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 Post subject: Re: Books: Prefects of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 20 Mar 2018, 23:45 
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I'd like to add my thanks to Aquabird. As well as enjoying the discussion of each book at the time, from time to time I enjoy looking back at the earlier discussions.

I had an idea for a thread for more general discussion, will wait to see what Abbeybufo posts next week.

Prefects of the Chalet School was a good idea in theory; there hadn't been a book focusing on the older girls for a while. But other than all the Sale preparations, they didn't really have a lot to do.

Len was HG for five terms; is that the longest anyone was HG in the entire series? But she was never faced with any real problems or difficulties. Peggy had Eiluned's whispering campaign - although she didn't deal with it herself. Bride had the problem of Diana Skelton. Mary Lou had all the business with Margot and Ted. What challenges did Len have?

In the previous book, it was Con who went round squashing the gossip about Len's accident with the paint. It's Con who has the idea for the Sale. In this book, it was Con who uncovered the plans for a 'midnight'.

Re-reading this again for this discussion, I was struck all over again by how out of character Hilda was at times. Either EBD was really, really off her game, or she didn't write all of this book.

The whole business about the motor boats was a massive to do about nothing. Four experienced members of staff going off to consult Joey. The Head making an announcement to the whole school. Why was any of that necessary? Why not just ignore their strop unless it started to affect their work, then deal with it at form mistress level? Whole school announcements by the Head were normally reserved for really serious matters like the wrecking of Bride's study.

Reg and Len - I don't like the pressure Len seemed to be under to make up her mind. Jo's 'fast and loose' comment seemed to imply she needed to make a decision one way or the other. It would have been perfectly reasonable for her to say she liked Reg, but didn't feel ready yet to make such a big commitment.

How and why did Gaudenz and others just happen to have pairs of stilts lying around? And would stilts have been safe, if the flood waters were fast-flowing?


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Prefects of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 21 Mar 2018, 00:39 
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Victoria wrote:
The Maynards could have attempted to stop Len getting married (and that would have been difficult enough) but it's hard to see how you could stop her getting engaged if she chooses to.


The problem I have is that I don't think Len really has chosen to marry Reg. Her parents think this is great, and had pretty much settled it with Reg when Len was sixteen. It's been gossiped about among her parents' friends, and older school friends, who seem to assume it's a done deal. Even her Headmistress thinks she should get on with it. Even Reg assumes that a display of worried sympathy definitely means she wants to marry him and spend the rest of her life darning his socks. For a conformist, obedient type with Len, who always does what is expected of her, it would take a pretty big pushback to break free of that, and I have trouble picturing her actually breaking an engagement once it's made.

What a responsible parent who was worried could do is first, when Reg came to speak to Joey and Jack, tell him that his interest in their sixteen year old daughter was completely out of line, and that his job is on the line if he doesn't back off completely. And then stop inviting him to family events, so he doesn't get access to Len. At age almost eighteen if she really wanted to be engaged, then they could allow an engagement, but talk to her seriously about needing to finish university before getting married. And then gently encourage her to make the most of the university years, and keep a careful eye on how she was doing, so that if she did decide that the engagement was a bad idea, she could talk to them about it, and know she'd be supported.

If Len did get half-way through her degree at Oxford, and decided that she really didn't want to marry Reg, I think there's a good chance she'd do it anyways, because everyone thought it was a good idea, and she couldn't face the anger and disappointment of everyone if she broke it off.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Prefects of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 21 Mar 2018, 03:10 
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JayB wrote:
How and why did Gaudenz and others just happen to have pairs of stilts lying around? And would stilts have been safe, if the flood waters were fast-flowing?


The stilts thing is just funny. Yes, why on earth did he have them and what were they normally used for?

And you can't just get on stilts and start walking - you need to practice on level ground for a while first. The last thing you do is use them in fast flowing water over rocky terrain. It's just asking for a broken neck.

