The Chalet School Books
The Chalet School Books by Elinor Brent-Dyer
During in the 1970s while I was living in the Solomon Islands, I was introduced to a series of books for girls that I absolutely fell in love with. The Chalet School Books. Written by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer.
This is a large series of books about a boarding school that was started in Austria before World War Two, forced to moved to England during the war years and then relocated back to Switzerland after the war was over.
There are roughly 60 books in this series - written between 1925 and 1970. I was able to collect and read at least 50 of them over a 20 year period. I sold my collection when I was packing up to move to Canada.
Image source - The School at the Chalet - the very First Book in this series - Armada paperback edition- Chalet School Books - for sale
The School at the Chalet
"I'm going to start a school" announced Madge Bettany.
"It'll be near Lake Tiernsee in the Austrian Tyrol. And Joey will be my first pupil."
Chalet Books available on Amazon
My collection of Chalet School Books
The first book from the Chalet school books that I ever read was called The Chalet School and Barbara and first published in 1954. This story about Barbara Chester - who has previously been an invalid recovering from a long illness - when she arrived at the Chalet school having never been to any school before.
The fact that this was the first year of the School's return to Europe, having just re-opened on the Bernese Oberland in Switzerland after the war, may also have played a part in my enjoyment of this book.
Being set in Austria and Switzerland, the school had an emphasis on languages and all students were required to become fluently tri-lingual - in English, French and German. There is even one story where an English student tried to refuse to speak any German on principle, because of what the Germans had done during the war years.
I was fascinated by the schools emphasis on language days.
2 days a week were English only
2 days a week were French only and
2 days a week were German only
with Sunday being a free language day.
The girls learnt fast that if they spoke a sentence incorrectly (either it was not grammatically correct or it was not spoken in the language of the day) then they were drilled in the sentence in the right language, over and over and over again (usually by a teacher) until they got it correct.
So I was introduced to a school culture with traditions and history, and a set of recurring characters that were already well established. Most of the Chalet School stories follow a set written formula. They almost always involved a new student each term who had personal or family issues of some kind. The girl then had to learn to either deal with her issues or accept that she could not do anything to change them. She then had to become fully involved with the school community. No girl is ever allowed to stay off by herself and become a sulky teenager (although some did still try). That is NOT the way things were done at the Chalet School.
One of the other reasons why I was so enamoured of boarding school stories in general is because my older sister spent 2 years at a boarding school, and I was sometimes jealous that I never got to go to any boarding school.
Image Source - Chalet School and Barbara
The Chalet School Families
"I'm going to start a school" announced Madge Bettany.
"It'll be near Lake Tiernsee in the Austrian Tyrol. And Joey will be my first pupil."
The 3 main families associated with the school are the Russell, Maynard and Bettany families.
The Chalet school was originally begun in the 1920s by a young English woman named Madge (Margaret) Bettany. She later married Dr Jem (James) Russell and they had 8 children including two sets of twins. Madge herself had a fraternal twin brother - Richard Bettany - usually called Dick. His daughters also attended the Chalet School.
The school was founded in Austria, forced out in 1938 during the Anschluss and moved to England and Wales. After the war ended, the Chalet School relocated back to Switzerland.
Madge's sister Joey (Josephine) Bettany was the main character of the early books series while she was a student (starting when she was 12 years old) and the early years of her marriage to Jack Maynard, before and during the war. Joey and Jack had a total of 11 kids - including 1 set of triplets, 2 sets of twins and 4 singletons.
The main characters of the school during the second half of the series while the school was in Switzerland was centred around Joey's triplet daughters - Len, Con and Margot (Helena, Constance and Margaret) Maynard.
Image Source - 'A collection of stories, articles and competitions
- from the reference work entitled 'Elinor M. Brent-Dyer's Chalet School'. This book contains the answers to questions such as 'Are there any books missing from the Chalet School series?' and 'What about the school Elinor (Brent Dyer) ran in Hereford - was it at all like the Chalet School?
Have you ever wondered why the Chalet School never returned to the Tirol, or how old Joey was when her triplets were born? How The Chalet School and Rosalie fits into the series, or who the real "Matey" was? Set your mind at rest: for here are all the answers in this remarkable compendium - notes on the books themselves, on the ideas behind them, and on the mysterious Elinor M. Brent-Dyer herself.
* short stories (unpublished since the 1940s)
and much more.
A must for every Chalet School fan of any age - your collection will not be complete without it. - 1989 Armada
Some top Chalet Books available on Amazon
Joey Maynard nee Bettany
The only downside to these stories (in my opinion) was the mysogenist view that all girls could only expect to become teachers, nurses and mothers after they left school. The smart ones would attend university but still eventually become mothers. That is what women were expected to be and do in the first half of the 20th century.
