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 Post subject: Books: Theodora and the Chalet School
PostPosted: 14 Nov 2017, 01:37 
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This week the discussion book is Theodora and the Chalet School, first published in 1959 and covering the summer term following Trials. Fourteen year old Theodora Grantley, a young cousin of Miss Carthew of early chronicles of the Chalet School, arrives at the CS after having been removed from three previous schools due to her bad behaviour. Palling up with Len Maynard and Ros Lilley, Theodora adopts the nickname Ted and seems all set to put her bad deeds behind her when she falls foul of the jealousy of Margot Maynard, who finds out about her rocky past and attempts to blackmail her with it. This is also Mary-Lou Trelawney’s final term, and she departs in a blaze of glory with a special prize from the school. Notable events:

Rosalie Dene, who is spending the afternoon with Jo at Freudesheim going through the school correspondence while Jo corrects some proofs, is so astonished at one particular letter that her exclamations draw Jo’s attention. She reads Jo the letter, which is from a Mrs Grantley, asking if the CS can take her fourteen year old daughter Theodora for the coming term, as she has just been removed from her third school for bad behaviour and insubordination.
Jo and Rosalie are both disgusted at self-pitying tone of the letter, and Jo advises that they take Theodora and give her a chance, as she has never been in trouble for anything really nasty, merely original sin. She also proposes giving her the nickname Ted, to help her feel she is really making a fresh start. When Miss Annersley joins them for English tea, she agrees with them, and Theodora is entered for the coming term.
The first day of term arrives, and Jo sneaks into the school through the back door as everyone is waiting for the coaches to arrive, to ask Miss Annersley if she can have a word with Theodora as soon as she arrives, as she has had a letter about her. Miss Annersley agrees, and Jo asks Len to bring Theodora to her in the Head’s study when the coaches arrive.
Len picks out Theodora as the only new girl, takes her to the Splashery to change, then leads her to the study, noticing as she does so how unhappy Theodora looks. Jo is waiting in the study, and welcomes Theodora and proposes Ted as a short. When Theodora is too stunned to reply, she explains that the nickname is by way of helping to make the slate clean, as the CS is a fresh start for her. Theodora agrees to the proposal, and promises to try and make good.
One evening a week into term, Jo arrives in the staffroom to read the letter she has received about Ted. It transpires that her mother is a cousin of Miss Carthew, or Carty, the school’s first history mistress. Carty explains that Ted is the fourth and by far the youngest child of her spoilt cousin Myra, and that Myra has never cared for her. Ted was smart enough to know this from a young age and has never been out of trouble since, being expelled from three schools for her pranks and escapades. At last Carty, now back in England from South Africa after her husband’s death, decided to step in and insist that Ted be sent to the CS, and she begs Jo to see that she gets a really proper chance to make good there.
Ted is placed in Inter V for the time being, although the mistresses hope that with some coaching she can soon be moved up to Vb. She finds life at the school so busy that she has no chance to think up tricks or jokes to try and impress the others, and she gets through the first couple of weeks with no problems.
On the second Sunday of term, Vb and Inter V go for a ramble from the Rösleinalp up to Mahlhausen. Ted finds herself walking with Mary-Lou, who helps her along with advice to make the stiff pull up easier, and she finds herself attracted by the Head Girl’s friendliness.
At Mahlhausen, the party has Mittagessen, then Len comes up to invite Ted to join her and Rosamund in exploring the shelf. Ted is secretly delighted to be so warmly welcomed into their friendship, and wonders at it. When Len and Ros suggest she try and get up to Vb to join them, and Ted points out that her maths, German and Latin aren’t up to scratch, they offer to help her as much as they can. Ted agrees.
The trio reach the other end of the shelf, where they encounter a small girl sitting crying outside a hut. Len runs to comfort her, and Ted knocks on the door, but then Dr Graves arrives and orders them to come away at once, as the little girl and her mother are smallpox cases. He gives them a precautionary injection and whisks down to the San to be quarantined for the next eighteen days. Several days later, Biddy Courvoisier provides a fresh sensation by producing twins, Patrick Joseph and Marie-Thérèse.
