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 Post subject: Books: Althea Joins the Chalet School
PostPosted: 13 Mar 2018, 00:31 
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Welcome to this week’s discussion thread, which is for the penultimate book in the series: Althea Joins the Chalet School, first published in 1969 and covering part of the summer term following Two Sams. Thirteen year old Althea Glenyon joins the CS at the recommendation of Clare Kennedy’s uncle, and soon becomes embroiled in a feud with her sheepdog Val Pertwee. This is also the last term of school for the Maynard triplets. Notable events:

Althea Glenyon, a delicate girl whose mother has been seriously ill, accidentally overhears a conversation between her father and his sister to the effect that her parents are going on a long sea voyage for the sake of her mother’s health, but her aunt is unable to look after her as she is about to be married and move to Australia with her new husband, which throws a spanner in the works.
Althea proposes that she go to boarding school like her brother, but her father is dubious because of her delicacy. Just then, Miss Glenyon’s fiancé, Dr Kennedy, arrives and turns out to be the uncle of Clare Kennedy of earlier annals of the CS. He proposes that they send Althea there as it is suitable for delicate girls, and Althea is delighted at the idea.
Arrangements are made to enter Althea at the CS, however her parents set sail two days before term begins, so Miss Annersley asks Jo to have Althea to stay at Freudesheim for the shortfall. Jo, who had been looking forward to a rest following Phil’s illness, reluctantly agrees.
Len, who has been staying with Simone for the holidays, meets Althea and her former governess at Paris and escorts her to Basle, where they are met by Jack and Con with the car and driven to Freudesheim.
The first day of term arrives, and Althea finds herself in Upper IVb, rather to her disappointment, as she had hoped to be in the same form as Erica Standish, with whom she has become friendly during her stay at Freudesheim. Erica hands her over to Val Pertwee for sheepdogging.
The prefects organise progressive games for the first Saturday Evening of term, however the proceedings are cut short by a power cut during Abendessen.
That night, Lucy Peters has a nightmare which prompts her to start sleepwalking, and Althea hears her and gets up to investigate. When she sees Lucy sleepwalking, she is so spooked she yells in fright, at the same moment as Lucy trips and falls down the stairs, waking up the entire school between them.
Two days later, it’s a German day and Althea knows absolutely no German. Flavia Ansell, her dormitory prefect, hears her asking Samaris Davies a question in English and comes to tell her about the rule. Althea asks if it goes on in lessons as well, and Flavia, on hearing that Val is her sheepdog, demands to know why she didn’t tell Althea about the languages rule earlier. Val says she didn’t think, and Flavia reports the matter to Len, who ticks Val off and mentions the affair privately to Miss Dene, who relieves Val of her sheepdog duties and hands Althea over to Samaris instead. Val, although she hadn’t really liked being sheepdog, is furious at being superseded and told off by two favourite prefects, and turns her resentment onto Althea as the cause of it.
Len takes prep with Upper IVb, and notices that Val has taken a sudden dislike to Althea. In the common room afterwards, Val sits in a temper pretending to read a book while Althea and some others play a game of Impertinent Questions. When Brigit Ingram asks who sulks and everyone laughs at Sam who has the pair, Val looks up and sees Althea looking in her direction, although in fact she is looking at Sam. She takes offence and a row flares up. Margot Maynard overhears and stalks in to tell them off, which does not endear Val to any of them.
The prefects hold a meeting to discuss the theme for that year’s Sale, taking care to bear in mind that many of their costumes were lost in the fire at St Mildred’s the previous term (see Two Sams). Con proposes a Seasons Sale, with the stalls divided up to reflect the four seasons, and everyone approves of the idea.
The prefects outline a full plan for the Sale and the school knuckles down to making costumes. The weather finally improves enough for the Head to ordain swimming and boating on the Friday, with the proviso that anyone reported to her in between will not go. Val has close shave when Len picks Althea over her to help carry some parcels to Freudesheim, and she vents her anger to two other girls only to be overheard by Miss Burnett.
