Book name: For the Sake of the School
Author: Angela Brazil
Format: ebook, print
Genre: Children’s fiction
Publication Date: 1915
Angela Brazil has long been a favourite author in girl’s boarding school stories. For the Sake of the School was published in 1915, and my own hardback copy bears an inscription on the front flyleaf showing that it was given as a Christmas present to its first owner in 1918.
Ulyth Stanton is returning for another term at her boarding school, The Woodlands, in Wales. She is excited to learn that her pen friend, Rona Mitchell, is to come to the school all the way from New Zealand.
War has just broken out, and the girls are throwing themselves into learning useful skills such as first aid and camping.
One particularly popular activity is run by the young and beautiful Mrs Arnold, an American who longs to share her skill in campfire building with the school’s pupils.
The introduction of an outsider who is treated with caution and often coolness is a common feature of boarding school stories.
As the story progresses, the arrival will learn to adapt to the way of life and gradually fit in, proving herself deserving of the friendship of her peers.
Rona embodies this traditional perfectly. Having grown up on a ranch without any female role model beside a servant, she is unused to the disciplined way of life.
Like any new arrival at boarding school, she must change to fit the institution, as her peers have done before her.
She is tested and will grow as a person until she earns the right to be fully welcomed into the school community.
The Woodlands is fairly typical of fictional boarding schools. There is much emphasis on capability and responsibility, together with playing fair (or playing by the rules).
The school is quite modern in outlook for its time, and the pupils learn many useful and practical skills as well as spending lots of time outdoors.
Rona’s initially unpromising appearance and behaviour spark a challenge in Ulyth, too.
She regrets asking Rona to come to England and must acquire patience and compassion in order to live up to her and, and her school’s expectation of behaviour.
I loved For the Sake of the School. It was very much a traditional girl’s boarding school story.
I wished there had been more than passing mentions of the war, which seemed to play no role in the story at all.
Perhaps the writers of the time felt that drawing child readers into tales of the war that was only just beginning was conducive to their emotional resilience.
The school community was entirely female, with the sole male voices that of Mr Arnold, who briefly flits in and out of a couple of scenes during a camping trip, and Ulyth’s brother during the Christmas holidays. This is unusual in more modern boarding school fiction, but more typical of Angela Brazil’s writing.
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