The girls grow so bored while in quarantine that they ask Soeur Marie-Anne if they can have some textbooks to do lessons, and she agrees to teach them for several hours a day. Len also proposes that they speak nothing but German for the duration, so that Ted can have a chance at really getting ahead in it. She and Rosamund also coach her in the maths and Latin that Vb have been doing, and Ted finds herself getting on well.
Ted begins to feel conflicted, as she really wants to take the chance to turn over a new leaf, especially as Len and Ros have accepted her into their friendship so readily, but she also feels that she can’t give up her pranks and mischief altogether. She confides in Soeur Marie-Anne about it one night, and she encourages her to trust in God, and to ask for grace of repentance for her past misdemeanours. Ted goes to bed comforted.
The girls return to school three weeks to the day after the Mahlhausen ramble, and that evening the Catholics and several others attend Vespers in the Platz chapel. At the end of the service, a storm of cockchafers invade the chapel, getting themselves tangled in people’s hair and hats. Some of the girls, including Con and Ros, are badly shaken.
That night, Ted is woken up by Con, who sleepwalks into her cubicle and stands staring at her. Not knowing what to do, Ted fetches Len to help deal with it, but when they return to Ted’s cubicle, Con has gone. They make a fruitless search of the rest of the dormitory, before Ted finally discovers Con has actually gone to sleep in her bed. Matron arrives, and after hearing the story and finding herself unable to wake Con up, summons Miss Wilmot to help her carry Con back to her own bed.
By the end of the first week back, Ted has done so well in form that Miss Annersley sends for her and asks if she means to keep it up. The school has been asked to take a new girl at short notice and she is definitely to go into Inter V, which is already over capacity, therefore Miss Annersley proposes that Ted move up to Vb if she feels she can cope with the work. Ted assures her that she can, and the matter is settled. Miss Annersley also takes Ted’s untidy hair in hand and shows her how to tie a snood around it to keep it tidy.
Ted informs Len and Ros of her promotion, and joins Vb for their walk shortly after. Len partners her, although privately she worries about Margot’s reaction, having noticed recently that Margot has never liked seeing her pal up with other people, particularly Prunella and later Ros. Her suspicions are confirmed when she sees Margot’s expressions during the walk, and she resolves to keep an eye on the situation, as she knows she can’t go to Jo for advice at the moment, as Jo is ‘busy’.
The next day, Margot asks Len to partner her for the walk the following morning, but Len has been booked to help Ted move her things over to Vb and says she can’t, but offers to partner her the following day, and proposes Con as a replacement for the Monday. Margot fumes and tells her to ask the Head to let her off helping Ted, but Len refuses, and Margot storms off in a temper.
Len and Con discuss the problem seriously, and Len admits that she believes Ted had a bad time at her last school and is worried that if Margot blows up at her, Ted will lose her own temper and be upset. Mary-Lou passes and spots their worried faces, and Con lays the problem before her. Mary-Lou advises them to let Margot know that their tripletship is important to them, but that she has no exclusive right to their friendship and they must have as many outside friends as they want.
Meanwhile, Margot storms off to hide in the garden of Freudesheim to recover her temper. While there, she overhears Jo and Rosalie talking about Ted, and is absolutely delighted when she learns that Ted was expelled from three previous schools. She spends the rest of the day obsessing over how to use the information, although she is unable to meet the eyes or stand the company of her sisters, as she knows how wrong she was to eavesdrop. That night, she takes a long time falling asleep as she fights with her devil, and ends up having a nightmare about him that only ends when a huge thunderstorm wakes the whole school up.
A week or two later, Hilary Bennet storms into the prefects’ room, having been cheeked by Margot over tennis until she saw red and banned her from using the tennis courts out of hours. Hilary unburdens herself to Mary-Lou, remarking that Margot’s attitude has been the same for the past two or three weeks. She also says she has observed that Margot seems to have taken a dislike to Ted. Mary-Lou tells her she fears Margot is jealous of Ted’s friendship with Len, and the two prefects resolve to keep an eye on the situation, and to stop word of it reaching Jo at all costs.
That evening, the lists of half-term trips are put up and Vb is booked for Zermatt. While the girls are eagerly discussing the trip, Margot is very quiet, still sore from her spat with Hilary that afternoon and resentful that she will have to go and report herself to Miss Burnett by the end of the evening if she wants to avoid a Head’s Report.
