My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Jo Returns To The Chalet School, or ‘the one where EBD couldn’t let go’, is, as nearly all of the Tyrolean books are, of a distinctly high standard.
This book sees Joey, our darling, return to the school in a teaching capacity having left the school the previous term. The term also sees the arrival of Polly Heriot, a girl with possibly the best hair ever, Joey deciding to write her first book, and the beloved Mademoiselle Le/La/Lepattre/Lappatre being rushed up to San for a serious operation. This last event sees a landmark quote from Matey that comes to define the series’ attitude towards illness, death, and self-identity.
There’s a lot going on, but it’s handled in such a deft manner that it doesn’t feel rushed. It’s also interesting in that we see behind the scenes in this story, and learn more about the staff and their foibles. This happens rarely in the series (other than the usual “Let’s go and have some of Mddle’s ambrosial coffee!” moments) and perhaps is only really paralleled by the experience of Kathy Ferrars many years later.
EBD could write a superb illness scene and I’ve talked more about that here. I sort of wonder if though with Jo Returns, there’s another element of the story – one of growth, saying goodbye, and bringing these characters forward into a new post Joey generation. And I also wonder if there’s a distinct element of self-identification between EBD and Joey at this point, the two of them writers, teachers, but that’s a discussion for another time.
Essentially this is a good, good book, full of all of the hallmarks that make the Chalet School great. Plus the Robin didn’t do my nut in in this one which is always worth a star in itself.