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 Post subject: Celebrating Elinor
PostPosted: 06 Apr 2018, 13:37 
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Stumped by Lower Four's quiz
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Joined: 27 May 2006, 13:28
Posts: 998
Location: SE England
Today, 6 April, is Elinor M. Brent Dyer's birthday. :cake_candle: I thought it might be a nice idea, following the read through, to have a thread celebrating her achievements as a writer, not just of the CS but over all her work.

She does deserve a lifetime achievement award - over ninety published books, in a (published) writing career extending from 1922 to 1969. Angela Brazil, the other big name in school story writing, wasn't so prolific, and in my opinion Elinor was a much better writer.

The Chalet School is her great success. There's the series or soap opera factor, of course. The likeable characters, and at the start the originality of the setting.

Elinor and her contemporaries were writing a new type of school story. (Dorita Fairlie Bruce was just ahead of EBD; The Senior Prefect/Dimsie Goes to School was first published in 1921.) They were breaking away from the overly sentimental nature of earlier girls' fiction, of the type that EBD poked fun at in some of the early CS books. The Chalet School seems much more modern in comparison, even in comparison with some of EBD's other early work.

I could go on at much greater length, but what would everyone else choose to celebrate about Elinor's work? Her place in the history of school story writing and girls' fiction generally, or other aspects of her work - particular characters, incidents, or pieces of writing, or how her work has had a positive influence on her readers?


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 Post subject: Re: Celebrating Elinor
PostPosted: 06 Apr 2018, 14:15 
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Rescuing a Junior from the lake
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Joined: 15 Oct 2004, 13:57
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On a personal note, without EBD I'd never have met all you lovely people through the CBB, FOCS and the NCC, and I'd never have thought to go to Oberammergau in 2010 … and I don't think my European history lecturer at university ever did understand why I was so interested in Austrian history.

I do think the Chalet School books are quite inspiring. OK, elements of them seem very old-fashioned now, but (frightening as it seems) we're nearly as far removed in time from The School at the Chalet as it was from the later Waverley novels and the publication of Jane Austen's later works. Madge founds her own business, and the girls go off on rambles up and down mountains, and swim in lakes … there's a real sense of freedom and opportunity, in the early books. I'm not so convinced about all her other books, but I think some of them were aimed at different audiences, especially the preachier ones.

Apologies to cricket-loving Australian CBB-ers :D , but I was only thinking the other week, when the ball-tampering scandal broke, about how a lot of the values of EBD's books still hold true – most people do still at least like to believe in the ideals of fair play, and standing by your friends, and not letting the side down. Obviously she's not the only author who promotes those ideals, but I find them a lot more convincing in her books than in, say Malory Towers or St Clare's, where anyone who isn't in the in-crowd is vulnerable to bullying.

I think it has to be the way she deals with the Anschluss that most deserves credit, though. It was a very difficult topic to write about, and quite brave at a time when most people fully expected the Nazis to invade Britain. She could easily have said that Madge and Jem had decided to leave Tyrol because there was no suitable school there for David and Rix, or even just have mentioned the political situation but not included the riot in Spartz. Having the main characters coming face-to-face with a Nazi mob, and describing the murders of the Goldmanns and Vater Johann ... I can't think of anything else in GO fiction that comes even close to that. It's not something she can ever have imagined herself writing about, when she created a series about a school in a beautiful location. There are a lot of impressive incidents/chapters - I'm sure I'm not the only one who re-reads Christmas in Innsbruck every single December! - but that one's something special.

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 Post subject: Re: Celebrating Elinor
PostPosted: 06 Apr 2018, 14:54 
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Swept off by Matey to pack
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Joined: 19 Sep 2011, 22:32
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I think EBD was incredibly brave to have written Exile and then had it published in 1940 when the Germans might well have won the war and she could have been held to account for the book.

She just didn't write books for girls. She wanted those girls to be the best possible girls. In Three Go To The Chalet School we have detail of what she considered to be the best possible girl. Mary Lou went a bit OTT in later books but she is surely that girl.

In girls like Daisy, Bride, Tom and Mary Lou we had girls who played the game and tried their best, and that was bound to rub off on to the readers.

EBD possibly helped me to see that it wasn't our race or religion that mattered but what we were and what we did that counted.

She is the main reason why I visited Austria and made the effort to get to Pertisau and also Oberammergau although I have yet to see the play. One of the reasons I went to Switzerland and Herefordshire and also saw Peterchurch and why I want to go to Guerney.

She is also one of the reasons why my daughter has Eleanor (different spelling) as a middle name.


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 Post subject: Re: Celebrating Elinor
PostPosted: 06 Apr 2018, 15:29 
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Stumped by Lower Four's quiz
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Joined: 27 May 2006, 13:28
Posts: 998
Location: SE England
I think the way she made speaking other languages seem a natural and desirable thing to do was something else that set her apart from other writers. We have the core languages of English, French and German (different varieties of). Jo also knows some Russian and Romany. There are references to people speaking or learning Italian, Spanish and Welsh - and do the Twins speak Gaelic? Belsornian? Then there's Anglo Saxon, Latin and Ancient Greek. Any others?

I'd have liked to be bilingual or trilingual! I would've liked to do O level German, solely because of the CS. I couldn't, because it didn't fit with the other subjects I either wanted to do or was required to do.

Everyone at my school was required to take O level French. At the secondary modern, they did CSE Spanish. It appals me that children nowadays aren't required to study a foreign language to GCSE level.


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