As Margot goes off by herself after Abendessen, still in a bad mood, she meets Con, who invites her to join her, Ricki, and Ted on the tennis court. Margot rudely refuses, and accuses Con of abandoning her for other people as Len has. An indignant Con tells her she is perfectly entitled to have all the friends she wants, and the two girls end up having a furious row, culminating in Margot letting slip that she overheard Jo and Rosalie’s conversation about Ted. Con is disgusted, and warns Margot that if she tries to make trouble between Len and Ted, she will put a stop to it.
Things remain icy between Margot and Con for the next few days, and everyone notices it, although nobody dares ask about it. Mary-Lou, seeing how things are going, asks Mlle de Lachenais and Miss Ferrars if she can join Vb on the Zermatt trip. She explains her fears that Margot has got a hold of something about Ted, and that things are coming to a head between the triplets, and that she wants to stop it if she can. Mlle and Miss Ferrars tell her about Ted’s expulsions, and agree to let her come on the trip.
Half-term arrives and Vb head off to Zermatt on the train, joined by Mary-Lou, who attaches herself to the triplets, Ros, Ted, Emerence and Ricki Fry. Her presence and several pointed remarks about Odette Mercier discomfit Margot, and they reach Zermatt without further incident.
The next day the party heads up to the Gornergrat, and that evening go for a walk in the meadows around Zermatt. Miss Wilmot accompanies the triplets and their friends, and they pass a farm where a small boy, Ian, and his family are staying. Fascinated by the baby animals, Ian slips into the pigsty and picks up a piglet, enraging the sow, who chases him out into the lane where the Chalet party are walking. The girls grab Ian, and the sow runs under Miss Wilmot’s legs, so that she end up riding her backwards until her weight causes the sow to roll over. The incident reduces everyone to helpless laughter.
On the Sunday, while browsing the shops in Zermatt, Margot and Emerence pass a jeweller’s, and Margot spots a beautiful expensive clock that she falls in love with. Emmy, who has had a massive cheque from her father to buy leaving gifts for her friends as this is her last term at the CS, although she has been forbidden to say anything as yet, proposes she buy it for her. Margot knows her family would never allow her to accept something so expensive, but smothers her conscience, and they agree to return and buy it before they leave on the Tuesday.
On the Tuesday, Margot and Emerence buy the clock, then join up with Len, Con, Ros and Ted, who are also buying gifts. Presently she and Emerence go off by themselves, and she begs Emerence for another peep at her new clock. The others come up just in time to see it, and Len and Con are horrified. Margot, furious at being caught, snarls at them to mind their own business, and when Len points out that they can’t when they know she’s doing something wrong, she blurts out that Len shouldn’t be hanging around with a girl expelled from three schools in that case. Ted keeps her temper, but her replies only infuriate Margot further and she vows to get rid of her somehow. Mary-Lou arrives at that moment, and puts them all into silence and orders them back to the pension.
Back at the school, Mary-Lou summons the six girls to the prefects room and demands the full story. She soon sends Rosamund off, as she came into it more or less by accident, and is stunned when Emerence produces the clock. Emmy also lets slip that she will be leaving, much to Margot’s dismay. After some cutting remarks about their past misdemeanours and commending them for pulling up in recent times, Mary-Lou dismisses Ted and Emerence. She warns Len not to fuss so much about her sisters and Con to stop being so tactless, then sends them off as well. She tells Margot that until she tells either the Head or Jack what she has done, she’ll never know another happy moment, and eventually Margot goes to the Head.
The Head doesn’t spare her, and calls in Jack to ask what to do about the clock. Once he learns the full story, he refuses to have anything to do with Margot for two weeks, and wants her to return the clock to Emerence. The Head, however, convinces him to let Margot keep it as a reminder of what happened.
Joey twigs that something has been going on with the triplets recently, but, as she has just produced a second set of twins, Geoffrey and Phillipa, the Head refuses to tell her any details, only that the triplets have had some stiff lessons to learn. Jo has to be content with that.
The school holds its annual sports day, and on the last evening of term, the Head presents a first-aid outfit to Mary-Lou as a special prize for all she has done for the school, and Margot leads the cheers for her.

