The School on the Loch by Angela Brazil

The School on the Loch cover

The School on the Loch by Angela Brazil was published in 1946 and it is the last book that she wrote.

The tale begins in Kenya where young sisters Ailsa and Jessie Lindsay live on their parents’ coffee farm. It’s Ailsa’s birthday and she has just been sent a book by her Uncle Tom in Scotland. The book Bonnie Scotland makes the girls wish they could go there, especially as their father has always been rather homesick for Scotland. He dreams of owning a farm back in his homeland which he was forced to leave as a youngster.

A plague of locusts devastates the coffee crop and very much changes the fortunes of the family so when a Scottish relative offers to take the girls ‘back home’ and educate them the girls are thrilled.

As you can imagine the Scottish weather is a wee bit of a shock for the girls but it isn’t long before they’re settled into life in Scotland and their new school and there’s the usual school situations involving teachers and girls.

Evidently Angela Brazil did do some local research as they visit Loch Lomond and she mentions getting the train to Dumbarton, which is of course where I grew up. I always get a bit of a thrill when it gets a mention in a book.

Angela Brazil must have been getting on when she wrote this one, it’s not her best but as ever I did learn something. I had never heard of the word prog so when I came across it in this book I looked it up in my trusty but falling apart over forty year old dictionary by my side and discovered that amongst many things it means – provisions, especially for a journey. In the book the prog was ready for their trip to Loch Lomond, another place that Angela Brazil must have visited.

New to me books

I’ve banned myself from the library – again, which is just as well as I seem to be hauling home new to me books almost on a weekly basis. Yep I was book-mugged again.

More Books

I couldn’t say no to another Blackie’s book, this time it was –
1. A Book of Stories from the Norse.

Yet another Blackie book, complete with dustjacket is
2.St Catherine’s College by Angela Brazil

Two British Library Crime Classics jumped out at me:

3. The Colour of Murder by Julian Symons – and

4. The Christmas Card Crime – a book of short stories which I’ll keep for next Christmas reading.

and lastly, I was given a book by a friend as it was a doubler, he hadn’t remembered that he already had this one (we’ve all been there I’m sure)

5. Dunstan by Conn Iggulden

I’ve never read anything by that author before. Have you read any of these books?

Three Terms at Uplands by Angela Brazil

Three Terms at Uplands cover

Three Terms at Uplands by Angela Brazil was published in 1945 and it was her second last book before her death in 1947. I think her later books are slimmer than her earlier volumes.

Claire and Colin Johnstone’s parents have been killed in a car accident in Mexico where their father had been working as a mining engineer, so the children are sent back home to England to live with their grandparents. Their young Aunt Dorothy has sailed to Mexico to accompany them back and the children make friends with some of the people on board.

Back in England their aunt and grandparents cocoon them in love and the children eventually settle down to their new life, but times are hard as money is scarce and Aunt Dorothy who had been keen to study art in Cornwall with some talented artists ends up having to become an art teacher to help support the children.

Colin, being the boy is without question sent to the same private school that his father and grandfather had gone to. But when it comes to Claire she’s expected to make do with the local high school as there’s no money for her to go to a boarding school.

A stroke of luck leads to her getting a partial scholarship to Uplands which is apparently a very good boarding school, and so begins her journey from unsure new girl to a more confident personality who helps out with a younger girl.

This was a very quick read, entertaining and so true to life as I laughed (or should I say huffed) when Colin’s education was seen as being so much more important than Claire’s. The exact same thing happened to a schoolfriend of mine in the late 1960s – 70s. Mind you Morag did very well at the local high school along with the rest of us, whereas her brother ran away from his posh boarding school as soon as he turned 16 – and joined the Merchant Navy!

Joan’s Best Chum by Angela Brazil

Joan's Best Chum cover

Joan’s Best Chum by Angela Brazil was first published way back in 1926 although my copy has that Book Production War Economy Standard logo on it.

The main characters in this book have all been more or less abandoned by the adults in their lives, albeit not by choice as Joan’s parents are dead and Ursula her older sister has taken on the job of bringing Joan and Rex their brother up, supposedly aided by Uncle Robert who is a local solicitor and turns out to be of no help at all. Ursula realises that if she wants to train as a secretary she will have to ask Ursula to stay at her school as a boarder, rather than a day girl as she is now. Rex has just begun to train in Uncle Robert’s firm of solicitors.

When Mollie ends up joining Allandale School as a boarder too she becomes firm friends with Joan, they have lots in common. Mollie’s mother is dead and her father seems only interested in visiting casinos abroad so he might as well be dead for all the interest he takes in Mollie.

This book is about young women who fight to maintain their dignity and independence in very difficult circumstances which are made worse by the actions of a duplicitous man. It’s interesting because it isn’t all set in the school environment and is a bit of an advert for the YWCA and the YMCA which I was surprised to learn had first been set up way back in 1855 in London for the women and 1844 for men.

I’ve only read a few of Angela Brazil’s books but it seems that she was keen to show lots of aspects of life outside what would be the rather rarefied atmosphere of many boarding schools.

For the Sake of the School by Angela Brazil

for the sake of the school cover

For the Sake of the School by Angela Brazil was first published in 1915 but my copy was published during World War 2 as it has that Book Production Economy Standard logo at the front and although there’s no publication date it was a gift to Rose from Jean for Christmas 1943.