Down at Lake Thun, Val forgets her grievance with Althea in the pleasant atmosphere and asks her to show her how to do a butterfly stroke. Later on, the two girls, Sam, Flavia and Miss Ferrars take one of the boats out to practice rowing and steering. They spot a speedboat coming towards them, steered by two small boys and clearly out of control, and Miss Ferrars orders the girls to keep their boat steady, and manages to roll into the speedboat as it comes up to them. She keeps it from crashing into anything until one of the lake guardboats catches up with them and a lake official is able to board the boat and stop it.
It transpires the two boys had escaped from their Nanny at their hotel and gone for a walk, culminating in them exploring the speedboat their father had hired, accidentally starting it up and promptly losing control of it.
Miss Yolland gives Upper IVb a gruelling art lesson which rubs most of them the wrong way, causing a domino effect in which the form does poor work for the rest of the day, and culminates in a needlework lesson in which Althea knocks over Val’s workbox, including a piece of chewing gum she had hidden in it, which ends up stuck to Mlle de Lachenais’s slipper and lands her in even further trouble, as well as causing the feud between her and Althea to reignite.
One day Althea is late for a history lesson as she had been having new gym shoes fitted by Miss Burnett, and Miss Charlesworth tells her to borrow Val’s notes during prep to copy what she had missed, much to the private disgust of the two girls.
Althea leaves it until the end of prep to copy the notes, and hasn’t finished by the time the bell rings. Val, impatient to put her books away, snatches at her notebook as Althea is holding it and causes it to tear in half, scattering pages everywhere. In a rage Val pushes Althea into a desk, upsetting the inkwell. The Head spots Althea covered in ink as she is returning the bucket and cloths to the kitchen and, on hearing from Len that the two girls are behind it, orders them to the study.
After scolding the two girls for fighting over the notebook, the Head sends Althea off to change her inky frock and questions Val until she gets to the bottom of the feud. Val, realising just how poor her behaviour has been, apologises and promises to do better. The Head also has a word with Althea, then sends her off to join Val and the two girls apologise.
Sophie Hamel comes to visit the school one day while on a business trip to Switzerland with her father, who owns a department store in Innsbruck. Having heard of the loss of most of the school’s costumes in the St Mildred’s fire, she brings with her a large hamper full of material which her father wants to get rid of in place of new stock, and the Head and Mlle are overjoyed. Seeking to help ease the situation between Val and Althea further, the Head sends for them both, plus Sam and Len, to help carry it all to the sewing room.
Len leads some of the Sixths on a sketching expedition up to the pinewoods, and decides to try oil paints instead of watercolours like the rest. Her painting is still wet when they set off back to the school, and Nina Konstam, catching her alpenstock on some loose ground, stumbles into her back, causing her to fall headlong and faceplant her painting. Reg Entwistle comes along in his car at that moment and, after he and the girls try to clean the worst of the paint off Len, he runs her back to the school in his car to avoid any strangers catching sight of her.
Unfortunately for Len, Althea and Val spot her as she rushes upstairs to wash and change, and they soon spread it around the school, with the tale growing many embellishments as it goes round. Con, after being asked by Felicity if the prefects had been throwing their paint boxes at one another, tracks down the root of the gossip to Althea and Val and scolds them.
Half-term arrives, and the two Upper Fourths go to Zurich. On the way there, their coach is buried under bales of hay which escape from a lorry in front of them. The next day, the coach is further put out of action by a large pink worm which got into the engine with some of the hay and died there, leaving a mess. Miss Ferrars and Miss Wilmot instead take the girls to see the Höllgratten, where Brigit sits on an anthill and Val trips over a stalagmite in the cave and bangs her head.
As a wind up to the eventful trip, Althea wakes up in the middle of the last night and sees a burglar in their room, going through their drawers. She manages to wake up Sam in the next bed without alerting him, and Sam in turn rouses the girl next to her, until six of them, by dint of sign language, are awake and aware of the situation. They spring out of bed at a sign from Sam, surprise the burglar and suppress him long enough for the gendarmes to be summoned.
The book ends with the girls returning to school for the second half of the term, where Miss Annersley informs them that the girls involved in capturing the burglar will have to give evidence in court.

