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.

The Feud in the Fifth Remove by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer

The Feud in the Fifth Remove by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer was first published in 1932  but it has been reprinted by Girls Gone By Books more recently. At just 112 pages it’s a quick read, but still very enjoyable.

It begins at the start of a Christmas term at the Abbey School which has a fair few girls with unusual names, even for the 1930s – Philathea and Salathiel are new to me. But it’s Brenda, the new girl who causes trouble.

Brenda is an only child and has been utterly spoiled by her parents, but particularly her mother.  The results are that Brenda is a complete snob and it isn’t long before she’s sussed out and graded all the girls according to how much money she thinks their fathers will earn. Despite having  an eclectic mixture of backgrounds the pupils get on well together in general, but Brenda believes that those girls in the higher echelons, by her standards, shouldn’t have to consort with the girls who come from a ‘trade’ background, and she’s daft enough to try to get the other girls to join in with her and freeze out what Brenda regards as the poorer pupils.

It transpires that Brenda isn’t only a snob but she’s a liar and cheat too, and when she starts being rude to her mother even her mother has to accept that she has brought up a thoroughly unpleasant daughter. Brenda won’t even accept that the school’s prefects have a right to tell her what to do and she decides to run a campaign to get rid of them.

This book is like a handbook of how to conduct your life if you want to be an upstanding member of society. Just don’t do as Brenda does. I found it entertaining though and as ever I enjoyed being in the company of the characters.


Jo of the Chalet School by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer

Jo of the Chalet School by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer was first published in 1926 and it’s the second book in the very large Chalet School series, 58 books long in fact.

There are over thirty girls at The Chalet School now and Jo’s sister Miss Bettany is the rather young headmistress. There’s a lot going on in this book as it’s set in the winter term, an exciting time in the Austrian Tyrol with plenty of entertainments for the schoolgirls to get involved in. It’s not so great for the locals though as it’s a lean time for them economically. This results in the school getting a Saint Bernard’s pup, the only one saved from a litter.

The ‘school baby’ also arrives, Robin’s mother has died and as her father has to travel for work Robin is placed in the care of the school, she quickly becomes a favourite.

Miss Bettany launches a campaign against slang, just about none of which we would call slang nowadays. Jo is so annoyed about that and she decides to start speaking as they did in Shakespeare’s time. That’s a bit of a hoot, but otherwise there’s a lot of jeapordy for Jo as she gets ill a few times and has accidents.

I read some of the Chalet School books when I was about ten years old, and I remembered that I felt so cosmopolitan because of the smatterings of French and German in them, but I’ve been enjoying reading them recently for the charm of a bygone age, and sometimes they just hit the spot when things are grim in real life, as they were earlier in the month with the death of our friend Eric.

Gerry Goes to School by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer

Gerry Goes to School cover

Gerry Goes to School by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer which was first published in 1922 is the very first book that the author had published, so it isn’t one of her famous Chalet School books. It’s an entertaining read although obviously from a rooky writer. It’s the first book in the La Rochelle series.

Geraldine (Gerry) is an orphan as her parents were killed in an accident, and since then she has been brought up by very staid and strict great-aunts. They’re distant cousins of the Trevennor family and when the great-aunts have to go abroad for 18 months they arrange to have Geraldine staying with that family. They already have ten children (I think) so one more won’t make much difference!

Geraldine had never been to school before as her great-aunts had arranged for her to be taught at home by a governess. The whole experience is going to be a huge culture shock for Gerry as she’s soon nicknamed by the Trevennor children. Gerry has never heard any slang words, but she soon picks them up, it’s just as well that her great-aunts are miles away in Madeira! Of course Gerry goes from being a quiet wee thing to blossoming within the school and Trevennor family atmospheres.

This was a good read although an early book by Brent-Dyer. My copy is a re-print by Girls Gone By Books and although their books are paperbacks they’re beautifully produced and have lots of extra information on the author and the publishing history, plus a short story by Helen Barber is included at the end of the book. This was a comfort read for me and I’ll definitely be reading more of the series, if I can get a hold of them.

Dimsie Intervenes by Dorita Fairlie Bruce

Dimsie Intervenes by Dorita Fairlie Bruce was first published in 1937 and it’s the eighth book in the Dimsie series, so I’ve missed a few of them. I’ll have to get online to find the others. This is the third last book in her Dimsie series and it was only written after readers had asked her for more books featuring Dimsie and the school, the Jane Willard Foundation.

Old girl Erica is living in the village and has set up a branch of the Girls’ Guildry there, but they’re in dire need of a piano. They’re trying to raise £8 to buy one and that’s an awful lot of money. When Erica mentions it to some of the pupils they decide to help out somehow.

Some of the younger girls are getting very keen on make-up, face creams and slimming cream!! But things like that are frowned upon by the school. A small business is set up by the older girls when they realise that they can send off for small samples from the manufacturers who advertise in magazines, and they can sell them on to the younger girls, at a profit naturally. It’s all very secretive of course.

I think this is the fourth Dimsie book I’ve read and I didn’t enjoy it as much as the others, although it was still a good enough read to continue. Inevitably I feel uncomfortable when there’s interaction between the schoolgirls and the local village girls as there’s an air of them being condescended to. Which is exactly how it would have been, in fact it still is like that – in some places not that far from here!

Evelyn Finds Herself by Josephine Elder

Evelyn Finds Herself by Josephine Elder was first published in 1929 but my copy is a modern paperback which has been reprinted by Girls Gone By, actually although it’s a paperback (I prefer hardbacks) it’s still a lovely book and there are 46 pages of very interesting information at the beginning. There’s some history of education in England and Scotland which had/have very different systems. Scotland’s system was way ahead of the English one which only really got into gear for ordinary children in the 1930s. It was the 1920s before commissions recommended that secondary education should be available free to all children in England. In contrast in Scotland education was sponsored by the state from the 18th century. There are also some interesting photographs of the original book covers, and some old schools and teachers.

Unusually this book is set in an ordinary girls’ secondary day school rather than a boarding school so the reader sees the girls at home as they visit each other to do homework together and also as they enjoy each other’s company outside school and socialise with their families.

Evelyn’s best friend is Elizabeth but when they meet up at school after the summer holidays they haven’t seen each other for eight weeks. It’s evident from the beginning that although they’re great friends they’re quite different characters. Elizabeth is always thinking ahead, such as planning to get what she thinks will be the most interesting seat locations in their new classrooms. Evelyn is altogether more serious about her studies.

When Elizabeth seems to be more interested in being friends with another girl Evelyn is surprised, she can’t see the attraction and the girls grow apart somewhat. There’s no animosity, just a coolness but Evelyn is hurt. It’s all character forming though, and all so familiar to anyone looking back on their own schooldays. I particularly enjoyed the way the girls were disdainful of the ‘Home Life’ department and the girls who were too stupid to do anything else – it felt so true to life. I just remember being astonished that anyone would need lessons on such things as washing clothes! I had been doing all the housework in my family home since I was ten years old.

This book is so well written and observed with the teachers also coming across as human beings with a life outside their workplace. This is a really enjoyable read so I’ll definitely be looking for more books by the author.

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!