Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Girls, Girls!

I loved boarding school stories when I was a little girl. I couldn't get enough of tricks on poor Mam'zelle, wronged heroines rescuing their mortal enemies from fire or floods, intense drama over who had (with callous beastliness) written an anonymous letter or spoiled Irene's knitting, the epic hockey or lacrosse match... and of course, midnight feasts. It didn't matter that this sort of stuff was frowned upon by teachers and librarians by the 80s, or that I did actually go to a girls' school and knew full well that I'd throw myself in front of a train if I was compelled to stay there at nights and weekends, or that there are dead penguins who could play a more coordinated game of hockey than me; there was just something glamorous about St Clare's and the rest. And despite those teachers' and librarians' worries about the insidious influence of Blyton, I managed to progress to 'proper' books, got my A-Levels, got my (physics) degree, embarked on a PhD...

...and found that for some reason my new university's library had a large collection of Antonia Forest and Angela Brazil. Childhood nostalgia kicked me in the shins. One bit of light reading couldn't hurt, could it?

After that it was just a sad spiral of addiction and denial. Everybody knows Antonia Forest's quite literary really; I'd definitely sneer at the Blyton stuff if I read it again now. Not even remotely true. I may have wailed aloud at the realisation that Blyton never wrote a Third Form at St Clare's. (You can't skip a year! No, three books about first year doesn't make up for it! Didn't she know the rules? And I'm aware there are fill-ins written by Pamela Cox covering the third and sixth years, but I haven't tracked those down, partly out of an anal sense of canon purity, partly because her existence makes me want to throw a big jealous tantrum at the idea that there's someone in the world whose job is to write St Clare's and Malory Towers books.)

So, this blog's meant to be for me to chunter on about girls' stories - mainly boarding school stories, but I've been finding myself revisiting Noel Streatfeild lately, and that spun me off into reading ballet books, so this might well turn into a catch-all 'person who should be old enough to know better reads slightly old-fashioned stuff for kids' blog. Lashings of ginger beer are almost guaranteed.

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