Redheads at the Chalet School by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer was first published in 1964, but my copy is a very recent reprint by Girls Gone By. This one is a bit of a departure from the usual Chalet School series as it’s more of a thriller than boarding school story.
It begins with Flavia and her step-father travelling on a train on the way to the Chalet School. Flavia has red hair and most people call her Copper for that reason, but her step-father explains she must use her real name at school and she has been enrolled under her original surname, instead of her step-father’s surname.
Flavia’s step-father is a policeman and one of his investigations has led to the hanging of a member of a vicious gang. The other gang members have sworn to get their own back on him, Flavia’s life is in danger, but to begin with she doesn’t know that. The headmistress has been given all the information though.
From almost the beginning it’s obvious that there are nefarious characters hot on the track of Flavia, they know that they’re looking for a girl with red hair, but there are several such lucky girls at the school. Inevitably the wrong girl is nabbed! But of course all ends well eventually.
I enjoy these Girls Gone By reprints, there’s usually a short story at the end by a contemporary Girls Gone By writer. In this case it’s An Inspector Calls by Lisa Townsend. There’s also a few pages about the publishing history, notes on the text, and at the very beginning there’s a bit by Ruth Jolly about the apparently fairly regular appearance of girls with red hair attending The Chalet School, there are more of them than would be expected in society. She also mentions other characters with red hair in literature, and that old chestnut that redheads are supposed to have a fiery temper, which of course had me rolling my eyes as a redhead myself, or as my mother described me – a strawberry blonde.
I almost feel a blogpost coming on about walking in a person’s shoes, because unless you have red hair you have no idea what it’s like! It is the only prejudice which is quite happily allowed nowadays, and features in TV adverts, where derogatory comments about skin colour definitely aren’t tolerated.