So, thoughts on this book? The second half of this term will be covered in Prefects next week, but this book deals primarily with introducing Althea and her feud with Val. Thoughts on Althea and said feud? What about Sophie Hamel’s gift and the paint incident? What did you think about the chapter of accidents at half-term?

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Althea Joins the Chalet School
PostPosted: 13 Mar 2018, 03:19 
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To be honest, my main reaction to this book is that it's bland.

Althea is a generic new girl, she goes through a list of fairly generic story elements (including a random feud), a couple of over the top ones (the speedboat and the burglar), a bunch of things happen, but it's neither a good new girl story with a strong story arc, or one of the occasional good slice-of-life books that doesn't centre on a new girl.

I do like the fact that Althea's aunt pushes back on the expectation that of course she'll look after her delicate niece while her brother and sister in law take a lengthy cruise. Plus Althea's father's confused helplessness at this shocking revelation. :roll: After all the relatives (mostly single aunts, with the occasional grandparent) who we've seen basically raise their young relatives, having one who has plans of her own is nice to see.

I also think it's unfair to pressure Joey into taking a new girl before the start of term, when she needs a break after dealing with a seriously ill child. Although it is karma for her guilting the triplets into accepting Melanie for the holidays.

Actually, that's sort of a theme we've seen in recent books, with the school doing things by informal methods when they really should have official ways of doing things for such a big, established school. New girls should not depend on word of mouth to find out the skiing rules. There should be a way to handle girls who have to come to school a day or two early, or who are stuck a day or two late, that isn't "send them to Joey". A school that big which serves an international market should have some sort of resource for girls who need somewhere to stay in the holidays. And a new girl should not make it three days into the term without knowing how the language system works.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Althea Joins the Chalet School
PostPosted: 13 Mar 2018, 06:25 
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I read this book when it was published as a 15 year old and as far as I remember saw nothing wrong with it. It was another Chalet School book and I loved them. What I do remember thinking was that Len annoyed me in the last of the books because she was perfect. I should maybe have been blaming EBD's poorer writing. A shame really because it was only old age and illness.

I rarely read this book now and see Althea as the standard heroine of the later series books. Maybe not such an engaging character as Samaris or Copper but not so irritating as Erica.

Ailie, Janice and Judy were good characters but, otherwise I am not interested in the people who came after the triplets. They all seem to be variations of about two people.

I don't think Joey should have had to look after Althea regardless of what she had done over Melanie and also dumping her entire family on the school during Oberland. She had nearly lost a child and been under a huge strain and deserved a break. As Jennifer says the CS should have had some structure in place for situations of this nature.

Was Claire Kennedy being lined up as Rosalie's assistant?


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Althea Joins the Chalet School
PostPosted: 13 Mar 2018, 09:10 
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I'd love to know what the pink worm was meant to symbolise :lol: .

This book is very odd. Hilda emotionally blackmails Joey into having Althea to stay, which seems very out of character. And is the book with the set-up in which two girls are best friends but only one of them's part of "The Crew", which sounds like a CS equivalent of the Schleswig-Holstein question. The Crew are so boring that I can never even remember their names. And Len fell into her picture and got covered in paint - wouldn't that storyline work better with someone who was about 11?! Then everyone starts gossiping about it - have they got nothing better to talk about than someone getting paint on their face?

But three cheers for Althea's aunt, who objects to being used as a dumping ground whilst Mr and Mrs Glenyon swan off on holiday! Even if she does have to get married to be excused babysitting duties! The Glenyons must be two of the annoying parents ever. First they just assume that they can dump Althea on Mr G's sister, and then they expect the School to find her somewhere to stay so that they don't have to change their holiday plans!

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Althea Joins the Chalet School
PostPosted: 13 Mar 2018, 10:58 
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Alison H wrote:
I'd love to know what the pink worm was meant to symbolise :lol: .


That sounds rather like the old joke here

It's probably not meant to be anything deep and meaningful, just an amusing and non-dangerous reason for a bus to break down, unlike the other ways EBD put vehicles out of action by driving them into ditches.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Althea Joins the Chalet School
PostPosted: 13 Mar 2018, 14:00 
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So. Much. Filler.

And my jaw dropped at that bit where Len goes to ask the Head for permission for the Sixths to go sketching in the pinewoods, and she hums and haws and only relents because the judo-trained Ted will be in the party and could fend off any would-be tramps or ne'er-do-wells! :roll: That was the decider for me that EBD either didn't write, or at least had significant help with, the last part of this book. Eighteen year old Len, who escorted Althea perfectly competently from Paris to Basle, suddenly can't be trusted to go fifty feet away from the school grounds without an armed guard? Come on!

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Althea Joins the Chalet School
PostPosted: 13 Mar 2018, 15:49 
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Quote:
So. Much. Filler.

And Althea and Prefects are still much shorter than most other books in the series - another reason for thinking they must originally have been intended to be one book.

Quote:
And my jaw dropped at that bit where Len goes to ask the Head for permission for the Sixths to go sketching in the pinewoods, and she hums and haws and only relents because the judo-trained Ted will be in the party and could fend off any would-be tramps or ne'er-do-wells!

Yes, I thought that was odd, Hilda making such a fuss about twelve girls going off together, when they're all aged 17-18, and three of them live on the Platz so know their way around. What could one tramp or ne'er do well do against twelve of them, even without Ted's judo skills?

I was on the verge of being too old for the CS when this came out (I see it came two years after Two Sams) and it's never been a favourite. I don't find Althea at all interesting.

