My rating: 3 of 5 stars
If there’s ever a point in the Chalet School series, where it could be described as to having jumped the shark, that point comes for me in this book. It comes for me in several ways; the chicken scene, the train scene(s), the resolution of the train scene(s), and at a certain point where Joey arrives tumultuously on the island. The latter moment in particular is a moment I read and enjoyed in a ‘here EBD goes again’ manner (similar to when Joey met Mrs Laynard in, I think, Exile?), but not one that I enjoyed in a ‘behold the amazing writing’ manner. But that’s the dichotomy of the Chalet School reading experience, right there.
In a way, St Briavels never really works for me. The undeniable romance of the location remains precisely that. Romance. I don’t think EBD really did the pastoral vibe very well after the Tyrolean years. It’s as if she burnt herself out, writing some very brilliant books that embraced the romance, the danger and vitality of the location.
So why read Peggy in the first place? Read it for Dickie Christie, and for the amazingly grumpy Polly and Lala before they turn into Real Chalet School Girls. Read it for Maeve and her bumptiousness, and for Mary-Lou (who is admittedly bordering on paragon status already but still remains somehow palatable in this book). Read it for the moments between Polly and Lala and their mother. And read it, just to see, if you go all Tellytubbies whenever you see Lala’s name being mentioned.