So, thoughts on this entry? What do you think of the triplets' dynamics, Len's worries, Con's confrontations with Margot, and Margot's jealousy? What about Ted, her past and how she settles in at the CS? Thoughts on the Zermatt trip?

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Theodora and the Chalet School
PostPosted: 14 Nov 2017, 03:22 
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With the possible exceptions of the next book and Reunion (neither set in the school) which maybe came nearly as close, I don't think EBD wrote any more books as good as this. The books set in the school never recovered from the loss of Mary Lou and also Vi.

Mary Lou went out in a blaze of glory and my goodness she deserved to. EBD might have been OTT about her but she was a brilliant character.

Apart from the triplets and their lot and Ailie & Co, a shame EBD never found any decent people to follow.

I really liked Ted who was interesting and the best of the pupils - also Richenda and Ruey in particular - who joined about the same age as the triplets. I feel a bit sorry for Rosamund as I feel thereafter Len and Ted's friendship was more with each other.

I like Len and Con in this book but Margot is just a horror. It might have been better if there had been a lead-up to the jealousy aspect though. On the contrary Margot had seemed to welcome Ros. Particular mention was made in Problem of her smiling a welcome to Rosamund at one point.

I don't particularly care for the way Jo is written in this book - just OTT. Instead of churning out child after child she might have been better spending more time on the ones she already had.

No one has ever suggested it might have been the fact her mother was going to have even less time for each individual child which made Margot look to her sisters for attention.

A book very concentrated on this particular plotline with the triplets and their friends. A good book!


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Theodora and the Chalet School
PostPosted: 14 Nov 2017, 05:14 
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Indulging in a midnight feast
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Jo is ridiculously overprotected.

Margot is insanely selfish, bullying and indulges in a spot of blackmail which has a terrible affect on her sisters and their friends and apparently Joey is never told about it.

Why!?! Fair enough, she wasn't well at the time but to never tell her afterwards is absurd. And evidently she never asks. So presumably the conversation with Jack was along the lines of "I've dealt with it", "Oh OK."

And how was it a punishment for Jack to ignore Margot? They were at school so he never sees them anyway! I suppose it was more the feeling Margot was in deep disgrace with him rather than a literal ignoring.

And we are never told about Ted's feelings towards Margot afterwards. Is it really possible that she felt nothing?

We are told the bullying went on for a while:

Quote:
... I overheard Margot saying something about ‘your last school’ to Ted. What’s more, the voice she said it in was as nasty as I ever heard. I said, ‘Who is here at this hour?’ and they came out at once and—well—I didn’t like the looks of either of them. Margot seemed triumphant about something and Ted looked—browbeaten!”


However it is also interesting to note EBD in another section refers to it as "teasing" and not bullying. Teasing has very different connotations as it can be done in affection and is not as serious, whereas bullying cannot really be anything but nasty. Is she trying to lessen the Margot's actions, and therefore the impact?

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Last edited by Joyce on 14 Nov 2017, 10:01, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Theodora and the Chalet School
PostPosted: 14 Nov 2017, 08:48 
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I can understand Jo not being told at the time, because she was in the late stages of a difficult pregnancy, but they should have told her afterwards. I'm unimpressed with Jack's behaviour: he wouldn't even speak to Margot afterwards, presumably because he was afraid he'd lose his temper, which is hardly the best way for a parent to deal with a child. And I know it's a plot device, but why wasn't Emerence allowed to tell her friends that she was leaving school?

I think this is one of the better Swiss books, though. I feel so sorry for Ted: I think it's the only time we're told that a child hadn't been wanted by her mother. The authorial voice shows her a lot more understanding than someone like Eustacia was ever shown. I really like her friendship with Len and Ros, but I dislike the way that the story becomes all about Margot and Mary-Lou. OK, it's Mary-Lou's big moment, before she leaves - having been given a special award just for being Mary-Lou!! - and she does handle it very well, but Mlle had no business telling her confidential information about Ted. And, as Joyce said, Ted's feelings about Margot's horrible plan to blackmail her are ignored: it's all about how Margot feels. I wish we'd been told more about how Len and Ted felt.

I think this one is a watershed in the series. None of the books after it are particularly good, IMHO. I think the ending was meant to be a watershed ... but it doesn't happen, because the triplets just go back to being how they've always been, and Mary-Lou is brought back as late as Challenge because none of the other girls are capable of dealing with a problem pupil.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Theodora and the Chalet School
PostPosted: 14 Nov 2017, 15:12 
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One thing that stands out about this book to me is there's no attempt to bring Ted and her mother closer together (as we see with Ricki and Professor Fry) nor does Myra get any comeuppance for her treatment of Ted (as we see with Annis Lovell's guardian). Joey doesn't swoop in and there's no terrible accident that makes Myra realise how important Ted is to her. It's acknowledged that Ted probably will have nothing more than a "cool friendship" with her mother. Realistic, but sad.

Ted is a strong, sympathetic character, one of the new troubled girls who really stands out. So much is made of her ability to attract and lead girls that it makes more sense for her to be head girl than Len. There seems to be an odd emphasis on her hair though.

