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 Post subject: Re: The Chalet Series - an overview discussion
PostPosted: 05 Apr 2018, 23:42 
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JayB wrote:
With Mary Lou, EBD successfully introduced a completely new young character and built a strong group around her with a mix of girls from known families, such as Vi, and new characters, such as Doris Hill and Ruth Barnes. Then we followed them up through the school, with some members dropping out and some joining from time to time.


Mary Lou also had the good fortune to have introduced at the time when EBD was arguably at the peak of her powers so we see a consistent, gradual development of a strong character (it could be argued that she actually does it twice, with Tom Gay being the second example). By the time EBD tries it again (and Jack does seem as if she was going to fill that role) she's simply not as strong anymore and can't do as good a job.

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 Post subject: Re: The Chalet Series - an overview discussion
PostPosted: 06 Apr 2018, 17:13 
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JayB wrote:


With Jack, on the other hand, even though some of her gang, such as Wanda and Gretchen (who presumably have a family connection in some complicated way via Bernhilda and Kurt) do come from old School families, they are complete nonentities. (With apologies to Hilda for that horribly convoluted sentence.) None of them could carry a storyline on her own.


Gretchen is Frieda's daughter. Wanda is the daughter of Wanda and Marie's younger brother- think his name's Wolferl. I'm not sure we ever get told Wanda's father explicitly, but there's enough evidence to infer it.


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 Post subject: Re: The Chalet Series - an overview discussion
PostPosted: 07 Apr 2018, 01:40 
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Jack's gang is in some ways one of the more realistic of the later groups. A dominant girl in the form, who has a strong character but is not the best influence, and a bunch of sheep who follow her lead, resulting in things like group bullying of a new girl. By the time they hit prefect age, they could end up with the most prominent girl being a poor choice for Head Girl, but none of the rest being able to stand up to her or take charge.

Unfortunately, it's not a particularly entertaining thing to read about, particularly as we're supposed to view Jack as a mischeivous middle/future Head Girl rather than a bullying brat. Jack as the antagonist (something like Phil Craven or Francie Wilford) would be a better story.

With classes of ~25 people, you've got small enough numbers to have quite a statistical variation between forms. So you'd get a Jack-led form, and a Mary-Lou led form, and then one like the year below the triplets, which is bland and inclined to slack, and one like Bride's year, with a number of strong, constructive personalities. I actually had this in undergrad - my year had a bunch of strong personalities, and was active and engaged, while the year below us was once described as 'sitting there like sacks of potatoes' by a prof.

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 Post subject: Re: The Chalet Series - an overview discussion
PostPosted: 07 Apr 2018, 10:09 
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Maybe it's me being of the alternative gender but the business of friendship groups never really registered with me when I first read the CS books as a lad. Returning to them decades later, it was still the escapism, the German and French incorporated into the storytelling and most of all, the sense of being there which caught my imagination. This is why I still love the Tiernsee books and why I couldn't, as an adult, warm to the Swiss books as I found the writing of a lower standard and hated the increasingly starchy atttitudes. I find the same thing with the many "Scandi-noir" TV series today - I usually enjoy the stories but It's the scenes of Volvos driving through vast snowy landscapes, coffee on the veranda of a lakeside cabin, the neatly furnished Stockholm apartments which keep me interested. These scenes do the same job for the man in his 60s that the earlier CS books did for the 12-year old boy in a northern English town. That town was no worse than most but was so different from and inferior to an Alpine village by a lake with hot summers, snowy winters, forest paths, kindly locals, Kaffee und Kuchen, steamers instead of buses and not least, the Misses Annersley and Wilson instead of stern and humourless Christian Brothers!


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 Post subject: Re: The Chalet Series - an overview discussion
PostPosted: 09 Apr 2018, 15:18 
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Mary Lou also had the good fortune to have introduced at the time when EBD was arguably at the peak of her powers so we see a consistent, gradual development of a strong character (it could be argued that she actually does it twice, with Tom Gay being the second example). By the time EBD tries it again (and Jack does seem as if she was going to fill that role) she's simply not as strong anymore and can't do as good a job.

