a proper prefect. Jack's excuse that Wanda might not know or might get it wrong is completely ridiculous - why not ask Wanda first and see?

Dunno if my paperback missed out some crucial points, but the confrontation between Jack and Gwen was stupid, too. Why on earth didn't Jack just say she was reading the Honours boards, there was hardly anything shameful in it. She'd still have got the deserved conduct mark for breaking a rule, but Gwen wouldn't have marched her off to the prefects' room, as she only did that because she thought Jack was up to no good with her 'don't know' responses and thought it better to keep an eye on her.

The rivalry with Margaret over Wanda's friendship feels a bit forced, especially coming straight after the Ruey-Francie-Margot plot which was exactly the same thing, and handled a lot better besides. Why not just have Margaret dislike Jack because of her forward attitude? EBD even makes a point of saying that one or two people don't like Jack because of that, so it would make perfect sense for Margaret to be one of them.

Jack herself: ugh, even in this book where she's not as bad as she becomes later. There's just this little undercurrent of nastiness about her that doesn't sit well considering she's presumably being groomed to become the focal character after Len leaves. The pranks on Margaret and Gwen are really personal, it's hard to imagine another Naughty Middle like Ailie Russell doing anything like that - or indeed sulking over a deserved rebuke the way Jack does with Gwen. I agree with Alison that it's a real pity EBD didn't focus on her and her friends instead as this era's Middles gang.

Overall rating: not a fan. If Jack had to be introduced at all, I wish it had been earlier when Mary-Lou was around to squash her flat. Len isn't anywhere near as forceful enough, even with her near-telepathic ability to tell when Jack's done, or about to do, something bad.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Leader in the Chalet School
PostPosted: 13 Dec 2017, 00:15 
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Aquabird wrote:
I think the Head had the right idea in wanting Vb to see hard work as a Good Thing and something they do off their own bat rather than having to threaten them with demotion - i.e. the carrot vs the stick - but lumping in girls like Margot with the slackers was unfair, and a bit off kilter with the usual CS approach.


But she said that only those whose work DIDN'T improve would be kept down. Margot's work was already good enough - she just didn't listen properly...........!! :shock:

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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Leader in the Chalet School
PostPosted: 13 Dec 2017, 00:30 
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If the Head told the girls exactly what she told the staff, then I can see how Margot misinterpreted her:

Quote:
...I'm summoning them to the study and I shall tell them exactly what we all think of them. When that's over, they will be told that they have the rest of this term to show a definite improvement.


She doesn't specify that it's only the girls getting <50% (or whatever the benchmark is) who need to pull up; even if she didn't mean it as such, her threat comes across as the entire form, regardless of their current marks, needing to improve, and that's why Margot panicked. That's why I think she should have made a point of telling Margot and Co. they were safe; she left it too vague. And also, it should have been a matter of courtesy, too; it was unfair enough that they had to listen to the lecture at all when they were doing their best, she should have gone out of her way to keep their morale up, especially considering she wanted them to take the initiative and encourage the others.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Leader in the Chalet School
PostPosted: 13 Dec 2017, 15:03 
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Audrey25 wrote:
Alison H wrote:
A minor point - why should Anne Lambert have had to wait to go to the Chalet School until Jack was considered old enough to go with? The same thing happened with Amy and Margia, but I don't think it happened with anyone else. Surely, if Ruth and Tommy considered 11 to be an appropriate age for being sent away to school, Anne should have gone when she was 11 and Jack should have had to accept that she'd have to wait another few years, and that that's life when you're the youngest!


It seems as if Jack could have been spoilt and one of those children who had to get their own way. Maybe she created such a fuss at the idea of Anne going to the school ahead of her that Anne was kept at home for the sake of a quiet life with Jack.


I agree, I think the Lamberts caving to Jack's tantrum is a possibility. They also might have preferred the girls travel together so Anne could keep an eye on her less sensible sister.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Leader in the Chalet School
PostPosted: 13 Dec 2017, 17:39 
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I also don't know why Anne Lambert has to be depicted as such a drippy girly type. She was probably a nice hard-working well-behaved girl - not unlike Len or Ros.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Leader in the Chalet School
PostPosted: 14 Dec 2017, 02:34 
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Mel wrote:
I also don't know why Anne Lambert has to be depicted as such a drippy girly type. She was probably a nice hard-working well-behaved girl - not unlike Len or Ros.