This is one of the first Chalet School books I read, so I took Margot's behaviour as rote before I realized there are problems with EBD's portrayal of her. Margot has a streak of selfishness and senselessness, but her extreme jealousy comes out of nowhere. EBD should have had Emmy announce her departure at the beginning of term. That way Margot could have decided she'll get closer to her sisters instead, then become jealous of the friends she sees as getting in the way. At least she would have had a motive that makes sense.

I have mixed feelings about the way Mary-Lou handles the triplets at the end. I think Con blurting out that Margot can't keep the clock was ill-advised, but overall I don't see Con as tactless. In fact, I think she's rather shrewd to a) see what Margot is doing b) realize Len won't do anything about it and c) articulate all this and ask for advice. She's blunter than people are used to, but I don't think that's inherently wrong. I think there is a stronger sense of sisterhood among the triplets after this. I'm having a hard time picking out examples right now, but the triplets always came across to me as Len and Con are a pair and Margot is either a lone wolf or has Emerence. Once Emmy leaves, I feel there's more togetherness among all three.

I've always liked Mary-Lou, so it's nice she gets a good sendoff -- although I wonder how previous and later head girls who did their best felt about not being special enough to receive a prize! EBD should have let Mary-Lou go out on this high note rather than keep bringing her back. Did she receive letters from readers asking for more of her? I don't mind hearing about her personal life so much, but she doesn't belong in school after this.

It's still a good book though. Ted is a strong new character and it's nice to see the triplets evolve a little.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Theodora and the Chalet School
PostPosted: 14 Nov 2017, 19:50 
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I agree with above comment about Ted being HG. She is more of a natural leader than Len - and Rosamund - with more charisma.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Theodora and the Chalet School
PostPosted: 14 Nov 2017, 22:06 
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I'm quite fond of this one as it was one of the first few CS books I read, so I took a lot of it at face value as I was only about 13 when I first read it. I like Ted and how she comes in on the defensive and all ready to be thrown out of another school, but lets it all drop when she's given a proper chance to start fresh and make good. And I like Len and Rosamund taking her into their friendship with no questions asked, and the use of the quarantine to speed up the friendship process.

Love Con in this book. She was a tad blunt maybe, but Len's pussyfooting around Margot's jealousy wasn't getting anywhere, Margot needed to be told point-blank how disgusting her behaviour was, and I love how Con does it, all dignified and cold.

I've never liked Margot, and this book probably had a lot to do with colouring how I felt about her, because her behaviour here really is horrible and I couldn't possibly see why anybody could ever like her. I avoided girls like her like the plague when I was at school, she's like the Regina George of the CS: looks, brains, charm, popularity...and a nasty little cow underneath it all. The fact that she gets off incredibly lightly on the punishment front just makes it even worse; a behind closed doors talk with Auntie Hilda and Jack not speaking to her for two weeks (like he was actually going to see her anyway)? Big whoop. Any other girl would have been sent home, put into Isolation, docked of pocket money, banned from participating in the sports day, etc., but because it's Margot and she's Jo's daughter and has a 'hard row to hoe' she's treated with kid gloves. We aren't even told whether Ted got an apology from her! And it ends up not doing her any favours, because she goes on to commit even worse offences when she's even older, with the bookend throwing and the infamous hockey incident in Challenge. Perhaps if Miss Annersley had done the drastic thing here and expelled her, it might actually have been a good thing in the long run. At another school she wouldn't have the favoured MBR status, she'd just be another girl and it would soon have been made clear to her that no, actually, she can't go through life having everything her own way and her bad behaviour excused and smoothed over.

I agree with Alison that this is a watershed book, there are very few of the ones after this that I've read more than once or twice, because the dip in quality is very noticeable. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, of course, but I think the series would have benefited here from either skipping a few terms, changing location again (this is the twelfth Platz book, not counting Joey Goes), or shifting the focus to Glendower House for a few books.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Theodora and the Chalet School
PostPosted: 14 Nov 2017, 22:26 
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When I read this, I was interested to see that Ted doesn't seem to know who Joey is. There's no cry of "oh, the Josephine Bettany?" or enthusiasm from Ted about meeting one of her favourite authors. She's a random lady who knows someone who knows her family. Now Jo is very nice and Ted obviously is receptive to her, but I would have been a bit confused as to why this stranger who doesn't know me or my family and isn't a teacher at my new school is singling me out and suggesting nicknames.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Theodora and the Chalet School
PostPosted: 15 Nov 2017, 02:35 
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Aquabird wrote:
... but Len's pussyfooting around Margot's jealousy wasn't getting anywhere, Margot needed to be told point-blank how disgusting her behaviour was ...