The aspect of the Len/Reg thing that distresses me the most is when Len says "I'll get engaged if nothing else will satisfy him". If a friend said that to me, my first thought would be "well, what do YOU want?"

If you read the hints of the 'romance' EBD scatters throughout the books, the overall impression is of Reg wanting a decision made yesterday and Len resisting all his hints. Even at the sale in Prefects, she is still gently suggesting they be friends.

Which is one reason why her sudden engagement comes as such as shock. Yes, by all means, realise the man is now more than a friend - that happens all the time. But for him to then just assume this means they are engaged, is unsettling. As if he immediately wants to stamp his hold on her.

But it's sad that Joey's oldest who we've literally followed since conception, finishes the series in such a flat fashion.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Prefects of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 21 Mar 2018, 11:26 
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I agree, I don't like 'if nothing else will satisfy him', as if it's all about what he wants.

It occurred to me last night that Len spent the Easter holidays with Simone, and either side of that she's been at school, so when has she actually spent any time with Reg in the last six months?

Going away to university and having a career is so far outside Jo's experience; early marriage and babies is what she knows. I think she possibly wasn't the right person to be advising Len. Con might have been the best person to offer an alternative viewpoint, but she evidently chose not to.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Prefects of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 21 Mar 2018, 11:48 
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The only other person Len asked for advice, earlier on, was Hilda. As a single woman, Hilda probably wasn't the best person to be approaching about marriage, either. Con seemed unimpressed that Julie Lucy had given up her studies to get married, and that Joan Baker was talking about getting engaged at 18, but maybe she felt awkward about saying too much to Len, after all the times she'd been told off for being tactless.

Biddy and Daisy, both of whom Len was close to, were both living nearby, but there's no suggestion that she approached them for advice. And there's no suggestion that Margot spoke to anyone at all - Robin (by letter or phone), one of the nuns at the San, the priest who took the local Catholic services - about deciding to become a nun, even if it was going to be a few years in the future. OK, careers advice and baring your soul to all and sundry weren't as much of a thing in the 1950s as they are now, but these are very big decisions to be making on your own, especially for schoolgirls with very little life experience.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Prefects of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 21 Mar 2018, 13:30 
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Aquabird, you've done an amazing job bringing us safely to the end of the series. Thank you so much!

I must admit, I think this book is awful, and it does read like a real 'bitser' thrown together by someone else in a hurry. Plot lines peter out, characters undergo complete personality changes, and the whole thing feels a bit of a disappointment.

I don't approve of the way the Len/Con storyline is wrapped up, but I think that's a thing that reoccurs, especially in the later books. EBD (and whoever may also have collaborated on this book) did not do 'courting' or dating for most of her characters. Engagement was clearly the only possibility for Len and Reg, where other authors might have ended the series with a kiss and plans for a night out dancing in Interlaken.

I think EBD got a lot more conservative with age, and this is reflected in the freedoms the girls have. In the early books there is a real sense of them being out and about, both with the school and on their own or in small groups, with a strong relationship to the landscape and the community, and generally being healthy, happy young pioneering spirits.

In the Platz years, they never leave the school unchaperoned. They have no links to the local community, no engagement with the world around them. They watch no films, hear no news, meet no other young people. There are no Guides, no trips to the shops, no free afternoons like in Carnbach. It's a closed world.

I think Victoria commented earlier that EBD's ideas did not modernize with time. I'd go so far as to suggest they regressed!


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Prefects of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 21 Mar 2018, 17:04 
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I was very much against Len commiting herself to Reg because she was so inexperienced as regards males. However, when I read the book when it first came out when I was around the age of 16, I did not see anything wrong with the engagement.

A romance between Reg and Len had been hinted at in earlier books and members of the original Chalet School Club were writing in to EBD at the time the books were being published to ask what was going to happen. The books were being written for teenage/young girls and at that age, in that era, they would have wanted a definite decision regarding the romance.

