I listened with interest to the programme on Radio 4 this week about the influence of the Chalet School Books on Val McDermid's writing career. As I am both a book seller of children's books and a great fan of Val's books, I thought this was bound to be of interest. I did find it interesting, but was a little disppointed in the style of programme that the BBC transmitted - a kind of mock mastermind effect being a bit gimmicky for me.
However, that apart I was pleased to hear Val discuss the virtues of the Chalet School books, saying that although the girls obviously were having privileged schooling, as a child that was not what the reader noticed. I wasn't fortunate enough to read these as a child, my library didn't have them, but reading Malory Towers & St Clares, I can echo this. I didnt worry about the class of the girls at school, I was much more interested in their adventures.
Ms McDermid said she felt much more to be taken from the Chalet Books was that girls could grow into women, who could both have families and careers, that naughty children were redeemable, and that the books were aspirational - anything was possible. She also said that personally she saw in the books, exemplified in Joey Maynard, that people could write stories and get paid for it and make a living, and indeed what is more aspirational than going to Oxford from a working class background.
The programme also included several guests, such as Clarissa Cridland, Chalet School reader, female vicar and one of the excellent Girls Gone by publishers of the reprints of the Chalet School Books (which we stock at http://www.peakirkbooks.com). Between Val and her guests they mentioned the other virtues of this series of 58 books, such as the fact that they are not all sunshine and light, dealing also with subjects such as death - mainly by involving the sanatorium nearby. One of Val's favourite book in the series was also highlighted - Chalet School in Exile, which came out in 1940 and dealt with the difficult issue of Nazism.