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 Post subject: Characters in the later books
PostPosted: 04 Oct 2017, 17:07 
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I'm re-reading Challenge for the first time in a while. It's probably my fault because I don't read the later books very often, but I feel as if half the characters are strangers. I can pick up one of the Tyrolean, British or early Swiss books and know that everyone in it will seem like an old friend, but these people seem to have come from nowhere. Helene Forster. Moira Carroll. Nesta Parry. Yvette Olivier. Simonetta d'Angeli. I can name the members of the Quartette, the Quintette and the Gang without even thinking about it, but I struggle to remember the names of more than a couple of "the Crew". Is it just because I don't read the later Swiss books very often, or do other people find this as well?

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 Post subject: Re: Characters in the later books
PostPosted: 04 Oct 2017, 18:46 
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The Crew are a large group, that on the whole have no really defining traits among them. As a result, they tend to blend together as one.


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 Post subject: Re: Characters in the later books
PostPosted: 04 Oct 2017, 22:46 
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Almost all the girls below Ailie's year lack individuality and are pretty much indistinguishable, in my opinion. Jocelyn Marvell is supposed to be that generation's Naughty Middle, for example, but her exploits have nowhere near the humour or originality of some of the earlier Middles' pranks.

Samaris, Erica and Althea were the younger heroines among the last few books; only Samaris really stands out, and she's not that strong a character.

I think it was partly that EBD had neglected to develop a new group of Juniors to move into the Middles when Ailie & Co and Jack's Gang moved into the Seniors. The last group of Junior Middles lacked a strong focal character and there don't seem to have been any daughters or nieces of Old Girls to build a group around. EBD needed a new Mary Lou.


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 Post subject: Re: Characters in the later books
PostPosted: 05 Oct 2017, 02:06 
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I definitely find this! There's the Va group in Challenge, plus Jocelyn Marvell and the L4, and in nearby books the Crew, and I think there's another gang-like group introduced as well. But they're all pretty bland.

I do think EBD was trying to establish a new group, as at this point she's got the triplets (who were finally aging out) and Jack Lambert's gang, plus Ailie Russell's year, which has a ton of interesting characters but never seems to step into the limelight much. But a combination of declining writing skills, and being too attached to the triplets for too long, meant that none of the attempts produce an interesting group.

The later attempts at new groups also lack connections outside of the immediate story. Earlier groups have a mix of girls from the MBR clan and their connections, daughters of old girls, one or two of the La Rochelle connections, plus girls who have siblings in other forms. So they have a presence in the CS world beyond their sudden appearance as part of something like The Crew, which adds depth to the characterization.

If the series had continued, it might have been good to skip three years, and jump to the triplets finishing university (and Len's wedding). Ailie's et al would have been senior prefects , with Jack's gang as junior. Felicity would have been twelve or so, and along with Jean Morrison and Lucy Peters ready for naught middle plots. Then there'd be room for a new senior middle group to be introduced.

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 Post subject: Re: Characters in the later books
PostPosted: 06 Oct 2017, 01:22 
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With the exception of Ailie and Co I am not very interested in any of the girls who came after the triplets. I also like Samaris but most of the rest just blend together.

Part of it too is because I find Jack Lambert and her lot so unappealing. Not a nice person amongst them. We are also meant to like Erica - I don't.

EBD's writing skills were declining all the time but as well as that, her new characters were unlikeable.

When I was younger I did like the Swiss books but now after Theodora, I think there are only a few worth reading. I virtually never go near the last two or Summer Term and Feud. I don't read Leader or Jane very often either.


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 Post subject: Re: Characters in the later books
PostPosted: 06 Oct 2017, 07:33 
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The ones in Challenge aren't so much unlikeable as bland. Well, they just appear from nowhere and we aren't told anything about them.

The language is different, as well. Miss Wilmot says that anyone who doesn't pick up some French and German must be a "moron". Len says that people'll think anyone who talks like a 19th century novel is "square". These are words we used a lot in the '80s, and were presumably used a lot in the '60s as well, but they just don't seem very CS-ish!