I think EBD wanted the romance to be along the lines of that of Jo and Jack but she only succeeds, through bad writing, in making Reg sound creepy. I don't think he was. Len certainly does not give the impression she finds him frightening; she is very casual with him.

I do know someone who married a man more or less straight from school. He was about 8/10 years older. Eventually they split but she was the boss in the relationship as I am inclined to believe Len would have been in her relationship.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Prefects of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 21 Mar 2018, 20:34 
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Thank you for all that work. It’s been the highlight of my week for so long. A great idea to do other series too.
Personally I don’t read beyond Changes now, so a change of direction back to EBD s heyday sounds good to me.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Prefects of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 21 Mar 2018, 22:01 
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Regarding Len/Reg, I think it would have helped had Reg had more of a presence before being reintroduced as Len's suitor. You see enough of Jack Maynard in the early books to know he's a decent fellow and that he and Jo are chummy long before they get engaged. Then there are the hints that someone has his eye on Jo, and it's clear that even though she is against marrying, her views will change. All together, it's neither surprising nor unpleasant that Jo and Jack get together.

Reg doesn't get similar treatment. He's introduced as a slightly difficult boy, then he's back as an adult with his eye on a teenager. Neither is particularly appealing. And then there's no build-up to a Len/Reg relationship, so it all feels very shoe-horned.

I like to think Reg and Len had the same kind of friendship Jo and Jack did, just off-screen. So Reg sometimes has meals with the Maynards or makes work-related stops at Freudesheim the way Jack did with the Russells and he and Len get to know each other that way. It would have been nice to see that though.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Prefects of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 21 Mar 2018, 23:15 
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mynameisdumbnuts wrote:
Regarding Len/Reg, I think it would have helped had Reg had more of a presence before being reintroduced as Len's suitor. You see enough of Jack Maynard in the early books to know he's a decent fellow and that he and Jo are chummy long before they get engaged. Then there are the hints that someone has his eye on Jo, and it's clear that even though she is against marrying, her views will change. All together, it's neither surprising nor unpleasant that Jo and Jack get together.

Reg doesn't get similar treatment. He's introduced as a slightly difficult boy, then he's back as an adult with his eye on a teenager. Neither is particularly appealing. And then there's no build-up to a Len/Reg relationship, so it all feels very shoe-horned.

I like to think Reg and Len had the same kind of friendship Jo and Jack did, just off-screen. So Reg sometimes has meals with the Maynards or makes work-related stops at Freudesheim the way Jack did with the Russells and he and Len get to know each other that way. It would have been nice to see that though.


I haven't read the final books in some time, but do we see any of that sort of scene towards the end? I can't think, off the top of my head, that we do....

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Prefects of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 22 Mar 2018, 03:19 
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I think we see more of people discussing Len and Reg than we do of the two of them together. As far as I can remember, scenes with Len and Reg are

- Reg ministers to Len after the fire in Adrienne
- Reg and Len exchange a few sentences at the Sale, most of which are Reg sulking because she's treating him like a platonic friend
- Reg rescuing Len from the flood
- The engagement

Admittedly, that's three scenes more than we see from most EBD courtships, which go directly from "meet cute during half-term accident" to engaged.

The closest to Len's engagement is Marie von Escheneau, who is engaged shortly before leaving school. That doesn't disturb me because Marie has been raised with the expectation that she'd get a basic education and some polish, leave school, and soon afterwards marry a suitable man her parents approved of. She also strikes me as much more worldly than Len, in spite of her pre-war Austrian upbringing.

Len's experience is in many ways very narrow, in spite of the international travel - isolated girls' only boarding school, living in a small, isolated ex-pat community (where her father is the head of the local employer), holidays on the lake with her family, and the occasional visit to school friends of her mother.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Prefects of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 22 Mar 2018, 08:57 
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And Marie seems absolutely sure of what she's doing. There's no suggestion that Eugen has put any pressure on her to make a decision that she's not ready for. That's what gets me with Reg - he seems to be pressurising her, and then Joey pressurises her as well. Even if they were 28 or 38 or 48, rather than 18, would you want a friend or relative being pressurised into agreeing to get married?

