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 Post subject: Re: Books: Summer Term at the Chalet School
PostPosted: 24 Feb 2018, 09:08 
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Those attitudes were very commonly held at the time. Without wishing to get too far off the point, I've seen interviews with people whose babies were stolen by the Fascist regime in Spain and who were told that the babies had died. They said that they just accepted what they were told because, in the 1940s and 1950s, you did not question the word of a doctor. And we've seen those attitudes coming through now in the gymnastics abuse case you mentioned. It's the same with people who've complained about teachers, religious figures, etc. We see Mr Gay saying that he's going to discuss the Bakers' personal financial business with the vicar, presumably because he thought the Bakers would stop over-spending if the vicar told them to. We can't know how EBD felt in real life, but that extreme respect for a male, professional authority figure was widespread back in the day.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Summer Term at the Chalet School
PostPosted: 24 Feb 2018, 10:20 
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Thanks, Joyce. I understand your point all right - it just took my breath away when it stopped being general and theoretical and started being about what you felt EMBD would have said/ done in a rather horrifying real life situation that she never knew about. And yes, as Alison has pointed out, until relatively recently it was a fairly common attitude that doctors, in particular, were godlike in their authority.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Summer Term at the Chalet School
PostPosted: 24 Feb 2018, 13:10 
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Noreen wrote:
And yes, as Alison has pointed out, until relatively recently it was a fairly common attitude that doctors, in particular, were godlike in their authority.

There are countries and cultures where this is very much still the case. It is one reason that if I am seriously ill I want to be in the UK and not in the Czech Republic, good though the medical care is over there.

I need to be able to question my doctor as an equal, though one lacking his specialist knowledge.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Summer Term at the Chalet School
PostPosted: 24 Feb 2018, 16:10 
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cestina wrote:
I need to be able to question my doctor as an equal, though one lacking his specialist knowledge.


Don't we all, cestina! But from 1978-1990, when my daughter was in and out of hospital like a yo-yo, and often for weeks or months at a time (first as a baby and up until she was 12) the only person who treated me like an intelligent human being with a right to ask questions was the consultant himself. His underlings behaved like little tin gods and dismissed me out of hand - until the situation went badly wrong during a visit to the clinic. She had a slight temp so they wanted me to send her back to the ward - where they had rampant sickness and diarrhoea! That would have been great for a one year old child in a complete body plaster, wouldn't it? They didn't like me taking her away again, but I complained to the consultant and he insisted we saw only him in clinic from then on. Grr! And I'm not sure much has changed since then judging by the sighs I stil hear, when I ask questions.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Summer Term at the Chalet School
PostPosted: 25 Feb 2018, 02:04 
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Alison H wrote:
We can't know how EBD felt in real life, but that extreme respect for a male, professional authority figure was widespread back in the day.


I think to a certain level we can know how she felt, but not the extent she would have taken it in real life. It's one thing to write about her star doctor calmly thrashing a child and quite another to approve of that act if it happened right in front of her.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Summer Term at the Chalet School
PostPosted: 25 Feb 2018, 09:45 
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Well, corporal punishment was the norm in her day (1920s, 1930s, etc.), for people at all levels in society. I would have thought it unlikely anyone would have turned a hair to witness a man spanking a disobient child, and probably her readers wouldn’t have thought much about it either.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Summer Term at the Chalet School
PostPosted: 25 Feb 2018, 12:51 
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I agree with Caroline: that was quite normal at the time. Corporal punishment, especially for boys, was the norm then. Teachers were still smacking kids when I was at primary school in the early '80s, and, in the 1930s, it would have been considered acceptable for anyone to smack a child whose misbehaviour had affected them.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Summer Term at the Chalet School
PostPosted: 25 Feb 2018, 15:04 
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Now I think this is the one where there's a description of a black railway porter in London, who is basically described a grinning simpleton. I think we can take this, together with the beatnik girls, that EBD was pretty much feeling that society was changing too fast for her to be comfortable. It's all a bit Enid Blyton whereas she always wrote quite fairly about minority groups, i.e. the Austrian Jews and the Tsigane musicians, when she was younger.

Victoria Wood is such a recycled character isn't she. There's dozens of that slightly self-important, not-very-popular girl who just likes to boss others about and you can never remember their names.

I also believe this book has the famous Emilia Casabon, the girl who was supposed to do something spectacular and then just disappears as Erica falls over another tree or into a hole.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Summer Term at the Chalet School
PostPosted: 25 Feb 2018, 18:23 
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Quote:
Now I think this is the one where there's a description of a black railway porter in London, who is basically described a grinning simpleton.