I didn’t read any of these books as a child, I was strictly an Enid Blyton Malory Towers/St Clare’s girl which were obviously written along very similar lines as far as morals and behaviour are concerned. Blyton probably just wrote updated versions of Brazil’s books. I suspect that Brazil was better though.

It begins at a railway station as most schooldays’ stories do (Harry Potter). The girls are on their way to The Woodlands which is in a very rural setting in Wales. The two women who own the school are keen on nature and wildlife and the girls are encouraged to get out into the great outdoors as often as possible. In fact they could be regarded as nature worshipers, such is their enthusiasm.

This year Ulyth (new name to me) is particularly excited because Rona the New Zealand pen-pal that she has been writing to for the last two years is arriving as a new boarder. Rona’s mother is dead and she has had a rather rough upbringing by her father who is a farmer in the wilds of New Zealand. Ulyth who has been looking forward so much to meeting Rona is rather shocked by her appearance and lack of manners. She’s keen to drop her pen-pal but is persuaded to take her on as a work in progress and try to make Rona conform more to what is expected of girls from The Woodlands School.

Trials and tribulations ensue, wrong conclusions are jumped to but as you would expect – all is well in the end. I did find the storyline of this book to be more than a bit obvious, but it was still enjoyable and I can imagine that if I read this as a ten year old I would have loved it. I think most if not all of Angela Brazil’s books are available free from Project Gutenberg.

It struck me a couple of times that Angela Brazil wrote as if she was Scottish, according to Wiki her mother was a McKinnel, so possibly they were originally from Scotland – or she had a Scottish nanny. In part of this book someone says that they “put something by in the dresser” – meaning they put something away in the dresser. Very Scottish.

My Blog’s Name in TBR Books

I’ve never done this meme before but lots of the blogs that I enjoy frequenting have been doing it including Margaret at BooksPlease and I decided to join in. The idea is that you choose book titles from your TBR pile which begin with the letters of your blog name. So, here goes – sixteen of them. I intend to read them before the end of this year.

TBR Books

PPapa-la-bas by John Dickson Carr

IIf This Is a Man by Primo Levi

NNicolo Rising by Dorothy Dunnett

IIf Not Now, When by Primo Levi

NNot So Quiet by Helen Zenna Smith

GGuest in the House by Philip MacDonald

FFor the Sake of the School by Angela Brazil

OOld Hall-New Hall by Michael Innes

RReputation for a Song by Edward Grierson

TTroy Chimneys by Margaret Kennedy

HHow Late It Was – How Late by James Kelman

EEdinburgh by Robert Louis Stevenson

WWinter by Len Deighton

EEverything You Need by A.L. Kennedy

SSpiderweb by Penelope Lively

TTrooper to the Southern Cross by Angela Thirkell

Have you read any of these books and if so where should I begin?

The Head Girl at the Gables by Angela Brazil

The Head Girl at the Gables cover

I mentioned earlier that I had been reading The Head Girl at the Gables by Angela Brazil. It was one of the books which I bought while we were in Aberdeen recently. I hadn’t read any of Brazil’s books before but as a youngster I devoured Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers books so I thought it would be interesting to compare the two writers.

The Malory Towers books were written for primary school girls I’m sure and I suppose that Angela Brazil was aiming her books at older girls, so it’s maybe an unfair comparison but I have to say that the Brazil books are much better written than Blyton’s. The setting for Head Girl at the Gables is Cornwall, just as for the Malory Towers books.

The book was written in 1919 and the First World War does feature in it with some of the schoolgirl’s brothers away at the front and German spies being thought to be in the area. The Gables is a small private school with around 40 girls in it. It’s owned and run by the two Kingsley sisters, unmarried of course as women teachers had to be in those days.

Their first problem in the new academic year is – who to choose as head girl, there’s no obvious candidate as far as the Misses Kingsley are concerned, but one of the girls takes it for granted that she will be chosen and is very disgurntled when she isn’t.

Porthkeverne is a coastal town, favoured by artists because of its quaintness and presumably its good light. Lorraine and her siblings form friendships with the Castleton children whose father has used them all as models in his popular paintings. It’s all very different from the lifestyle that Lorraine is used to, theirs is a Bohemian life with a young step-mother who had been their father’s model whom he married when his first wife died. She seems to be having a baby a year – poor thing.

There are disappointments which turn out to be for the best, I suppose this type of book was a sort of guide book to life in some ways, but I think they were condemned by some when they were first published as being a bad influence for young girls, which surely contributed to their popularity! So many other writers jumped onto the school story bandwagon but I think these ones were the originals.

Great Minerva! and Great Judkins! are the exclamations of the day. But the real world does break into the storyline with brothers being called up to the army and those aforementioned German spies.

This was better written than I had expected, I must admit that I bought the book because I was drawn to the cover. I do like those Blackie and Son covers.

I know that by complete coincidence another blogger whom I follow was also having her first experience of reading an Angela Brazil book as I was reading this one, but I can’t remember who it was and can’t find the blogpost which is annoying as I wanted to link to it.

Amended: Thanks Barb. It was Leaves and Pages.