Friday, 9 September 2011

Friday Favourites: Top Five School Story Authors

The School at the Chalet (The Chalet School, #1)
As I'm starting a new series of posts tomorrow focusing on Antonia Forest, I thought I'd start doing Friday Favourite: Top Fives with a list of my top five school story authors.

I'm not sure why I love school stories so much.  Possibly because I first started reading them as a teenager when my life was hellish and they offered an ideal escape.  Possibly because a lot of them are set in between the world wars and there's something I love about that period.  Or possibly because my earliest 'big book' was The Worst Witch, so that got me thinking of school stories as special (that and schools where you learn magic).

1) Antonia Forest.  Obviously.  Given that I'm about to start reviewing all of her books, I won't say any more here except that she is an aberration in my school story love as her books are frequently lacking in any idyllic happiness.  Things are happy, but they're never as perfect or easily resolved as in other author's work.  Favourite book: The Cricket Term.

2) Elinor M. Brent-Dyer.  She wrote a lot of short series, some standalones, and one monster of a series, The Chalet School, which is 58 books in hardback, even more in paperback thanks to Armada and their belief that children don't read long books so they'd better split some titles in two.  The series covers over four decades and travels around Europe, from Austria to Guernsey to Britain and finally Switzerland.  Incredibly idealised in places, lots of girls almost dying and having to be rescued by other girls, but incredibly enjoyable.  Favourite book: The Chalet School in Exile, though all of the early books are wonderful.

3) Dorita Fairlie Bruce.  Five distinct series, four of them school stories although these all continue to focus on the characters after they leave school.  The series often interconnect, so that Dimsie will suddenly rock up at Springdale to help people out or two of the schools will play matches against each other.  Favourite book: Captain at Springdale.

4) Elsie J. Oxenham.  Lots of interconnected series, with major characters in one becoming minor characters in others.  There are charts and reading orders for all of the connections, which are confusing to say the least.  A lot of her books are out of print (and some cost a small fortune to find as they were only printed once) but those I have been able to get my hands on are worth reading.  Favourite book: The Girls of the Hamlet Club (even if I have to read it as loose sheets of photocopied paper because an actual book is out of my price range).

5) Josephine Elder.  I have to admit I've only read one of her books but it was superlative.  Like Antonia Forest, she writes a much more realistic version of school and growing up - I'd dare to say it's more 'modern' than the other authors, in that the interactions between characters feel more real: they're real teenage girls, which isn't always pretty.  I do have a couple more of her books on my shelf (thank you, Girls Gone By) and hope they're as good as my 'favourite' book: Evelyn Finds Herself.

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