Book name: The Princess of the Chalet School
Author: Elinor Brent-Dyer
Publisher: W & R Chambers
Format: ebook, print
Genre: School stories, vintage children’s fiction
Publication Date: 1927
Star Rating: 5/5
The first time I read the Chalet School series from Elinor Brent-Dyer I did so piecemeal on the basis of which of the books I could get hold of in secondhand bookshops.
As a result, I was aware that the school had had a princess as a pupil for quite a while before I actually got to meet Princess Elisaveta of Belsornia on the pages of The Princess of the Chalet School.
It was thrilling to know that Joey would get to be her lady in waiting, especially as it seemed utterly unlike Joey to agree.
At the beginning of The Princess of the Chalet School, Elinor Brent-Dyer shows us how being isolated as a child of privilege leads not just to loneliness but also to actual physical ill health.
Elisaveta is now so weak that she is resting in bed almost all the time, and it is considered a good sign that she is up mid-afternoon when her father, the crown prince, comes to visit her.
Like many heroines of children’s fiction, Elisaveta has lost her mother and her father is still mourning the loss of his wife. Her father is concerned about her failing health, and the royal physician recommends the Chalet School for its bracing location up in the Austrian Tyrol.
The idea of sending a princess to school, as opposed to having her taught by tutors, receives considerable opposition from the king, Elisaveta’s grandfather. However, her father insists that she go to the Chalet School.
After she transfers to the school, Elisaveta starts to become stronger almost immediately. She naturally becomes close to Joey, whose own poor health was one of the reasons Madge started the school and is still under constant review.
The main challenges for Elisaveta come initially from a bullying matron who takes a severe dislike to her and from the fact that Madge thought it a good idea to keep her royal background a secret so that she could be treated like the other pupils.
Only Joey knows the truth, so the teachers initially struggle with Elisaveta’s regal ways. She is by no means a spoilt child, and we pity her for her ill health and start to like her as soon as she improves up in the mountains and fits in with the other pupils.
Once the truth gets out, everyone is able to appreciate how down to earth Elisaveta is.
Most of the action in The Princess of the Chalet School comes from the threat posed to Elisaveta by her cousin Cosimo. He is next in line to the throne after her father because only a male heir can become king.
Despite the fact that Elisaveta poses no obstacle to him, Cosimo kidnaps her from the school. She has been sent there in secret to prevent him finding her, so the threat he poses is a real one.
All good Chalet School stories involve an element of physical danger, often up in the mountains, as a climax to the tale. Happily, Joey is able to follow the group with her St Bernard Rufus who can track Elisaveta’s scent. The story has plenty left to give beyond the resolution of the kidnapping of Elisaveta, in part because the most important issues to be dealt with include her inability to inherit the crown after her father.
The Princess of the Chalet School quickly became one of my favourite books in the series. There was plenty of action and the whole story had a strong feel-good aura to it.
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