I think this is true.Jack, when introduced, was going to be the mischievous middle turned good but she never really looked like she would.Her behaviour was always more of a bully and things like using cobblers wax on someones chair was not mischief but hurtful,she knew what would happen.
I also think EBD failed with Len, who she intended being the next Joey/ML, but turned out to be a bland, rather boring girl who, in reality, you couldn't see leading the school as Head Girl.


Last edited by Terrygo on 09 Apr 2018, 16:31, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: The Chalet Series - an overview discussion
PostPosted: 09 Apr 2018, 16:30 
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I am not a Len fan. When I was reading the last of the books, in my teens, as they were published, I thought she spoilt them through her perfection. She was totally unrealistic. She did nothing wrong. Whereas we saw Joey and Mary Lou doing, we had to be told what Len did.

In the newsletters though it was obvious EBD adored her. I would say more so than she did Mary Lou and as time went on I could even see Len overtaking Joey in the affections of EBD.


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 Post subject: Re: The Chalet Series - an overview discussion
PostPosted: 09 Apr 2018, 16:35 
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It's interesting that we don't see the announcement of Len as head girl. We know it's a given, but we also know it is with Jo and Mary-Lou, yet they both get their moments. Len, like Jo, could have struggled with the idea, not because she's afraid of growing up but because she feels she's already grown up too much. She slides too comfortably and automatically into the role.

Len always presents as efficient and capable, but I can picture her struggling internally. Is she butting in too much? Should she approach her mother for advice? I've read that a lot of high-achieving individuals worry about perfection and performance, so I can see Len going through growing pains yet feeling the need to disguise it.

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 Post subject: Re: The Chalet Series - an overview discussion
PostPosted: 09 Apr 2018, 16:59 
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That's an interesting point. Mary-Lou is a very confident person, and it never seems to occur to her to worry whether she should be butting in or not, or whether she's made the right decision or not, but I can well imagine Len agonising over it all, and worrying that she'd said or done the wrong thing, and taking the slightest bit of criticism to heart. And feeling that any sort of discontent or bad behaviour lower down the school must be her fault for not providing effective leadership, and convincing herself that that's what everyone else is saying behind her back. And, whereas most of them go rushing off to Joey about the slightest thing, Len might well have been the one to fear that doing that would make her look weak. I can't imagine EBD writing any of that, but I think Len is quite an anxious person.

I feel quite sorry for her now! Not that anyone was ever going to make me Head Girl, but that's exactly how I would have been! And poor Len had the weight of expectation of being Joey's daughter, as well.

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 Post subject: Re: The Chalet Series - an overview discussion
PostPosted: 09 Apr 2018, 17:15 
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...and of having the same unusual pet-name as her author, which I think may skew the balance a little.


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 Post subject: Re: The Chalet Series - an overview discussion
PostPosted: 10 Apr 2018, 17:15 
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A issue comes to mind re Len when Jack and co disobey rules because she couldn't find Jack to take her when delivering a parcel.She immediately blamed herself and went to Hilda even though it was not her fault.That shows a lack of confidence and a worry of being wrong.


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 Post subject: Re: The Chalet Series - an overview discussion
PostPosted: 10 Apr 2018, 18:16 
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Or could it have been reassurance to know that she was as perfect as ever.

Could Len not have been so confident because Mary Lou knew what she was doing and Len did not?

I think an episode where she showed very great, if misplaced, confidence was when she ministered to Charles when he was ill in Joey & Co.

Commonsense should have told her that this was an occasion when her parents should have been disturbed. Even although it may not have done, it is quite interesting that she did not ask for support from her sisters or from Anna. She was confident enough in this situation to handle it alone and to receive all the kudos when in actual fact she could have been responsible for Charles's death.

