Eustacia Goes to the Chalet School by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer – 20 Books of Summer

Eustacia Goes to the Chalet School by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer was first published in 1929.

Eustacia has never been to school before, her father had been a professor of Greek and her mother a doctor, they had not made a good job of bringing her up, and by the time she was a teenager she was a rather superior little prig.

When both of her parents died fairly suddenly Eustacia only had two people in her life, her Aunt Margery as her guardian and uncle Edmund as trustee, and it’s decided that she’ll go to boarding school – the Chalet School of course.

When Eustacia gets there she makes herself very unpopular from day one. She’s a prig and a sneak, two things that most schoolgirls detest, as do the teachers. The girls are intent on pulling her down several pegs. Eustacia can’t stand it and decides to run away, over the mountains!

Of course she has an accident which means a long recuperation. With visits from staff and girls Eustacia is a changed girl. When Eustacia is happy to call herself Stacie it’s seen as an improvement by the headmistress, they didn’t like her ‘sister’ Eustacia at all.

There are a lot of books in this Chalet School series, and they are still being written by different authors. I suspect that I will not be reading them all, but will probably just read up to just after the war years – I’ll see how it goes. They’re an enjoyable read, for me anyway.

20 Books of Summer

I’m going to be taking part in 20 Books of Summer again this year. It’s hosted by Cathy at  746 Books,  and it’s quite flexible, you don’t have to read 20 books, it can be less, but I’m usually well able to read 20 books during June, July and August.

Below is a list of the books I intend to read, but some of them might change.

1. The Wrench by Primo Levi (for The Classics Club)

2. O Caledonia by Elspeth Barker

3. Another Country – A Guide to the Children’s Books of the Lake District and Cumbria

4. Post After Post-Mortem by E.C.R. Lorac

5. The Redemption of Alexander Seaton by Shona MacLean

6. Gideon Ahoy by William Mayne

7. The Quarry Wood by Nan Shepherd

8. Dissolution by C.J. Sansom

9. The Secrets of Blythswood Square by Sara Sheridan

10. Cakes and Ale by W. Somerset Maugham

11. Mayland Hall by Doreen Wallace

12. The Little Bookroom by Eleanor Farjeon

13. The Runaway Summer by Nina Bawden

14. Making It Up by Penelope Lively

15. A Very Great Profession by Nicola Beauman

16. Long Live Great Bardfield by Tirzah Garwood

17. Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers

18. Yesterday Morning by Diana Athill

19. Somewhere Towards the End by Diana Athill

20. The Fall of Kelvin Walker by Alasdair Gray

It’s quite an eclectic list I think, there’s only one which is a re-read for me, Gaudy Night.  It should be a good summer of reading!


A Year Unfolding by Angela Harding – 20 Books of Summer 2023

A Year Unfolding by Angela Harding, A printmaker’s view,  is a lovely book.  I asked Jack to buy me a copy for our fairly recent wedding anniversary. Actually it was supposed to be for my birthday but he didn’t get around to getting a copy fast enough for that!

You might have seen Angela Harding’s art illustrating various magazine articles, but it’s so much nicer to have them in a book. The art is accompanied by her thoughts on what has inspired her over the years and often her memories of being in the countryside and by the sea. There are quite a few poems by Welsh poet Edward Thomas, mainly on the subject of nature.

It didn’t take me long to read A Year Unfolding but it’s the sort of book that I’ll be dipping into constantly, just to savour the illustrations and prose. A real treat.


20 Books of Summer

20 books of summer

I’m going to be joining in with 20 Books of Summer again which is hosted by Cathy at 746 Books. In the past I’ve been quite successful with this one and usually complete the list, for me it’s a good way of concentrating on books that I actually own over June, July and August.

More Books

1. Daughter of Earth by Agnes Smedley
2. The Shuttle by Frances Hodgson Burnett
3. Tomorrow Will Be Better by Betty Smith
4. Keeping Up Appearances by Rose Macaulay
5. Strange Journey by Maud Cairnes
6. Are They the Same at Home? by Beverley Nichols
7. The Tontine Bell by Elisabeth Kyle
8. The Market Square by Miss Read
9. Revenge by Eric Brown
10. The Monarch of the Glen by Compton Mackenzie
11. Sheiks and Adders by Michael Innes
12. Dark Quartet by Lynne Reid Banks
13. Three Twins at the Crater School by Chaz Brenchley
14. Scarweather by Anthony Rolls
15. The Diary of a Farmer’s Wife 1796-1797
16. Gemma Alone by Noel Streatfeild
17. Visitors From England by Elisabeth Kyle
18. A Certain Smile by Francoise Sagan
19. Cheerfulness Breaks In by Angela Thirkell
20. Northbridge Rectory by Angela Thirkell

Are you going to be joining in with 20 Books of Summer this year?

Tortoise by Candlelight by Nina Bawden – 20 Books of Summer

 Tortoise by Candlelight cover

Tortoise by Candlelight by Nina Bawden was first published in 1963 but my copy is a Virago reprint from 1989.

