A series of books by British novellist Elinor Brent-Dyer. Set in a boarding school for girls in Austria, Guernsey, Wales and finally Switzerland, as the Nazis spread across Europe.Features a cast of thousands by virtue of having over sixty books and spanning almost three generations of the family.Madge Bettany and her ill girl sister, Joey, are faced with poverty when their brother Dick takes a new job in India. Madge decides that a finishing school for girls, in Austria, will be the best cure for their money woes and for Joey's health. Starting with a small number of students in the eponymous Chalet, the school teaches in English, French and German. Could very well be a trope codifier for the boarding school series.Features some unfortunate implications now because of the time in which they were written, but a highly enjoyable series none the less.
This series provides examples of:
Aerith and Bob - on the one hand, there are girls with pretty conventional names, such as Gillian Culver, Beth Chester, Margaret Twiss, Mary Woodley and Amy Stevens. On the other, there's the likes of Verity-Ann Carey, Yseult Pertwee, Loveday Perowne, Viola Lucy, Josette Russell, Zephyr Burthill, Evadne Lannis, and many other girls with equally weird names.
Alpha Bitch - Betty Wynne-Davies becomes one by the time of Highland Twins at the Chalet School, due to breaking away from former best friend Elizabeth Arnett and taking a level in bitchiness as a result.
In the Switzerland part of the series, there's Jack Lambert, particularly in Jane and the Chalet School. She has her own clique and as a result, Jane Carew is alienated by her form as a result of Jack's bullying (see Clingy Jealous Girl below).
A milder example is Lysbet Alsen in Two Sams at the Chalet School, who takes an instant dislike to Samaris Davies due to her actually wanting to pull her finger out and do well, rather than slacking off like the rest of the form. Similarly, there's Eilunedd Vaughan in Peggy of the Chalet School, who is not pleased about Peggy being Head Girl and makes trouble for her.
Lovable Alpha Bitch - one interpretation of Mary-Lou Trelawney. While she isn't a bully like Jack or Betty, she and her Gang do dominate their form, and being allowed in is considered an honour.
Artistic License - History - in The Chalet School in Exile, one of the wartime books, the school relocates to Guernsey. As this article points out, the school would have been utterly screwed if it had relocated there, as it was occupied by the Nazis at the time.
Attention Whore - Joey in the later books, especially where babies are concerned. She seems to treat having babies as some kind of competition.
Badass Teacher - Miss Wilson definitely counts as this in The Chalet School In Exile when she leads a group of girls to safety through a secret passageway, on the run from a group of Nazis.
Beware the Nice Ones- Frieda Mensch may look like a fairytale princess, and she may be gentle and quiet, but it's not a good idea to make her angry. The younger kids are in awe of her because she's reputed to have a very sharp tongue.
Big Friendly Dog - Rufus, Joey's Saint Bernard, who she adopts as a puppy. The Maynard family get another one, Bruno, much later on after Rufus dies.
Big Sister Instinct - Len Maynard. Oh, Len Maynard. Practically ever since she is a baby, she is pigeonholed as the 'responsible one' and as the oldest Maynard child, she is often put in charge of the other Maynard children. She has a major one where Margot is concerned, protecting her from Jack's wrath and even lying to cover up for her in Triplets of the Chalet School after the bookend incident. Miss Annersley even calls her on it.
Break the Haughty - the plot of Eustacia Goes to the Chalet School. Eustacia / Stacie Benson starts off as an Insufferable Genius who alienates herself from the other girls pretty quickly with her arrogance and tale-bearing. Then she throws a hissy fit and runs away, has a nasty accident in the mountains, resulting in her being bedridden for a very long time, and becomes noticably nicer as a result.
Sybil Russell also suffers from this in Gay from China at the Chalet School after she accidentally spills boiling water on her little sister Josette. While the connection of this incident to Sybil's pride over her looks is tenuous, it does make her change her ways, as evidenced in Jo to the Rescue.
Broken Bird - Grizel Cochrane is a rare example in this series, particularly in the later books. Growing up with a repressive stepmother and father leaves her bitter and unhappy, causing trouble as a pupil - for instance, when she runs away after pranking the teachers, and nearly dies on a dangerous mountain - and often taking her anger out on her pupils when she becomes a teacher (she wants to teach PE, but her father insists on her training as a music teacher instead). She does find happiness eventually, after setting up a shop in New Zealand and meeting her future husband on a cruise, but it takes a long time.