This is it:
Quote:
"Follow our porter. He knows which seats are ours.”
Erica scrambled up the high steps into the coach and followed the pleasantly smiling coloured man who was bearing their cases into the Pullman where seats had been reserved for them.

I don't see any suggestion of a 'grinning simpleton'. Just a man doing his job efficiently and with a pleasant manner. EBD quite often describes people as 'smiling' or 'smiling pleasantly'. There's a 'smiling attendant' on the train at the beginning of School by the River.

I agree with this, though:
Quote:
EBD was pretty much feeling that society was changing too fast for her to be comfortable.

As I said above, one gets the same feeling from some of Agatha Christie's later books.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Summer Term at the Chalet School
PostPosted: 25 Feb 2018, 18:52 
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I can certainly see how the change from the late Victorian period, when EBD was born, to the Swinging Sixties must have been quite a lot for someone to get their head round.

The Chalet School is pretty cutting edge in the 1920s. A young woman heads off abroad and sets up her own business. Protestants attend Catholic services and vice-versa, if they so desire. The girls learn science from very early on, and go off on hikes, and people like Thekla, who say that science should only be for boys, and Eustacia, who says that wearing hiking gear is "unmaidenly", are looked on as very prissy. There's quite a contrast between that and Joey harping on about beatniks having dirty fingernails.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Summer Term at the Chalet School
PostPosted: 25 Feb 2018, 20:24 
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Oh thanks JayB. I got that passage mixed up with another book! I'm quite relieved.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Summer Term at the Chalet School
PostPosted: 26 Feb 2018, 03:38 
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The school and the people involved with it do get strikingly more conservative compared with general society as the series goes on. Forty-five years after School At was published, the girls are still wearing their hair in plaits which get put up when they turn eighteen, wearing pretty frocks with hand embroidery, doing needlework as a hobby, and happily enjoying paper games and folk dancing as their out of school activities. There's no mention of TV, movies might as well not exist, and radio access is limited by the mountains. Music is exclusively classical, folk, or hymns. Having a devoted servant to handle the household stuff is standard, and it's important to have a private income, rather than just a doctor's salary.

In some ways they've actually gone backwards. In the Tyrol days, the school is integrated in the community, they have friendships with local families (and students from the neighbourhood). Girls go into town for shopping, visit with friends nearby, and a normal weekend activity is going to a local inn to hear the Tzigane bands play. In the Swiss days, there's almost no local connection (to the point that they're still doing charity for the Tyrol area), and girls basically never leave the school property without an escort for an official school outing, with the exception of an occasional visit to Freudesheim.

I did a quick search, and other books published around the same time as the last Swiss books (the 1960s) include "A Wrinkle in Time", "Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret", "Ramona the Pest", "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory", Harriet the Spy", "From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler", all of which feel like they're written in a very different era.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Summer Term at the Chalet School
PostPosted: 26 Feb 2018, 04:42 
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Mia wrote:
Oh thanks JayB. I got that passage mixed up with another book! I'm quite relieved.


There is another grinning porter in Joey Goes to the Oberland. Again, it is not meant in a derogatory way but the porter was grinning at getting ordered around by Joey.

To be honest, I can understand a little the way that the older EBD and Agatha Christie must have felt. I find myself a bit despairing of the world at the moment but my daughter says it is the same as ever so probably it is me growing older.

In response to Jennifer's post, the Platz was unbearably claustrophobic. Maybe as EBD got older she kept her writing to the basics but also Switzerland was a country of which she had little or no personal knowledge. Her descriptions of the half term excursions were like geography lessons because she had never seen the places. How could she also talk about TV in Switzerland when she had no knowledge of this?

By that point she would also have been out of touch with what girls did in their spare time. But you know the occasional person still did needlework as a hobby. When I married in 1983 I received a hand sewn dressing table set from a 20 year old girl and a very elaborate tapestry picture when my daughter arrived 10 years later.


Last edited by Audrey25 on 26 Feb 2018, 05:02, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Summer Term at the Chalet School
PostPosted: 26 Feb 2018, 04:56 
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jennifer wrote:
The school and the people involved with it do get strikingly more conservative compared with general society as the series goes on.


Yes, it's very much a throwback to another era.

And the attempts by EBD to modernise it, e.g. talking about boys, the appearance of the beatniks, the Maynard boys singing pop songs, go over like a lead balloon.

But I also think that is why many fans like the series - because they harken back to a gentler, simpler time. So any attempts to modernise it is jarring.

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I did a quick search, and other books published around the same time as the last Swiss books (the 1960s) include ... "Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret", "Ramona the Pest",


How interesting! Can you imagine the CS girls being given the Blume book and Matey answering the many questions about periods :-)

Incidentally, when the last Ramona book came out, much the criticism was based on how old fashioned it was as apparently 12yo Ramona should be giggling over boys and going to pop concerts, than playing dress up.