It’s the 1960s, Emmie Bean is 14 years old and she’s really in charge of her family which consists of her father, grandmother, older sister Alice and eight year old Oliver. Alice is determined to become a nurse and has to study, – when she’s not with her boyfriend, she seems happy to leave all the responibility to Emmie. Oliver has problems, he is happy to lie and steal and is very manipulative. Emmie is terrified that he’ll be caught stealing something, it’s just another of her many worries. The mother had been a well-known naturalist but she’s not around, in fact the children seem to think she is dead. As the father has a drink problem, he’s a journalist and claims he needs to go to pubs to get contacts, it’s Emmie who has to worry about providing school uniforms, life is tough and money very scarce. Then to make matters worse the grandmother’s age begins to tell on her. Emmie’s mother had encouraged her to start writing a diary/notebook and Emmie wonders if getting it published could be a way out of money problems.

Emmie has had to grow up fast but when new people arrive at a nearby house things change. Marjorie and Nick are a young married couple with no worries, Marjorie’s father is very wealthy and they’re financially secure, but are living a rather empty life with nothing to strive for. They become involved with the Bean family and Emmie is quite smitten by Nick. There’s a sadness to Nick and Marjorie and the Bean family seem to fill a void for a time.

This was an enjoyable read, but a difficult one to write about. I’ve read a few books by Nina Bawden, Carrie’s War is probably her best known book and I think I liked that one more than this one, but that may just have been because of my liking for a WW2 setting.

This book is one of my 20 Books of Summer.

bag and baggage by Judy Allen – 20 Books of Summer

bag and baggage by Judy Allen was first published in 1988, by The Women’s Press. It’s not a book that I bought, it was sent to me by mistake when I ordered another book from a bookseller – and they didn’t want me to send this one back. That was quite a few years ago now, and that’s why I added it to my 20 Books of Summer list.

Hilda is a pensioner who lives in a ground floor council flat. May, another pensioner lives opposite her, in a flat which is a mirror image of Hilda’s, but May’s flat is spotlessly clean, she’s completely obsessed with housework, whereas Hilda has just about given up. Whenever she tries to clean anything she just ends up making it even worse. Her flat is in a horrible state,she just can’t cope with it all. The kitchen is full of half used tins of cat food – I could almost smell it.

It’s not just her hygiene standards that have fallen though, Hilda has accumulated a pile of official looking brown envelopes, many of which she hasn’t even bothered to open. Her neighbour May does try to help Hilda but she just ends up becoming another problem as far as Hilda is concerned. She takes to staying in the park all day, then when her flat is stripped and padlocked by bailiffs the park becomes her home. She’s sleeping there with bags full of things that May had managed to rescue from her old flat, before the bailiffs struck. So, Hilda has become a bag lady, not that she recognises that fact. At times Hilda lives in a universe of her own making, where she is famous and being interviewed on TV, but in reality she’s taken to a geriatric ward which she seems quite happy about.

This is a well written book, but it’s not exactly an uplifting read, I’m sure it isn’t meant to be and I suppose the subject is an important one, people can suffer from mental illness for no particular reason, it isn’t always caused by a big trauma, and it can often lead to homelessness. There is some humour.

Judy Allen is better known as a children’s author, this is her second novel and her first December Flower was dramatised by Granada TV.

This was one of my 20 Books of Summer 2021.

White Boots by Noel Streatfeild – 20 Books of Summer 2021

White Boots by Noel Streatfeild was first published in 1951. The Johnson family live in London, Harriet has been ill, her brothers think she looks like a big daddy-long-legs as she’s all hair and eyes and although she isn’t so ill now she still isn’t well enough to go to school, her legs feel like cotton wool. Her father George Johnson has a shop which is stocked by the produce that his elder brother sends to him for sale. George’s brother inherited the family estate, but he keeps all the best produce for himself, and sends George vegetables that are really poor quality and nobody wants to buy, and animals that have been shot or trapped and are long past being used for food. They’re really poverty stricken and can’t afford the good food that Harriet needs to get her strength back.

The doctor thinks that maybe taking up ice-skating will help to strengthen Harriet’s legs and at the ice rink she comes into contact with Lalla who also doesn’t go to school. She is taught at home by Miss Goldthorpe, a successful teacher who wants a change from teaching in schools, but most of Lalla’s time is spent at the ice rink. Her parents are dead and she’s being brought up by an aunt who is obsessed with turning Lalla into a champion ice skater – just like her father was. Lalla’s famous father died when she was a baby.

Harriet and Lalla strike up a friendship but it’s in jeapordy when Lalla’s tendency to be a ‘proper little madam’ almost ruins things.

This was a good read, with lots of common-sense and morality in the storyline. Lalla, having been brought up by her ambitious, snooty and self-important aunt needs some lessons in real life, which her old nanny does her best to instil in her.