I think there was a lot of over-reaction about Val's sheepdogging, or lack of it. Fair enough for Copper to ask Len's advice about how she handled it, as she's inexperienced. But for Len to then go to Miss Dene, and Miss Dene then to rebuke Val, seems like overkill.

And since Althea had spent the last two days at Freudesheim, wouldn't it be reasonable to think someone had explained about the languages before she came to the school?

Shouldn't Val be older? It's going on for six years since she first came to the CS in New Mistress.

But then even the triplets' age gets EBDed here and in Two Sams. EBD's generally been consistent with them, even when everyone else's age is being EBDed around them. They're said to be seventeen, when they should actually be eighteen. If they really were only seventeen, it makes the whole Len-Reg thing even worse.

So Len spent the entire Easter holiday with Simone, and Con with 'old friends' in Innsbruck (Gisela and Gottfried?) Does an eighteen year old really want to spend her school holidays with her mother's old friends, with no-one her own age around?

It was good to see more of Copper in this book, when we'd hardly seen her since her own book. She was evidently destined for a prefectship as soon as she reached the Sixth.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Althea Joins the Chalet School
PostPosted: 14 Mar 2018, 00:02 
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For Len, a week or two with Simone could possibly be relaxing, with no younger siblings to look after, and maybe Simone being the indulgent aunt and spoiling her a bit.

Val's age could be okay, if she had been about seven when she first came to the school. We're not told how old she or Ronnie are until they return to the school.

There's also the bit where Miss Annersley personally intervenes in a Feud between two juniors. In the past, the form prefects, prefects, or mistresses have been trusted to handle form disputes if they get out of hand, without the Head stepping in.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Althea Joins the Chalet School
PostPosted: 14 Mar 2018, 01:16 
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Alison H wrote:
And Len fell into her picture and got covered in paint - wouldn't that storyline work better with someone who was about 11?! Then everyone starts gossiping about it - have they got nothing better to talk about than someone getting paint on their face?


Evidently not! But maybe the girls were actually gossiping abut Reg stalking Len into the woods in order to be on hand to take her home. Alone.

Quote:
But three cheers for Althea's aunt, who objects to being used as a dumping ground whilst Mr and Mrs Glenyon swan off on holiday! Even if she does have to get married to be excused babysitting duties!


I hate the way Althea gets stroppy with her as well - but why don't you want to take care of me? :shock:

And the family MUST have known she was going out and was engaged to Dr Kennedy and at some point she would want to get married. So it's incredibly selfish to think should would be OK with delaying her wedding to look after a girl with two living parents and brothers AND a boarding school to take care of her.

But one assumes that had she said "I have a busy job and a social life and simply don't have time to look after Althea as well" then she would have been damned as being selfish. Because a single woman wanting a life is unheard of.

This book is bland and strange. But the weirdest part of the book is Len threatening to get the paper she found in the classroom, fingerprinted. How?? Does she just happen to have a fingerprint set in her room? Or was she just being silly and issuing a threat that she can't possibly carry out?

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Althea Joins the Chalet School
PostPosted: 15 Mar 2018, 03:47 
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If I recall correctly, Althea's aunt had kept her engagement quiet, because if Althea's mother had died, she would cancel the engagement to help take care of the family.

Regarding gossip - in the next book, people are told off quite sharply for gossiping about Len and Reg. The problem is, the gossip was actually true - a 28 year old doctor from the San was romantically pursuing the Head Girl, and they not only end up engaged while she's still a student, they get engaged during the term.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Althea Joins the Chalet School
PostPosted: 18 Mar 2018, 02:14 
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jennifer wrote:
If I recall correctly, Althea's aunt had kept her engagement quiet, because if Althea's mother had died, she would cancel the engagement to help take care of the family.


Which in itself is problematic. So not only is she expected to give up her own marriage in order to look after her niece (who has a living father!) but she HERSELF takes on that attitude and mindset as well.

And how long does that last - until Althea leaves school? Until she's married herself? In the meantime, the aunt has basically given up her marriage prospects for ... what?

And why would she need to? Couldn't she get married and have Althea stay with her?

Even if she had kept the actual engagement quiet, surely the brother and family knew she was in a serious relationship? Or maybe not since she had to introduce her fiancee to her brother.

Quote:
Regarding gossip - in the next book, people are told off quite sharply for gossiping about Len and Reg. The problem is, the gossip was actually true.


But just because it's true, doesn't mean it's right to gossip about it.

Ruby says bluntly in the last book that "we don't talk about things like that." And that was clearly EBD's attitude - that the girls themselves should know that there are certain subjects you simply don't discuss.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Althea Joins the Chalet School
PostPosted: 18 Mar 2018, 09:43 
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Joyce wrote:
And why would she need to? Couldn't she get married and have Althea stay with her?