But much like the CS the Ramona series was written over many years (1955-1999) so the author was still thinking of 1950s Ramona and not turn of the millennium Ramona.

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Last edited by Joyce on 27 Feb 2018, 03:41, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Summer Term at the Chalet School
PostPosted: 26 Feb 2018, 08:08 
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Incidentally, when the last Ramona book came out, much the criticism was based on how old fashioned it was as apparently 12yo Ramona should be giggling over boys and going to pop concerts, than playing dress up.


Which totally ignores differences in personality and tastes - a modern Ramona wouldn't be giggling over boys, but she'd probably be really into Minecraft. And she and her friends might be playing dress-up while filming short movies on a cellphone.

I do find that books that make a point of being cool, with the latest pop culture and tech frequently referenced, date a lot faster than books that leave the references vaguer. Then you have two wait at least 30 years for it go to from outdated to historical.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Summer Term at the Chalet School
PostPosted: 26 Feb 2018, 08:52 
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It was Judy Blume's 80th birthday recently, and so there was quite a lot on social media about Margaret, who's probably her best-known character. I haven't owned a copy of that book for over 25 years, but I read it so often that I can still remember it practically word-for-word! I was surprised to read that it was initially banned or censored in many parts of the US, partly because of all the stuff about puberty but also because people apparently found it shocking that Margaret would "talk to God" - please God, let me need a bigger bra, etc! - at home rather than in a place of worship. So conservatism was evidently alive and well in many places when EBD was writing her later books.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Summer Term at the Chalet School
PostPosted: 26 Feb 2018, 13:56 
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I read that book when I was in high school and thought it came out in the '80s. I had no idea it was older!

Just William and Antonia Forest books are better when it comes to modern references and culture, even though the characters barely age and it's in what's known as comic book time. So you go from Autumn Term being a typical GO book set in the post-war era to the Cricket Term having references to Z-Cars and the Marlow kids listening to Radio 1 and using different slang, even though they've only moved up a year or so within the story itself. With the Chalet School, they seem so out of place in the Swiss years (although characters going to the cinema or a local pub in the British years, by contrast, just seems normal).


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Summer Term at the Chalet School
PostPosted: 26 Feb 2018, 19:22 
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Alison H wrote:
It was Judy Blume's 80th birthday recently, and so there was quite a lot on social media about Margaret, who's probably her best-known character. I haven't owned a copy of that book for over 25 years, but I read it so often that I can still remember it practically word-for-word! I was surprised to read that it was initially banned or censored in many parts of the US, partly because of all the stuff about puberty but also because people apparently found it shocking that Margaret would "talk to God" - please God, let me need a bigger bra, etc! - at home rather than in a place of worship. So conservatism was evidently alive and well in many places when EBD was writing her later books.


Children's books are always being challenged in the U.S., especially if there's a whiff of a hint of sex. Parents would object to at least a couple of Chalet School books that mention "work like n-words," which, granted, is a legitimate complaint in the United States. I can see "Redheads" being challenged for violence. It's possible a parent would object to the war books on the grounds readers are too young to read about War World II. And finally you'd have parents object to the entire series because it's either too religious or religious in the wrong way.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Summer Term at the Chalet School
PostPosted: 27 Feb 2018, 00:39 
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Lotte wrote:
With the Chalet School, they seem so out of place in the Swiss years (although characters going to the cinema or a local pub in the British years, by contrast, just seems normal).


The isolation of the Platz pretty much ensures that though.

In the British years, they are closer to towns with cinemas and cafes they are allowed to visit, and the older girls are allowed to go out in pairs to walk around.

Carola and Jean go to the town for tea, but we don't see that happening with the older girls once we get to the Platz, simply because there is nowhere for them to go.

But even the St Mildred's girls are not allowed to just wander down to Interlaken as they like.

Basically EBD has 17/18yo girls not being allowed to take a train to the nearest city. It goes back to the very early books when 17yo Grizel attracts looks because she doesn't have a chaperone with her.

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Last edited by Joyce on 27 Feb 2018, 03:41, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Summer Term at the Chalet School
PostPosted: 27 Feb 2018, 02:48 
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Judy Blume's stuff was looked on with suspicion by a number of people when I read it in the mid 80s. It was pretty rare to have books that addressed things like menstruation or religious doubts with such frankness and such a teen-centred view, without falling into the 'very special episode' model.

But yes, even now things like Harry Potter excite a great deal of ire and calls for banning in some parts of North American cultural. With Harry Potter it's usually connections with witchcraft that's the reason, but anything touching on religion, sex or violence (particularly the former two), attract attention.

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