Interesting that even when Con is cold to Margot right in front of Len, Len does nothing. She doesn't take Con and Margot aside for a chat or ask point blank what was going on. She seems utterly incapable of dealing with the darker side of Margot's nature.

Quote:
... It was Margot’s turn to colour. She shot Con a most unsisterly glance. Con paid no heed to it, but Len saw it and gave the pair a startled look. So far, Con had said nothing about what had happened on that fatal Sunday and the eldest of the family knew nothing about it. But the little episode which had just occurred had told Len a good deal and she guessed at more.


I completely agree with what you say about Margot and EBD does treat her with kid gloves. She overdoes the contrition/forgiveness part and forgets the punishment part.

So it appears as if Margot simply gets off scot-free for crimes other girls would have been expelled for. The blackmail attempt should have been her absolutely last chance and that should have been made clear to Margot.

However, it is fascinating to think of what EBD could have done. Let's say she went the whole hog and expelled Margot. Where does she take the story from there? Send her to Glendower House where there is no way her disgrace won't become known or send her to another school altogether where it is unlikely Margot's expulsion stays secret. She can't 'follow' Margot without losing the CS thread. For better or worse, Margot needs to stay in the CS.

And I really don't see how the clock issue was Con's fault. Margot and Emerence both know darn well she should not accept the gift, and Con simply points that out and Margot totally loses it at her like a screaming toddler.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Theodora and the Chalet School
PostPosted: 15 Nov 2017, 02:49 
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It seems a lot of people peg this book as the "last best book" - the point after which the series noticeably declines in quality. I think part of it is that Joey and Mary-Lou were EBD's two great characters. Joey dominates in the early books, and at the point when she's turning from a character to more of a caricature, Mary-Lou arrives and steps in. She tries to turn Len into the next great character, but while Len is a nice girl (and of the three, the one I'd rather have a a friend), she doesn't have the personality to pull it off. And all three triplets are never really able to move out of Joey's shadow.

I quite like Con in this one. Margot is, as has been said, a horror. Len, at some point, has interpreted "look after" to "keep out of trouble". So when Margot is having problems, her reflex is to hide it, not realizing that this is going to make things worse. Con has the perception to see what is going on, and the judgement to realize that they need advice.

Margot's portrayal is a bit off though. In the past, her main issues have been impulsivity, laziness, and a temper that is quick to flare up. But she isn't mean or deceitful. Here, there's the deliberate eavesdropping to get dirt on Ted, then a nasty plot to use blackmail to break up her sister's friendship. And Margot has previously been quite content to be a pair with Emerence, leaving her sisters to their own devices. The clock thing is more in line with her personality.

I like Ted. She's a nice kid who has had a bad time, and has acted out in response, but once she gets into a place where she's respected and given a fair chance, she does well. I suspect that once she's no longer dependent on her mother, their relationship won't be so much cool friendship as non-existent. It's too bad that she doesn't have much of a relationship with her brothers, though.

Jack and Joey don't shine as parents here. I can definitely see not dumping a serious problem on Joey when she's in labour (or right after childbirth), but she's the kid's mother, and it's her job to know about it! And with Jack, I think his extreme reaction is not so much about Margot as about Joey - the fact that Margot gets into trouble when Joey is poorly and could be damaged by finding out is more important that the trouble itself. We see the same in the next book, with his over the top (and rather scary) reaction to Mike after Joey faints.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Theodora and the Chalet School
PostPosted: 15 Nov 2017, 11:09 
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I liked the friendship between Len, Ted and Ros and agree that Ted would have made a better head girl than Len in later years, and I say that with Len being one of my favourites lol.
There are things that annoy me, Rosalie and Joey discussing Ted and deciding she should become a pupil before Hilda even knows about it.I think Rosalie should have discussed this with Hilda first,then if Hilda wanted to discuss it with Joey, well ok.And then, surprisingly, Joey gets a letter about Ted, why doesn't Hilda get the letter, a question asked before in different stories.
Mary-Lou's involvement is a bit annoying, and the awarding to her of a prize for no particular reason except she is Mary-Lou is a bit much.
I like that Con comes over as quite a strong character, the quiet ones often are.EBD writes Len as too soft at times, give the girl some character, let's see that temper she is supposed to have, make the girl real not a saint.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Theodora and the Chalet School
PostPosted: 15 Nov 2017, 12:11 
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What EBD should have done with Margot here was then turn her round completely. Not to have her doing stuff like throwing the bookends but maybe one or two more minor incidents but the rest of the time we could see her really struggling to control her temper and gradually winning.