Bunny-Ears Lawyer - Mr Denny. He speaks in Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe, has long hair and eccentric dress sense and waxes lyrical about Greek myth (hence his nickname of 'Plato'), but he's a fantastic teacher and a talented musician who clearly loves his subject and is popular among the students.
Clingy Jealous Girl - Simone Lecoutier starts off as one, even going so far as to cut her plaits off to get Joey's attention, and getting visibly upset whenever Joey makes friends with other people. Fortunately for Joey, Simone does grow out of it.
Mélanie Lucas begins to act this way in A Future Chalet School Girl after Ruey Richardson arrives and, from Mélanie's viewpoint, hogs the Maynards' time. Of course, she doesn't know about Ruey's Disappeared Dad and the Maynards subsequently taking her and her brothers under their wing, until Ruey puts her straight during an argument. And she isn't the first one Ruey's had to deal with, either - one major plot point of Ruey Richardson, Chaletian is Francie Wilford's dislike towards Ruey because she sees her as getting in the way of a potential friendship with Margot (who isn't remotely interested in Francie anyway).
Jack Lambert is one of the nastier examples. She idolises Len and does not take kindly to having to leave Len's dorm in order to make way for new girl Jane Carew, and bullies Jane until Len herself has to step in.
Cloud Cuckoo Lander - Con Maynard. She has a tendency to daydream and let her imagination run wild, and Miss Annersley calls her on this in Two Sams at the Chalet School when Con's lack of supervision results in Samantha van der Byl injuring herself on an unauthorised ski run. Verity-Ann Carey becomes one in the later books.
Cool Big Sis - Dickie Christy is a literal example, helping raise her younger sister Cherry and becoming a well-liked figure during her time at the Chalet School. Likewise, there's Len Maynard, who acts as the leader of the other Maynard kids, being the most responsible triplet. And Joey acts as one to the Robin, who in turn becomes a Cool Big Sis to Daisy Venables during the Armishire era. Bear in mind, this being the Chalet School, none of these girls are particularly jaded or cynical.
Cool Old Lady - Matron, more commonly known as 'Matey' (generally held to be Matron Lloyd), one of the longest-serving members of staff, and Rebecca Learoyd, the grandmother who Jacynth and Gay encounter in Gay from China at the Chalet School.
Cool Teacher - Kathie Ferrars, Biddy O'Ryan, and several others. As an aside, one notable aspect of the series is that mistresses are more humanised than in other girls' school fiction - they're more rounded and often very human characters with back stories, lives and screentime away from the pupils, rather than being mere wallpaper.
Creepy Child: Fiona McDonald definitely comes across as one due to her psychic powers and ability to 'see' people's deaths. On the plus side, she also uses it to help Joey. And she and Flora seem a bit too keen to recount gory stories about their clan's history to Joey.
Darker and Edgier - the World War II stories are darker in tone than the other books, the most notable example being The Chalet School In Exile. Starts off with the school being forced to leave the Tirol due to the Anschluss, and losing German and Austrian pupils, who are recalled to their own countries. Joey, Robin, Cornelia, Miss Wilson and a load of others wind up having to escape from the Nazis after Joey gets into an argument with some men who are attacking an old Jewish man, during which Miss Wilson's hair turns white. Mlle Lepattre, one of the original heads of the school and Cornelia's guardian, dies after a long illness, while Maria Marani's father is killed in a concentration camp, and Frieda's husband has a narrow escape from one. A Nazi spy infiltrates the school, although luckily, she has a Heel-Face Turn. Finally, Maria and Cornelia are seriously injured after trying to save a man from being burned to death.
The Chalet Girls Grow Up by Merryn Williams, a sequel to the original series, was much Darker and Edgier than any of the original Chalet School stories. Among many other things Len suffers domestic violence, is raped and then abandoned by her husband, who cheats on her. Her young daughter dies of meningitis and another daughter goes through a Teen Pregnancy. Con has several affairs with men who don't love her, suffers a miscarriage, and has setbacks in her writing career. Margot becomes a peace protester who is banned from South Africa and eventually finds she has left it too late to have a child. Jo develops Alzheimer's Disease, Jack is Driven to Suicide, Madge has a fatal stroke, Mary-Lou is a man-eating temptress, and the Chalet School closes (and is eventually bulldozed) when it runs into financial trouble. What a cheery little tale!