She was also exceedingly confident when in the same book she was left in charge of everybody including the poorly Roger. Jack was completely irresponsible in this case. He and Joey gave Len far too much responsibility but she was more than happy to take it on.

Apologies to all Len fans.

(Edited to add first para)


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 Post subject: Re: The Chalet Series - an overview discussion
PostPosted: 10 Apr 2018, 20:06 
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It's possible Len operates fine in a crisis, such as with Roger and Charles, when she follows her instincts. It's when she has time to think, such as Jack going rogue, that she overthinks and makes herself anxious. Ask me how I know about this. :roll:

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 Post subject: Re: The Chalet Series - an overview discussion
PostPosted: 10 Apr 2018, 21:49 
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mynameisdumbnuts wrote:
It's possible Len operates fine in a crisis, such as with Roger and Charles, when she follows her instincts. It's when she has time to think, such as Jack going rogue, that she overthinks and makes herself anxious. Ask me how I know about this. :roll:



I wonder ... :)


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 Post subject: Re: The Chalet Series - an overview discussion
PostPosted: 10 Apr 2018, 22:05 
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Yes ... one thing about being at the Chalet School in the Swiss years, would be that you never got five minutes to yourself, so you wouldn't have much time to think. Everything does get very institutionalised, as epitomised by the fun and games Hobbies Club effectively becoming just another lesson, and every minute of their day is planned. I always feel like I'd've hated that, but, as someone who could win awards for overthinking, maybe it would have had its advantages!

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 Post subject: Re: The Chalet Series - an overview discussion
PostPosted: 11 Apr 2018, 00:37 
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I see Len as being burdened by her sense of responsibility.

Young Joey actively dislikes responsibility, and does her best to get out of it. This is understood by the adults, and they give her a push when needed. Mary-Lou loves responsibility and thrives on it, and would assume it even if she weren't given it. And both of them are quite capable of talking back and rebelling when they think it's necessary - they've got a self confidence that will carry them through disapproval.

Len, though, has had responsibility forced on her practically from birth, and a good deal of her self image is being the good daughter - obedient, high performing, responsible. And at some point, she's equated responsibility with keeping people out of trouble, and keeping the adults happy. She doesn't have the perspective to realize that this isn't always the best thing. And she doesn't have the internal confidence to act knowing that the adults might be upset at her.

So she tries to hide Margot's failings, even though facing consequences would be good for her. And she tries to manage Jack and blames herself when her vigilance slacks off, not realizing that Jack is old enough to know that you don't run off in spite, and really needs to learn enough self control to be left alone for a day or two when upset without doing impulsive, vindictive things. And she's so intent on not disturbing the delicate Joey that she doesn't realize that when her brother wakes her up, crying in pain, the appropriate thing to do is wake her doctor father, not try to dose him herself.

And I think that's at play with Reg's proposal, too. Everyone else seems to think this is a great idea, and that Reg is going to get what he wants. I'm not sure at that point in her life that she could go against all that and say "No" or "Not now" and stand against other people. Whereas I can easily picture Joey or Mary-Lou telling an unwanted suitor to shove off, even if their friends and family thought it was a great match.

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 Post subject: Re: The Chalet Series - an overview discussion
PostPosted: 11 Apr 2018, 21:05 
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Alison H wrote:
Yes ... one thing about being at the Chalet School in the Swiss years, would be that you never got five minutes to yourself, so you wouldn't have much time to think. Everything does get very institutionalised, as epitomised by the fun and games Hobbies Club effectively becoming just another lesson, and every minute of their day is planned. I always feel like I'd've hated that, but, as someone who could win awards for overthinking, maybe it would have had its advantages!


I would hate it too. A couple of times newcomers criticise the dorms because they lack privacy and I grimace a little when the girls (I think Emerence is one) express astonishment that any adolescent girl would need such a thing. This is exactly the age when girls (and boys?) want privacy! Did EBD forget her own youth?

jennifer wrote:
I see Len as being burdened by her sense of responsibility.