The Johnson family, including Harriet’s three brothers and her mother also add a lot to the story. I wish I had read these books first when I was a youngster myself.

The Fascinating Hat by Isabel Cameron – 20 Books of Summer 2021

 The Fascinating Hat cover

The Fascinating Hat by the Scottish author Isabel Cameron was first published in 1941. The book begins with Jinty Campbell trimming a hat that she’s going to wear in a dramatic entertainment in the village hall the following week. She’s interrupted by the local minister who has a habit of just walking into people’s houses unannounced. With him is his nephew who is a doctor, he has come to stand in for the local doctor who is going on holiday. There’s quite a lot of snappy banter as the two young people seem to hit it off quickly, having a similar sense of humour.

The screeching of tyres in the street and a crash alert them to a taxi which has ended up on its side while swerving to avoid a child on the road. The young passenger has been knocked out, tended by Jinty who had been a VAD, and the new young doctor. But their patient has lost his memory and has no idea who he is.

Jinty is an apprentice at a firm of architects, planning to become an architect herself eventually. As far as she’s concerned it’s about time that houses were designed by women for women as men have no idea of how to design homes with women in mind, making a lot of unnecessary work for them. Cupboards too high up, the sink in a corner facing a wall, sometimes no sink at all, the dishes to be washed in a basin on the kitchen table, no cupboards for storage and unneccesary steps. Secretly her bosses have to admit that she has a point.

The architects had got a commission to build a wonderful large house locally, with no expense spared. Their client was abroad and wanted to come home apparently. As you can imagine Jinty is in her element.

This was an enjoyable read and I imagine that in 1941 it must have been very unusual to have a young woman with the ambition of becoming an architect, so that was quite a surprise to me. However the storyline took a weird turn when the patient’s memory was restored by an operation. I found the thought of that quite shuddersome as so many people in reality were damaged forever when doctor’s performed brain operations when probably what they needed was a good psychologist – or even a nice wee rest!

20 Books of Summer – the Wrap-up

20 books of summer

All too quickly we’ve come to the end of 20 Books of Summer and I haven’t quite managed to read all of my chosen books. I did actually read more than twenty books over the summer but I veered away from the list when I felt the need to read a Heyer or vintage crime or some children’s books. I haven’t quite managed to review all that I’ve read from the list, I still have to review In a Dark Wood Wandering and The Berry Scene. I enjoyed most of the books, a few didn’t quite hit the spot but it was a good summer of reading over a time when we were still locked down and not allowed to travel far from home. I’m so glad that I’m a keen reader.

1. North from Rome by Helen MacInnes
2. The Road Home by Rose Tremain
3. My Friend Flora by Jane Duncan
4. Winter Holiday by Arthur Ransome
5. The Citadel by A.J. Cronin
6. The House of Doctor Dee by Peter Ackroyd
7. The Runaway by Elizabeth Anna Hart
8. Madame Solario by Gladys Huntingdon
9. Autumn Quail by Naguib Mahfouz
10. Peter Pan in Scarlet by Geraldine McCaughrean
11. An Old-Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott
12. The Berry Scene by Dornford Yates
13. The Flight of the Heron by D.K. Broster
14. Wolf Among Wolves by Hans Fallada
15. The Dark Wood Wandering by Hella S. Haasse
16. The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar
17. Call for the Dead by John le Carre
18. A Murder of Quality by John le Carre
19. The House in Norham Gardens by Penelope Lively
20. Snow by Orhan Pamuk

A Murder of Quality by John le Carre – 20 Books of Summer

A Murder of Quality cover

A Murder of Quality by John le Carre was first published in 1962 and it features George Smiley.

Miss Brimley is an old friend of George Smiley, she’s the editor of a magazine called Christian Voice which has a very small list of subscribers. One of them – Mrs Rode – has sent a letter to Miss Brimley which says she is sure her husband is going to kill her and that she has no one else that she can turn to for help. Miss Brimley passes the letter on to her old friend Smiley, asking him to investigate.

Stella Rode’s husband is a housemaster at a prestigious English public school called Carne, but by the time Smiley gets there the deed has been done. Carne School is the sort of place that Smiley is well used to, presumably having been to such an institution himself. It doesn’t take Smiley long to discover that there’s a lot of nastiness within the school with the schoolmasters and their wives being consumed by petty jealousies and snobbery.

The Rodes seemed to be a mismatched couple and Stella went out of her way to upset her husband, choosing to side with the local townspeople with whom she was very popular, rather than with the snooty schoolmasters and their wives. There are the usual ‘town versus gown’ tensions such as you get in places like St Andrews.

This was a very quick but enjoyable read. Apparently before John le Carre found fame as an author he had been a master at Eton and he was inspired by his experiences there when writing this book. Presumably there weren’t any actual murders at Eton, but I can imagine that there were plenty of character assassinations!

This was one of my 20 Books of Summer reads, the sixteenth. I think I might manage to read all twenty of them.