I can definitely see Anne as being a lot like Len, but rather than having been raised to look after her younger siblings, she's always been overshadowed by her energetic younger sister.

I think that Jack wasn't mature enough for boarding school. She's an impulsive, demanding child, and what she really needs is her parents, answering her endless questions, keeping an eye on her mood and finding out what's wrong when she's in a sulk, and giving her quite a lot of individual attention. The amount of attention she gets at the CS is not enough, so she demands more and more of Len, who won't say no. If she had been sent to boarding school at age fifteen or so, she'd be much more able to cope.

I could actually see my nieces being like this. The eldest is a calm, biddable child (although energetic), who pays attention and follows the rules. The younger is much stronger willed and impulsive and needs a lot more attention and parental work to be turned into a functioning member of society.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: A Leader in the Chalet School
PostPosted: 14 Dec 2017, 03:05 
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Noreen wrote:
Well, I also have to apologise for repeating myself, but I cannot see any real sign of Jack having a crush on Len, and no passion is involved except a very childish anger when Len is not available to her; there is also no indication that Jack takes any real pleasure in Len's company, or is thrilled when Len takes notice of her - she doesn't even look forward to seeing her except to get things fixed by her.


That is one way of a crush or liking manifesting itself - the 'stalking' behaviour, the 'accidental' running into etc

But Jack's crush manifests itself into a type of jealous possessiveness which is actually even worse. And because of the way Len treats it, Jack gets worse by the way she treats Jane and even Copper in Redheads.

In Redheads, she shoots an unfriendly look at Copper just because the girl expresses some sympathy for Len. Len immediately rushes in to pacify her and divert her attention.

I have been in a relationship with a possessive man and that is exactly what I had to do over and over if I so much as talked to another man - the immediate pacification and constantly having to reassure them of the relationship. It's very tiring and the only way for it to stop is to simply end the relationship. I'm not saying Len should cut Jack off and there are obvious differences between schoolgirls and a grown man, but pacifying jealous possessive behaviour only makes it worse.

Victoria wrote:
I still don't see Jack as particularly nasty or vindictive in this book, immature I feel is the right description. She does things without thinking them through - her reaction to Gwen is resentment at being spoken to (probably not uncommon among the Middles- most children see people exercising discipline and control as unreasonable). She doesn't have the experience to realise that's the way it is at school and to take it out in grumbling.


So has Jack not been to school before? Was she taught at home? She must have had some basic understanding of the prefect system and that older girls are given the responsibility to keep younger girls in line.

Gwen does overreact but it's a direct result of Jack's OWN behaviour. If she had not played pranks then Gwen would probably have sent her back to the common room with a scolding and left it at that. But she decides Jack needs to have someone watching her.

My concern is that Jack's immediate thought is revenge. And even when she's calmed down she still doesn't think twice about getting back at Gwen.

Alison H wrote:
It amuses me that Len is so shocked that Gay never contacted the school to tell them that she'd moved to New Zealand, got married and had children. OK, some people do like to keep in touch with their old school or university, and you get the "news of old boys/girls" columns in school magazines (if the CS had one?), but surely the majority of people only keep in touch with their particular friends. (Maybe EBD forgot that Gay and St Mildred's secretary Gill Culver were close friends? Or maybe they'd fallen out!)


Schools like the CS did have OG associations who keep in touch with OGs and send out regular updates. I remember an episode of To the Manor Born when Audrey and Margery sit around reading from the OG's update and I can just imagine CS girls being much the same.

Quote:
Oh, and as for Professor Richardson literally vanishing into thin air … words fail me :lol: .


I feel quite sad for the Richardson kids because they will spend the rest of their lives wondering what happened to their father or if he's alive somewhere and they will run into him. I personally think he was kidnapped by the Soviets and put to work on their space programme.

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