Joey (Madge Bettany's younger sister Josephine) broke that mold very fast. After she left school, Jo had a hankering to write. She got married fairly quickly - certainly before she was 20. Jo married a doctor named Jack Maynard. Jacks sister Molly had been a teacher at the Chalet School which was partly how they met.. This marriage occurred just before the school was forced to leave Austria and relocate to England during the war years (The Chalet School in Exile. The Chalet School at War).
Joey's first children were her triplet daughters (Len, Con and Margot). She gave birth to the triplets in England when she was around 20 or 21 years old. Being married at age 18 and 19 was considered normal for Europeans, and a good number of the students at the Chalet school were from Europe.
During the war years, while the school was in England and Wales, the main characters included the likes of Mary Lou Trelawney, her stepsister Verity-Anne Carey, Clem Barras (Three go to the Chalet School) and various family groups such as the Chesters, the Ozannes and the Lucys.
During this time of war, while Jo was raising her daughters, she had 3 more singletons - sons Mike, Stephen and Charles - and she was writing books. By the time the school was moved back to Switzerland, Jo was an established author as well as an experienced mother.
For the record, Madge and Joey both married Catholic spouses. This is not made specifically clear. but this does mean no birth control and this is reason why they both had large families.
Q -People have often wondered when Joey became a Roman Catholic. Can you shed any light on this mystery?
A - "Joey began life as a member of the Church of England. She became a convert, the year before her marriage to Jack Maynard who was a Catholic, in a book which has never seen the light of day.
I personally think this was a bad idea - both husbands were doctors - they know the dangers of a women being constantly pregnant (barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen).
Image source - The School at the Chalet - Book 1 - First published in 1924
This is Joey when she was 12 years old and a foundation pupil at her sisters Chalet school. .
Where the Chalet School began - Pertisau, Austria
Elinor Brent Dyer paid a visit to the Tyrol in Austria in 1920 and fell in love with the Pertisau region. In her books, she renamed it Briesau and used it as the location of her international boarding school called the Chalet School.
The Plaque says - In memory of the famous English author, Elinor M. Brent-Dyer 1894-1969. Pertisau inspired her in her description of the Chalet School.
Briesau on the Tiernsee - Where the Chalet School began
Chalet School - located NE of Innsbruck, Tyrol, Austria
Briesau on the Tiernsee - is really Pertisau on the Anschsee
Chalet School Companion
Elinor M. Brent-Dyer's series of Chalet School stories remains one of the most popular ever written. Outlasting all its rivals and still as up-to-date as ever, what is the secret behind its astonishing success?
In this fascinating collection of articles written by the Chalet Shool expert Helen McClelland, the Chalet School fan may find the answer. Here is a history of the School from its small beginnings in Austria to its happy ending in Switzerland, information on the all-important pupils and staff, a biography of Elinor Brent-Dyer herself and details of the fan club, Friends of the Chalet School.
No collection will be complete without this remarkable book, which also contains two Chalet School short stories unpublished since the 1940s and never before available in paperback. - 1994 Armada
Helen also wrote the book - Behind the Chalet School - the official biography of Elinor M Brent-Dyer.
Elinor M Brent-Dyer
1894 - 1969
Elinor Mary Brent-Dyer was born in South Shields in England, in April 1894. Her parents were Charles and Nelly. She had one brother, Henzell Watson Dyer (bn 1895), and her grandmother, Hannah Rutherford also lived with the family.
Unlike most of the characters in her books, Elinor's family situation was not a happy one. In 1897 when Elinor was 3 years old, her father left never to return. But Elinor was not told this. Her grandmother died in 1901 and in 1913 her brother Henzell died of meningitis at age 17. Then a year later Elinor discovered that her mother had married a man that Elinor never liked - Septimus Ainsley.
Elinor attended an old-fashioned, privately held "ladylike" school from the age of 6. But she was not taught much in the way of academics. In 1912, at the age of 18, Elinor became a teacher and spent the next 36 years teaching in a variety of places.
She gained a reputation for being eccentric and apparently used an alias - Patricia Maraquita. Finally, in the 1930s she set up her own school, the Margaret Roper school in Hereford. This school only lasted for 10 years and had much in common with the Chalet School. Unfortunately, it never grew as the Chalet School had. Mostly because Elinor herself was not a very capable headmistress. When the school closed she gave her complete attention to writing her Chalet School books.
Elinor began the Chalet School series in 1924 (first published in 1925) after her trip to the Tirol, Austria. Many of the places in the Tirol years of the school are real places and can still be found. Her last book Prefects at the Chalet School was published posthumously in 1970. Elinor M. Brent-Dyer died in September 1969.
