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"Who Was Angela Brazil?" by John C Adams Reviews

Although Angela Brazil was not strictly speaking counted as one of the Big Three, no one can doubt her continuing influence on both writers and readers of school stories.

Angela Brazil published over sixty cherished school-story books from 1899 to her death in 1947. She is still a beloved figure in school stories today, and she exerted considerable influence over how the genre developed.

But who was Angela Brazil? And what do we know about her life? What spurred her love of writing school stories to share with her loyal fans?

Angela Brazil’s surname was actually pronounced ‘Brazzle’. She was born in Preston, Lancashire. She spent her childhood years in the north of England, where her father was a mill manager.

After leaving school Angela studied fine art in London.

Despite the apparent glamour of her surname, it was actually her mother’s family that supplied some foreign influences in her life.

Her maternal grandfather owned a shipping line based out of Rio de Janeiro, and there was Spanish blood in the family courtesy of her mother.

Angela Brazil was close to her brother and sister. The family moved to Wales after their father died in 1899.

Later, Angela Brazil lived with her brother in the Midlands and they were joined by their sister after their mother died. She was very active socially and in voluntary work. A generous hostess, she was known for holding parties for young women and children.

She was always much more comfortable in the company of women rather than men, and she never married.

She volunteered with a number of societies and was interested in the local history and antiquities of Coventry.

Most of Angela Brazil’s close friendships were limited to her family. However, she had two other longstanding friendships. One was formed during her school days and the other when she was in her early thirties.

Boarding school played a direct role in Angela Brazil’s life. Indeed, it would have been difficult for her to sustain the accuracy of detail that gives her boarding-school stories their vibrancy.

Angela Brazil went to a forerunner of Ellerslie School in Malvern. The school closed after seventy years in 1992, but Malvern College continues its tradition with a boarding house named after Ellerslie after absorbing the school via a merger. Ellerslie was the last in a long line of girls’ schools located there.

It is consistently evident from her writing that Angela Brazil was happy at boarding school, and her love of those years shines through in her books.

She spoke of not really growing up beyond being a school girl, and certainly she was always able to create in her fiction the turbulence and innocence of teenage years.

One thing that also comes to us through the writing of Angela Brazil is her lifetime devotion to learning, especially for young women. Being useful rather than merely decorative, being active and staying focused on tasks and goals is very important in her fiction.

Those pupils we feel more positively towards in Angela Brazil’s school stories apply themselves and think of others. They are practical while still enjoying intellectual and cultural activities.

This is the underlying ethos of every school she invented, and sooner or later every girl who attends one of Angela Brazil’s fictional schools absorbs that mentality and takes it with her as an adult when she leaves.

In part, this forward-thinking ethos arose from Angela Brazil’s early experiences courtesy of her mother. Mrs Brazil was determined that her children should benefit from emotional warmth and freedom at home.

This openness didn’t always sit well with the schools Angela Brazil attended, such as her first school in Preston. Most schools in the late 1800s were still rigidly Victorian in mindset. Indeed, the Victorian era still had several decades left to run even when Angela Brazil finished her own schooldays.

In that sense, the fictional schools that Angela Brazil were very modern and fresh in their thinking. They are a world away from the usual educational style of her childhood years. This partly explains the continuing enthusiasm for her writing on the part of new generations of schoolgirls.

It is clear that Angela Brazil enjoyed a happy home life and childhood, and that her boarding-school days were of particular emotional importance to her. This underpinned the sixty plus novels she would write within the boarding-school-story genre, books that continue to thrill readers anew today.

Thank you for reading my article about the life of Angela Brazil.

John C Adams Reviews

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If you’ve enjoyed this article, you might be interested reading in my review of For the Sake of the School by Angela Brazil.

Or you might like to take a look at my review of Bosom Friends by Angela Brazil.

If you fancy something different, you might like to take a chance on my review of Father of the Bride.

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