Young Joey actively dislikes responsibility, and does her best to get out of it. This is understood by the adults, and they give her a push when needed. Mary-Lou loves responsibility and thrives on it, and would assume it even if she weren't given it. And both of them are quite capable of talking back and rebelling when they think it's necessary - they've got a self confidence that will carry them through disapproval.

Len, though, has had responsibility forced on her practically from birth, and a good deal of her self image is being the good daughter - obedient, high performing, responsible. And at some point, she's equated responsibility with keeping people out of trouble, and keeping the adults happy. She doesn't have the perspective to realize that this isn't always the best thing. And she doesn't have the internal confidence to act knowing that the adults might be upset at her.

So she tries to hide Margot's failings, even though facing consequences would be good for her. And she tries to manage Jack and blames herself when her vigilance slacks off, not realizing that Jack is old enough to know that you don't run off in spite, and really needs to learn enough self control to be left alone for a day or two when upset without doing impulsive, vindictive things. And she's so intent on not disturbing the delicate Joey that she doesn't realize that when her brother wakes her up, crying in pain, the appropriate thing to do is wake her doctor father, not try to dose him herself.

And I think that's at play with Reg's proposal, too. Everyone else seems to think this is a great idea, and that Reg is going to get what he wants. I'm not sure at that point in her life that she could go against all that and say "No" or "Not now" and stand against other people. Whereas I can easily picture Joey or Mary-Lou telling an unwanted suitor to shove off, even if their friends and family thought it was a great match.


Very insightful. I wish we could have seen Len develop and understand that responsibility has limits and limits are a good thing, even with your loved ones.

The best example of Len pushing against responsibility is when she tells Jo she doesn't want to be a prefect yet (which is then ignored, ugh). However, in Carola she says she hopes God doesn't want her to become a martyr because she couldn't handle the burning. It's a statement about religion, and I suppose it's the unexpected, slightly absurd thing kids do think up; but is young Len already wondering about the responsibilities foisted on her? Is this an early sign that she's afraid of having expectations thrust on her that subconsciously she knows she can't fulfill, but she tries anyway because she's Len?

I admit I could be reading too much into the incident. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and a child on fire is just ... a child on fire.

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 Post subject: Re: The Chalet Series - an overview discussion
PostPosted: 11 Apr 2018, 21:36 
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mynameisdumbnuts wrote:
In Carola she says she hopes God doesn't want her to become a martyr because she couldn't handle the burning. It's a statement about religion, and I suppose it's the unexpected, slightly absurd thing kids do think up; but is young Len already wondering about the responsibilities foisted on her? Is this an early sign that she's afraid of having expectations thrust on her that subconsciously she knows she can't fulfill, but she tries anyway because she's Len?

I admit I could be reading too much into the incident. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and a child on fire is just ... a child on fire.


There was a hymn that came up rather frequently when I was a child that included the sentiment
"How sweet thy children's fate would be,
If they, like them, could die for thee"
("Them" being Roman Catholic martyrs)
and I would have expected any Catholic children of that date to have had various martyrs and suffering children held up as Good Examples.
I just saw it as the kind of thing children think rather than it being anything more.


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 Post subject: Re: The Chalet Series - an overview discussion
PostPosted: 14 Apr 2018, 16:53 
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Victoria wrote:
There was a hymn that came up rather frequently when I was a child that included the sentiment
"How sweet thy children's fate would be,
If they, like them, could die for thee"
("Them" being Roman Catholic martyrs)
and I would have expected any Catholic children of that date to have had various martyrs and suffering children held up as Good Examples.