To do this properly though and for a complete turnaround it would mean Margot going all the way to head girl in the manner of Elizabeth Arnett. It would mean the eclipsing of Len though and this EBD would never do.

It would have been interesting if Margot reformed though and became a genuinely good person who was also a leader, what the chalet school would have done as regards the choice for head girl. Still Len, I suspect.

Con did come out the best of the triplets in this book IMHO as she did let Margot see she disapproved of her behaviour. Mainly people just pussyfooted around Margot which was very bad for her.

As parents Jo and Jack don't come out well in this book. Jo because of her treatment of Margot in the past and Jack because he could not deal with the current situation.

At this stage, Margot, if not expelled, could have been sent to the school in England, on trial. The question is that knowing Margot's background, would Glendower House have been ok about taking her on, especially after the Ted incident? Would either the English or Swiss schools have taken on an unknown girl with Margot's background? Rather amusing when they had been so judgemental about taking on Ted.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Theodora and the Chalet School
PostPosted: 15 Nov 2017, 13:12 
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I'd like to have seen EBD acknowledge the difficult position that Hilda and Nell were put in by Margot's behaviour. None of the other MBR girls ever got into serious trouble. Joey and Ailie were both involved in various pranks, and Sybil was part of the form which staged the Regency language prank, but nothing comparable to what Margot did, so this was a unique situation for them. They would have had to refer any proposed expulsion, or maybe even final warning, to Madge, which would have been awkward for them, and would have created a horrible situation in which Madge and Joey were (unless Joey agreed to put the school's interests above Margot's) set against each other. Mary-Lou, to her credit, ignores the fact that the Maynards are family friends, and treats Margot as she'd have treated anyone else who'd behaved like that, but giving someone a good telling off isn't the same as a punishment that's going to be life-changing.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Theodora and the Chalet School
PostPosted: 15 Nov 2017, 14:32 
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Joyce wrote:
And I really don't see how the clock issue was Con's fault. Margot and Emerence both know darn well she should not accept the gift, and Con simply points that out and Margot totally loses it at her like a screaming toddler.


I don't think the clock issue was Con's fault, but I think her blurt was ill-advised. She knows Margot is volatile and the two of them have had friction for some time; it was the wrong thing to say. I'm sure it's a scenario we've all found ourselves in -- we know we're right, but we either can't say so or need to say so tactfully and diplomatically to keep the peace. That doesn't excuse Margot's reaction, and I think Mary-Lou places too much responsibility for the event on Con when Margot's behaviour is so much worse.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Theodora and the Chalet School
PostPosted: 15 Nov 2017, 23:31 
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I think EBD was trying to make us see there were faults in all three of the triplets. There might have been but Len's and Con's were minor faults; the same as any average, or probably better than average, person. Margot's faults were huge.

I also think EBD was not so keen on Con as she was on the other two - Len especially - so she was okay about throwing Con to the wolves. She never developed the character of Con as much as those of the other two.


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Theodora and the Chalet School
PostPosted: 15 Nov 2017, 23:35 
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Alison H wrote:
I'd like to have seen EBD acknowledge the difficult position that Hilda and Nell were put in by Margot's behaviour. None of the other MBR girls ever got into serious trouble. Joey and Ailie were both involved in various pranks, and Sybil was part of the form which staged the Regency language prank, but nothing comparable to what Margot did, so this was a unique situation for them. They would have had to refer any proposed expulsion, or maybe even final warning, to Madge, which would have been awkward for them, and would have created a horrible situation in which Madge and Joey were (unless Joey agreed to put the school's interests above Margot's) set against each other. Mary-Lou, to her credit, ignores the fact that the Maynards are family friends, and treats Margot as she'd have treated anyone else who'd behaved like that, but giving someone a good telling off isn't the same as a punishment that's going to be life-changing.


I would have thought that it was in Margot's interest to go be expelled and to go elsewhere or at least be made aware that that might happen. The school used that tactic on Joyce Linton and the editorial voice has said elsewhere that you can't keep people who are doing actual harm to the school and are not gaining anything from being there. Of course, convincing Joey of that might have been hard but it's a similar issue to that of Margot going to Canada. In that case, the hard choice improved Margot's health: in this case, it might improve her morals (and avoid the future possibilty of her doing serious harm to others and herself)


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Theodora and the Chalet School
PostPosted: 16 Nov 2017, 01:03 
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Alison H wrote:
I'd like to have seen EBD acknowledge the difficult position that Hilda and Nell were put in by Margot's behaviour. ... They would have had to refer any proposed expulsion, or maybe even final warning, to Madge, which would have been awkward for them.