Text and Image Source - Adapted from The Chalet School Companion
In Reading Order
1. The School at the Chalet
2. Jo of the Chalet School
3. The Princess of the Chalet School
4. The Head Girl of the Chalet School
5. (The) Rivals of the Chalet School
6. Eustacia Goes to the Chalet School
7. The Chalet School and Jo
8. The Chalet Girls in Camp
9. The Exploits of the Chalet Girls
10. The Chalet School and the Lintons
11. A Rebel at the Chalet School
12. The New House at the Chalet School
13. Jo Returns to the Chalet School
14. The New Chalet School
15. A United Chalet School
16. The Chalet School in Exile
17. The Chalet School at War
18. The Highland Twins at the Chalet School
19. Lavender Leigh at the Chalet School
20. Gay Lambert at the Chalet School
21. Jo to the Rescue
21a. The Mystery at the Chalet School
22. Tom Tackles the Chalet School
23. The Chalet School and Rosalie
24. Three Go to the Chalet School
25. The Chalet School and the Island
26. Peggy of the Chalet School
27. Carola Storms the Chalet School
28. The Wrong Chalet School
29. Shocks for the Chalet School
30. The Chalet School in the Oberland
31. Bride Leads the Chalet School
32. Changes for the Chalet School
33. Joey Goes to the Oberland
34. The Chalet School and Barbara
35. The Chalet School Does It Again
36. A Chalet Girl from Kenya
37. Mary-Lou of the Chalet School
38. A Genius at the Chalet School
39. Chalet School FÃªte
40. A Problem for the Chalet School
41. The New Mistress at the Chalet School
42. Excitements at the Chalet School
43. The Coming of Age of the Chalet School
44. The Chalet School and Richenda
45. Trials for the Chalet School
46. Theodora and the Chalet School
47. Joey and Co in Tirol
48. Ruey Richardson at the Chalet School
49. A Leader in the Chalet School
50. The Chalet School Wins the Trick
51. A Future Chalet School Girl
52. The Feud in the Chalet School
53. The Chalet School Triplets
54. The Chalet School Reunion
55. Jane and the Chalet School
56. Redheads at the Chalet School
57. Adrienne and the Chalet School
58. Summer Term at the Chalet School
59. Challenge for the Chalet School
60. Two Sams at the Chalet School
61. Althea Joins the Chalet School
62. Prefects of the Chalet School
Image Source - Our Chalet - Girl Guides - Switzerland
Princess of the Chalet School
Elisaveta Arnsonira of Belsornia is sent to the Chalet School as a student. Ostensibly this was to give her a new experience, but in reality it was to get her away from those who would have her killed, because she was the crown princess and due to be named heir to the throne on her fathers death. Veta's father Carol (Charles) had married an English woman who died when Veta was a Baby.
Veta was raised speaking English and Belsornian, We don't know what the Belsornian language sounds like - but the country of Belsornia is not far from Romania in Eastern Europe
When Elisaveta first starts out as a student, she gets off on the wrong foot with the other girls because she acts like a princess and expects everyone to treat her like royalty. While Elisaveta is still at the Chalet school, she is forced to leave the school and go into hiding because her enemies are looking for her. Joey helps to get rid of the killers and save the princess.
This is one of the early books in the series, and one of my favourites.
Elisaveta's married name eventually became Helston (after she grew up and later married)
Image Source - Goodreads
The Chalet School in Exile - Jo gets married
This is the story of how the Gestapo is suspicous of an English school in a German country (seeing as how Germany annexes Austria and Britain is at war with Germany) and how the girls form a peace league - whereby the German and Austrian girls promise to uphold Chalet School ideals rather than Hitlers.
Before the Gestapo starts hauling the girls off to prison, Madge Russell (nee Bettany) decides that the entire school had better move to a safe country so they move to the Guernsey islands - just off the western coast of France. When the islands are later occupied by Germany, the school must move again - this time to Hereford in England. Later still, the school is forced to move a third time - this time to an island call St Briavels, off the southern coast of Wales.
This is also the story of how Joey discovers that when 2 of the young doctors at the Sonnaple (the Sanitorium in the Tyrol not far from the school) are unable to get to England, and are forced to spend a few months stuck in Switzerland, Jo discovers that her feelings for one of these young men, were somewhat deeper than she previously thought. When the men finally show up at the school in England, Jo bursts into tears. By the end of the book, she and Jack are married and Jo is expecting her first child.
Madge would have tried to console her; but Jack Maynard gave her a shock. Holding Joey very tightly to him, he said in tones there was no mistaking, "Never mind, my darling. It's all over, and Robin is safe. . ."
And before the stunned Madge could gasp out any ejaculation, Joey sobbed, "Oh, Jack - what a - solid lump - of comfort you - are!"
Source - Jo announces her engagement
The engagement between Jo and Jack came out of the blue.There had been no previous indication in any of the books that Jo ever felt anything for Jack Maynard. And just one throwaway sentence mentioning Jack's feelings for Jo.