I’ve always been a bit of a reader. These days it’s theology and crime novels – write a theological crime novel and you’ll make a fan for life – but when I was little I was obsessed with school stories.
I read Malory Towers and a couple of St Clare’s – both by Enid Blyton, and both kind of lame – which are the school stories that most other girls know, but my delight was found in discovering the Chalet School series, by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer.
These books are also, well, not that great. They’re old fashioned (in a slightly unpleasant bigoted kind of way), and repetitive, and not terribly well written.
And yet I love them.
There are approximately 60 different titles, and I probably own about 40 of those, so generally they live in Carlisle without me. So I’m taking the opportunity of being at home (and still being sick) to re-read them. This reminds me of all the things that irritate me about them, but also all the things that I love:
1. I love the fact that there’s so many. Published between 1925 and 1970, they’re set over the years 1925 till probably the mid-50s. That’s a lot of books, and a lot of continuing story: watching girls grow up and have children and then watching those children grow up.
2. I love the fact that a lot of it’s set in Austria, and then Switzerland later, and the fact that the scenery is always described very beautifully.
3. I love the fact that even though they’re predictable and not always terribly well-written. The author did have a knack for doing serious stuff well, so that sad bits still make me cry a little.
4. And I love the fact that even now I read it and wish that the school was real, that I could go there, and more specifically, that I could be Joey Bettany.
Joey was the main character of the story. She was the first pupil of the Chalet School. She grew up, married Dr. Jack Maynard (shortly after escaping Austria over the mountains with Nazis on her tail), and they had 11 children, including two sets of twins, and a set of triplet girls. She was confident and capable, and barely ever wrong. And I’d really like to be her.
What about you? Any childhood books you loved? Any characters you’d wish to be?
In summary: reminiscing.