17/07/2017

The Chalet School Reunion (by Elinor M Brent-Dyer)

In my gradual re-reading of the Chalet School series by Elinor M Brent-Dyer, I reached the fiftieth book (as originally written), ‘The Chalet School Reunion’. It’s not one that I remembered at all; perhaps, when I was a teenager, I found it less interesting than some of the others. It doesn’t take place during term-time, so the school is barely featured. Instead, it’s another volume about Joey Maynard and some of her family and friends. My copy is a hardback published in the early 1960s, which was one of my mother’s collection.

The main character in the book is Grizel Cochrane, one-time difficult student, then a somewhat cranky music teacher who never wanted to teach at all. At the start of the novel she’s tired, emotionally drained, under a great deal of stress, and possibly heading towards a breakdown of some kind. Her business in New Zealand has folded up, her best friend has got married, and her stepmother in the UK has died, meaning that Grizel now inherits her father’s money.

She decides to take a break in Switzerland to stay with her close friend Joey, and have a rest before having to deal with legal issues and finances. As the title of the book suggests, there is a reunion involved, and it’s not just Grizel and the Chalet School staff. Joey contacts everyone she can find who was a pupil at the Chalet School in its first year of existence. Quite a few of them are able to travel to stay with her, or nearby, and she arranges various local outings, aided by her triplet daughters who are now sixteen…

I very much liked reading the sections about Grizel, and the way she is finally able to let go of some of the past, and realise that it’s acceptable to look forward to the future and even to be happy. Brent-Dyer created a complex and three-dimensional character in Grizel, although for the previous several volumes she was relegated to New Zealand, with barely a mention. She shows herself courageous and, essentially, very likeable in this book and the ending, while somewhat predictable, is very satisfying.

The digressions about the various outings led by the triplets Len, Con and Margot are less interesting on the whole. Brent-Dyer loved to educate her readers into the delights of mountain hikes and beauty spots, and more than once I found myself skimming. However she weaves character-building into them, and one of the outings has a near tragedy, with long-lasting consequences for all involved.

Not an essential book to read if someone is more interested in the Chalet School and its current students; equally it would be an odd one to read if not familiar with the earlier books. Many incidents are referred to, as the ‘old girls’ meet and chat; but without at least some idea of who they all were in previous books, it would be rather confusing as there are so many people involved.

However, I enjoyed it very much. It was quite a difficult book to find second-hand for some years, but has been re-printed in recent years by the excellent 'Girls Gone By' publishers.

Review by copyright 2017 Sue's Book Reviews

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