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Prefects of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 22 Mar 2018, 10:13 
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I got married at 21 - admittedly to someone not much older than I was - because it was what everyone expected me to do, and I seemed to be on a conveyor belt I couldn't get off. One part of me knew all along it wasn't what I should be doing, but the pressure of expectation was overwhelming... I always hope Len realises before she actually gets married if she has any doubts at all. It's too easy to get married, and you can't undo it. Yes you can divorce, but you still have that marker of 'divorced' on many of the forms you have to fill in. You're never legally allowed to be 'single' again.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Prefects of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 22 Mar 2018, 12:33 
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I think Con would speak out if it got to the point of actually planning the wedding and she believed Len was doing the wrong thing. She's more perceptive than she's given credit for, she's not afraid to speak her mind when she thinks it's necessary, and by that time she'd have a few years life experience away from the Platz.

I wonder if Len, with her Catholic upbringing and quite conventional outlook on life, would ever contemplate divorce. Would she think that being married too young, to someone she wasn't well suited to, was a good enough reason to break her marriage vows?


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Prefects of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 22 Mar 2018, 14:25 
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JayB wrote:
I think Con would speak out if it got to the point of actually planning the wedding and she believed Len was doing the wrong thing. She's more perceptive than she's given credit for, she's not afraid to speak her mind when she thinks it's necessary, and by that time she'd have a few years life experience away from the Platz.

I wonder if Len, with her Catholic upbringing and quite conventional outlook on life, would ever contemplate divorce. Would she think that being married too young, to someone she wasn't well suited to, was a good enough reason to break her marriage vows?


No, I don't. I think she would make the best of it, even if she were unhappy, and doubly so once she had children. She would consider it her responsibility to make sure they grew up with both their parents.

Maybe she would consider divorce if everyone around her, including her parents, essentially gave her permission. Though I suspect Len would feel pressure to stay unhappily married rather than upset her mother.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Prefects of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 22 Mar 2018, 16:09 
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Len would find it very hard to divorce as a Catholic back then, and would almost certainly be ousted from any job she had in a Catholic school. Would that also apply to CofE schools? One poor teacher I worked with in a Catholic junior school in 1998 was sacked by the Parish Priest, as chair of governors, when she re-married (not in the church!) And that was much later than the very strict 50s and 60s.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Prefects of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 22 Mar 2018, 17:10 
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I appreciate that Len would find it hard if not impossible to divorce, which is why I hope that she has the chance to think it all through. As I say, it's very easy to get married, perhaps easier than it should be...

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Prefects of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 22 Mar 2018, 19:22 
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MaryR wrote:
Len would find it very hard to divorce as a Catholic back then, and would almost certainly be ousted from any job she had in a Catholic school. Would that also apply to CofE schools?
It might well have, as the C of E still didn't look with favour on divorce - no subsequent marriage in the Church of England if the former spouse was still alive, whatever form the original marriage had taken (even a civil marriage). Hence all the kerfuffle about Princess Margaret and Peter Townsend in the early/mid-1950s.

I do know someone who got an annulment of her marriage from the Catholic Church on the grounds that she had been very young and pretty much ignorant of what the marital relationship involved ( as Len might have been), but that was fairly recent, and I'm still wondering if she was very fortunate in her parish priest who backed her up totally.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Prefects of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 22 Mar 2018, 19:37 
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Maybe Len and Reg would have been quite happy.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Prefects of the Chalet School
PostPosted: 22 Mar 2018, 19:53 
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Audrey25 wrote:
Maybe Len and Reg would have been quite happy.

Yes indeed..

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