The term when Nancy Wilmot was in charge might have been the chance to deal with Margot properly. Nancy was not as close to the MBR clan and she might have been able to look at Margot objectively.

It's hard to believe that after Margot blackmails and bullies a girl and almost kills another, that the rest of the staff did not start to mutter amongst themselves about whether Hilda was too close to the situation. That's assuming Hilda even bothers to tell the other staff.

It would have been fascinating to see Madge's reaction. She was close to Margot given she looked after her in Canada but maybe that also means she was able to see her faults as well.

Given Joey was so critical of Sybil (and Syb's faults were never as bad), maybe Madge would have taken the opportunity to point out to Joey that she needs to look to her own children.

There's a passage where Joey is praised in absentia for being able to look critically at her children and judge them objectively. It would have been fascinating to see if that objectivity would be taken as far as expulsion i.e. she might not like it, but she could see why it had to happen.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Theodora and the Chalet School
PostPosted: 16 Nov 2017, 07:20 
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Seems I’m in the minority here in that I don’t like this book! Despite having only read it last month I can recall very little apart from when Emerence gives the clock to Margot and when it is revealed to the other CS girls why Ted was expelled (was it Margot who did this?!)

I think there are a number of ‘good’ CS stories after this one - Triplets, Reunion, Jane (apart from Jack not getting punished) and Challenge so it’s not downhill for me after Theodora :D


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 Post subject: Re: Books: Theodora and the Chalet School
PostPosted: 16 Nov 2017, 07:54 
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If another girl had done what Margot did in this book, I don't think she would be expelled. Jack, for example, isn't even punished for targeted bullying and physical assault on Jane.

However, if it had been someone other than Margot, I think it would have been taken a lot more seriously. Suspension would be difficult for a boarding school. But I could see a fairly thorough punishment with privileges - they could do things like remove her from her dormitory to sleep in the San, having to do mending during all entertainments, walks with a mistress instead of games, doing prep and eating in isolation. Being shunned by her father, however, would not be part of it.

I do actually think that Margot would have been much better off at a non-CS school, where she would be treated as a normal girl, one who is bright but impulsive. Instead she gets a toxic combination of unrealistic expectations when it comes to schoolwork and behaviour (ie, being in a form with girls her own age is shameful), but at the same time, having serious problems glossed over or ignored.

And it is hard for the school, because handling Margot appropriately would be very likely to put them at odds with Joey. Joey's line with Margot is basically "I don't know what happened! We did everything right, so she's just intrinsically flawed". When it's actually pretty obvious where a lot of Margot's trouble comes from, and a good bit of it is Joey and Jack's parenting. I really don't know how Joey would respond to, say, a suspension, or a request that they remove Margot at the end of the year.

If Margot had actually killed or seriously injured Betty in the bookcase incident, they would not be able to keep her in the school (much like after Betty's treason). In that case, I'm guessing that Miss Annersley would first have to talk to Madge and the board to decide on the course of action, and only then tell Joey and Jack. It would be messy, though.

In a general situation where the Head has decided that someone needed to be expelled, but was told by the board that she couldn't expel a relative of the founder (even for a serious offence), then the Head would have to choose with going along, or give their resignation. And I could see some people deciding that resigning was the best thing to do.

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 Post subject: Re: Books: Theodora and the Chalet School
PostPosted: 16 Nov 2017, 15:59 
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Laura V wrote:
Seems I’m in the minority here in that I don’t like this book! Despite having only read it last month I can recall very little apart from when Emerence gives the clock to Margot and when it is revealed to the other CS girls why Ted was expelled (was it Margot who did this?!)

I think there are a number of ‘good’ CS stories after this one - Triplets, Reunion, Jane (apart from Jack not getting punished) and Challenge so it’s not downhill for me after Theodora :D


Len tells Margot she doesn't understand why she is doing something Joey would hate, and Margot replies she doesn't understand why Jo is letting Len befriend a girl who has been expelled three times. Ted responds she was actually expelled only once and simply asked to leave the other two schools. Then she asks Margot how she found out and things go downhill from there. That's one reason why I like Ted -- here she is in an emotionally charged moment facing an unexpected attack and she keeps her head.

Speaking of being expelled, we know a school publicly expelled Ted to save the reputation of her school. What comprised a public expulsion back then?

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