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 Post subject: Re: Characters in the later books
PostPosted: 06 Oct 2017, 07:37 
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I did a quick look back through the series to see which groups of girls get the storylines where. For the most part, a book focuses on one to three groups of girls.

In the Tyrol period, there's a lot of mixing by age and the stories get spread out. In the UK years, there are a number of plot lines for Elizabeth and Betty and their year, a few each for Daisy/Beth/Gwensi and Gay/Jacynth/Gillian, and quite a few for Bride/Tom and later Mary-Lou's Gang. Robin's year, Clem's year, Peggy's year and Sybil's year each get a major plotline or two.

In Switzerland, the early books (up to Theodora) are pretty much all about the triplets and Mary-Lou's gang, with a bit from the prefects (Clem and Sybil's years). The books afterwards have the remnants of Mary-Lou's gang as prefects, plus the triplets and Jack's gang. Ailie & co get two decent plotlines, and Ruey's year gets some secondary plots.

Then, in the last five books we still have the triplets (who have merged with Ruey's year), and Jack's gang, but also two books featuring the Crew (Erica, etc), two with Jocelyn and L4, two with U4b (Robina, Val Pertwee, Samaris, Althea), and one with Evelyn and Va.

So there's definitely a sudden burst of new groups being introduced in the last handful of books, most of whom are kind of bland.

I think Erica has potential - I can see her as being a well meaning but ditzy girl, the kind who is a bit accident prone, easily pulled into bad behaviour by stronger personalities, and who is really into makeup and hairstyles and giggling over handsome pop singers and movie stars. Jack is one of the more realistic of the later girls, but she's not very likeable. To mis-quote EBD, "it's not a nice naughtiness". I think Jack was maybe more suited to a Francie-like character arc, where we see her mature from a bratty kind and obnoxious adolescent, but aren't expected to sympathize with her as a main character.

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 Post subject: Re: Characters in the later books
PostPosted: 06 Oct 2017, 21:19 
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Quote:
The ones in Challenge aren't so much unlikeable as bland.

I think Evelyn Ross is quite interesting. She's a bit different from EBD's usual type of girl. It makes a change to have someone who just gradually becomes resigned to being at the school, rather than becoming a Real Chalet School Girl by the end of term.

Jack, unlikeable as she is, is a strong character. She makes things happen, even though they're often wrong things. I don't think anyone coming after her has that kind of force of character, for good or bad.
Quote:
Len says that people'll think anyone who talks like a 19th century novel is "square". These are words we used a lot in the '80s, and were presumably used a lot in the '60s as well

'Square' was definitely an early to mid '60s expression. I'm surprised to hear it was still in use in the '80s! But Len is about the last person would would expect to hear using it. She is fairly square herself, after all.


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 Post subject: Re: Characters in the later books
PostPosted: 06 Oct 2017, 21:46 
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Yes - in Problem, Jack Maynard rather snootily makes it sound as if leaving school at 15 or 16, rather than staying on until 18, is something to do with social class, whereas Evelyn is from a traditional CS background but is ready to leave school at 16 because she's not academic and feels, quite reasonably, that going to secretarial college (as Joan does) would be more beneficial to her than another two years of school.

It says a lot about the later characters that Mary-Lou, 3 1/2 years after leaving school, is dragged back (on the excuse of needing to recover from a cold!) to counsel Evelyn and rescue Jocelyn. I feel quite resentful on her behalf that EBD couldn't leave her in peace to get on with the next stage in her life :lol: .

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 Post subject: Re: Characters in the later books
PostPosted: 06 Oct 2017, 22:00 
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Quote:
Evelyn is from a traditional CS background but is ready to leave school at 16 because she's not academic and feels, quite reasonably, that going to secretarial college (as Joan does) would be more beneficial to her than another two years of school.

Evelyn is just the sort of girl who they could have attracted to St Mildred's, if they'd developed a languages and secretarial course option, aimed at girls who weren't going to university. She was certainly wasting her time in the Fifth, since she'd already done her GCEs; she was entitled to feel resentful about that, I think.


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