Book name: A Problem for the Chalet School
Author: Elinor Brent-Dyer
Genre: School stories, vintage children’s fiction
Publication Date: 1956
Star Rating: 5/5
One of many things that captivated readers of Elinor Brent-Dyer’s 'Chalet School' books was how the series continued for decades, with the children of the original stars in later books old enough to be at the Chalet School as pupils in their own right.
A Problem for the Chalet School is one of the later books in Elinor Brent-Dyer’s 'Chalet School' series.
Joey Bettany’s triplets (Len, Con and Margot) are happily making their way through the Fourth Form. This term, they have to welcome two new English arrivals, neither of whom speaks a word of French or German.
Rosamund Lilley is the first to arrive. She has won a scholarship to the Chalet School and wants to learn to speak French and German fluently so that she can become an air stewardess.
Used to firm discipline at home from her mother, a former maid, and her father, a gardener, Rosamund fits into the Chalet School’s ethos almost immediately.
Rosamund’s old friend from school Joan Baker soon follows her to the Chalet School. Joan is not used to discipline at home, and she is rude and lazy. As a paying pupil, she threatens to tell the other pupils about Rosamund’s family.
Of course, Joan is hoping that, at boarding school, snobbery will overcome any liking the pupils might have for Rosamund when they know more about what her parents do for a living.
Rosamund and Joan both come from modest backgrounds that are a little unusual for boarding-school fiction. Joan’s family can suddenly afford the Chalet School fees because of a large win on the Pools. Rosamund’s academic potential caught the eye of a generous benefactor.
Elinor Brent-Dyer demonstrates that any girl can succeed at the Chalet School provided she is honest and hard working. These attributes matter far more to the girls than how much money their parents have.
In that sense, A Problem for the Chalet School is a more open-minded story than many within the school-story genre. The difference between Rosamund and Joan is explained primarily in terms of parenting styles: indulgent, careless attitudes from Joan’s mother and father contrasted with a firm, disciplined upbringing from Rosamund’s mother.
Joan finds it far harder to settle in, and she remains at the centre of that typical school-story plot: a new girl who struggles to fit in. Her unpromising personality and sense of superiority over her family’s money mean that she’s hard work for the existing Chalet School girls to improve.
A Problem for the Chalet School was a pleasure to read. It’s always lovely to be in the company of Chalet School girls, and in particular to see Joey Bettany’s triplets as young ladies in their own right. Two new arrivals in one narrative was an unusual feature, but essential to avoid any snobbish assumption that Joan’s modest background is the reason she struggles to settle in. Contrasted with Rosamund’s ease at fitting in, we know different.
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