Oh, yes, Victoria! :roll: That hymn was sung pretty regularly in my schooldays in the fifties and early sixties, both at school and in church, and the sentiments in those words were unconsciously imbibed by many of us. But, then, I'm not complaining, and one sorts oneself out as one matures into adult life, as I'm sure Len did. I don't find her quite so reprehensible as a Head Girl, or even just a girl, as most of you seem to do and am very fond of her. She may not have had ML's great strength and people skills - but how many do?

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 Post subject: Re: The Chalet Series - an overview discussion
PostPosted: 15 Apr 2018, 04:49 
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Audrey25 wrote:
Or could it have been reassurance to know that she was as perfect as ever.

Could Len not have been so confident because Mary Lou knew what she was doing and Len did not?

I think an episode where she showed very great, if misplaced, confidence was when she ministered to Charles when he was ill in Joey & Co.

Commonsense should have told her that this was an occasion when her parents should have been disturbed. Even although it may not have done, it is quite interesting that she did not ask for support from her sisters or from Anna. She was confident enough in this situation to handle it alone and to receive all the kudos when in actual fact she could have been responsible for Charles's death.

She was also exceedingly confident when in the same book she was left in charge of everybody including the poorly Roger. Jack was completely irresponsible in this case. He and Joey gave Len far too much responsibility but she was more than happy to take it on.

Apologies to all Len fans.

(Edited to add first para)


I think you also need to take into account the event that took place earlier in the book, that would have been highly stressful for Len and meant she had to take charge in an even more difficult situation. When Mike goes down the side of the cliff for a birds nest, Joey collapses afterwards leaving Len to deal with 10 siblings. She holds it together to care for her younger siblings (sending them to Hilary and Biddy), get Jack to care for her mother and then in the aftermath is the sole person who cares for Mike when he is having continual nightmares and wakes in the night. Joey's too busy being cossetted and Jack is too busy being angry. All the children thought Joey was seriously ill as Jack couldn't rouse her for 2 hours (which is a significant collapse). All of them witnessed Len step up to the plate and cope. I can see exactly why less than two months later, Charles went to Len and not his parents. Rightly or wrongly, that situation did impact on the children and they all saw Len being the person to go to and not their parents. And Len being Len refuses to leave any of her siblings in distress simply because her parents refuse to step up when it's needed. I don't think it's confidence so much as I have to do this or my younger brothers and sisters have no one else. Yes, there was Anna, however, she didn't go comfort Mike in the middle of the night or show a willingness to take that one the way Len did, so the children clearly didn't feel like they could disturb her. They may have felt Anna was very much for the babies and not the older ones

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 Post subject: Re: The Chalet Series - an overview discussion
PostPosted: 15 Apr 2018, 13:05 
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Ref Fiona's post about Len, Charles wakes her up in the middle of the night. Anna would have been sleeping as Len was until she was disturbed.

Len could have got help from Anna or her sisters though. Madge says at the beginning of the book that all of the triplets and Stephen are growing into responsible people so it's not as if they would have been clueless if Len asked them for help

Regarding Joey and her faint, there were no adults there so Len was not told to take charge or given the responsibility but just did it.

Her behaviour and taking responsibility were very commendable but I still see a lot of it as Len wanting to take charge - that she would be irked if someone else tried to take a main role. Of course, the rest of the family would go to her if she was the one who always tooķ charge.

In a way Con and Margot were not given the chance to develop responsibility skills. Len was always there and wanting to do it so why should they? They probably felt she could do it much better than them

As for Len not wanting to be a prefect in Future when she talks to Jo, was this not EBDs way of warning the reader that 15 year old Len was about to be made a prefect?

There is never any mention that Josette was made HG at not quite 16 and left the school when she was nearly two years younger than the triplets because her brains had taken her through it so quickly. OK, some of this might have been EBDisms (and I think some of them were for the sake of the plot) and EBD mucked up Josette's age by making her older near the beginning of the Swiss books, but it was more or less righted at the end.

I am probably hard on Len but, as a character, she really does not appeal to me and never has.


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