Althea's aunt's fiance was Dr Kennedy, who had been appointed to a 'really good post in Australia' ... and we all know how terrible the Australian climate was for delicate children!

(written from Australia)


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Althea Joins the Chalet School
PostPosted: 18 Mar 2018, 14:28 
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Couldn't she get married and have Althea stay with her?

Why should she? Even if she and Dr Kennedy weren't planning to emigrate, she's got quite enough to think about, without having to factor in the needs of a delicate thirteen year old. Don't suppose Dr Kennedy would be too happy about having his wife's niece tagging along on their honeymoon and early married life, either.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Althea Joins the Chalet School
PostPosted: 18 Mar 2018, 16:11 
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The Glenyons booked a holiday without even asking if the auntie could look after Althea. They just assumed. Then they expected the school to find her somewhere to stay. Why was it the school's responsibility?! They really annoy me! I know Mrs G had been ill, but it was up to them to look after their own daughter. And it certainly wasn't Joey's problem, and Hilda had no business guilt-tripping her, especially when she knew Joey was worried about Phil. I'm sure EBD didn't write that bit!

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Althea Joins the Chalet School
PostPosted: 18 Mar 2018, 16:38 
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Alison H wrote:
Hilda had no business guilt-tripping her, especially when she knew Joey was worried about Phil. I'm sure EBD didn't write that bit!


This isn't the only example of guilt-tripping in the CS books. For example, Joey is guilt-tripped by Robin into taking in the Highland Twins (how would you feel if the Triplets were in the same situation?), and Madge uses a form of guilt-tripping to persuade Joey to tolerate Matron (we've been lucky with our staff so perhaps we need the experience).


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Althea Joins the Chalet School
PostPosted: 19 Mar 2018, 03:57 
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JayB wrote:
Quote:
Couldn't she get married and have Althea stay with her?

Why should she? Even if she and Dr Kennedy weren't planning to emigrate, she's got quite enough to think about, without having to factor in the needs of a delicate thirteen year old. Don't suppose Dr Kennedy would be too happy about having his wife's niece tagging along on their honeymoon and early married life, either.


Yes, exactly. Agree with all of that.

But she is willing to cancel her engagement altogether and look after Althea should her mother die. Surely instead of that, it's better to think of a way to combine looking after her AND get married.

But EBD is slightly obsessed with the unmarried sister/daughter having to give up their own dreams and ambitions to look after the family when the mother dies.

Even Peggy is expecting to not return to St Mildred's while her mother recovers from the operation.

And Dick simply accepts that that is OK. This is despite the fact that the majority of the time the kids are all at school so the household consists of two people.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Althea Joins the Chalet School
PostPosted: 19 Mar 2018, 08:41 
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To be fair to Dick, Peggy was quite insistent. The one that really annoys me is Len saying that Mary-Lou would have to give up her career plans to babysit Doris if Commander Carey died. Doris wasn't ill at that point, and this was in the 1950s, not the 1850s!

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Althea Joins the Chalet School
PostPosted: 19 Mar 2018, 14:34 
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I drove for a few months with a rat's nest under the bonnet of my small SUV, so I've always been slightly incredulous that a worm could bring down a coach. "Small snake" seems like it would be more apt.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Althea Joins the Chalet School
PostPosted: 19 Mar 2018, 22:06 
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Quote:
But she is willing to cancel her engagement altogether and look after Althea should her mother die. Surely instead of that, it's better to think of a way to combine looking after her AND get married.

If she'd been staying in England, possibly she could. But was she supposed to take Althea all the way to Australia, just for a few months, then have to find some way to send her home, when her parents came back from their cruise?

Possibly she didn't mean she'd have broken off her engagement entirely if Mrs Glenyon had died, just not announced it, and put off her marriage for a year or so.

Althea had a governess; surely the simplest thing would have been for her and the governess to stay at a pension somewhere for a couple of days until she could arrive at school with everyone else. I know the governess was on her way to a new job, but I suppose she could have said she wasn't available to start until that date.

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To be fair to Dick, Peggy was quite insistent.

And Peggy was too old by then to be told 'you're going back to school because i say so, and no argument', even if Dick had been the authoritarian type.

Possibly Mollie still needed some help with personal care - bathing, dressing, and so on - the sort of things you'd only want a nurse or female relative to help you with.

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The one that really annoys me is Len saying that Mary-Lou would have to give up her career plans to babysit Doris if Commander Carey died.

And it doesn't sound as if Doris is to be given any say in it. She might not want to have Mary Lou living with her and bossing her around!


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