Dead Guy Junior - many, many times. Joey's daughter Margot, for example, was named after her brother-in-law's dead sister.
Deadpan Snarker - Miss Wilson has a reputation for being very snarky and sarcastic, and students are careful not to anger her as a result.
Disproportionate Retribution - OK, so Betty Wynne-Davies had a bit of a grudge against Robin, Daisy and the McDonald twins, but was potentially selling the isle of Erisay out to the Nazis really necessary?
In Three Go to the Chalet School, when Verity-Ann Carey refuses to sing in German, a couple of girls splutter involuntarily and Miss Burnett goes overboard in her punishment. Not only are they told off, but they're also made to apologise to Mr. Denny, have conduct marks deducted and spend their evening hemming dusters.
More generally, one way to guarantee getting punished in the Chalet School, usually by fines and a heavy ticking off, is...talking slang. Yeah. For some of the mistresses, it's a huge Berserk Button.
Dumb Blonde - the Ozanne twins and Yseult Pertwee definitely qualify. Played with with Marie von Eschenau - she's the least academic of the Quartette and is more known for her looks than her academics, but she certainly isn't thick. And Daisy Venables, Stacie Benson and Frieda Mensch are all major aversions.
Everything Trying to Kill You: the Austrian and Swiss books verge on this, what with girls continually getting caught in floods, getting trapped on mountains, having skiing or tobogganing accidents, nearly drowning in icy rivers, being kidnapped by madmen, or caught in fires.
Funetik Aksent - Flora, Fiona and Shiena all speak in one in Highland Twins, to emphasise their Funny Foreigner status. This was edited out of the paperback version. Working-class characters with strong accents also tend to speak this way.
Gadgeteer Genius - Jack Lambert, who loves cars and wants to be an engineer / mechanic, a very unusual career for a woman at that time.
Heroic BSOD: Joey has a major one in The Highland Twins at the Chalet School when she gets a telegram saying Jack has drowned. It's so out of character that it unnerves Madge, who can't understand why Joey isn't crying. Joey eventually breaks down and has to be given sleeping drugs. Luckily, as she finds out via Fiona McDonald, Jack is alive after all.
Hot-Blooded - although a good few of the girls qualify - see Clingy Jealous Girl and Disproportionate Retribution for Simone Lecoutier and Betty Wynne-Davies - Joey is the most prominent example and can be pretty temperamental, though she (for the most part) calms down as she gets older. Her daughter Margot also has some anger management issues - she refers to her temper as 'my demon', and it gets her into major trouble in Theodora at the Chalet School, culminating in Len slapping her and her dad refusing to speak to her for two weeks. After that, she learns her lesson and tries her damnedest to control it, although she has a major relapse in The Triplets of the Chalet School and nearly brains Betty Landon with a bookend.
Ill Girl - Joey Bettany, often. The Robin is one - EBD likes to describe her as 'delicate' - and Stacie Benson becomes one after a nasty accident on an excursion, although she gets better.
“B-but it was me!-hurp-hurp!-it was!" Margaret wept loudly, her words so mixed up with her sobs that none of the girls could make head or tail of what she was saying and even the Head, with all her experience, could gather only a little here and there. “I-I s-saw Miss A-andrews-hurp!-p-put the snake-hurp-hurp!-snake into the d-drawer and I never-hurp!-said anything-hurp-hurp!-even when the rest b-blamed Jack-hurp!-for it!-hurp-hurp-hurp! Wah-hah-hah!”
Instant Illness: any exposure to chills, rain, drafts, mud or cold water is fairly certain to leave the victim in the grip of a life-threatening disease if they're not immediately put into a hot bath and then into bed with two hot water bottles. In one book, Jo spends three days unconscious and is bedridden for over a week after standing for literally a few minutes by an open door on a snowy day.
Kick the Dog - Don't ever be mean to the Robin. A sign that Betty Wynne-Davies was probably one of the nastiest characters in the Chalet School series is the fact that she was prepared to hurt the twins to get at Robin and Daisy.
Killed Off for Real - Mademoiselle Lepattre and Herr Laubach both die after a long period of illness, while Luigia di Ferrara and Florian Marani, Maria and Gisela's dad, both die in concentration camps, and according to Word Of God, Thekla von Stift 'vanished' during the war. It's also implied in one of the Swiss books that Miss Bubb is terminally ill.
Lethal Chef - played for laughs in some of the cookery classes. In The Chalet School and the Lintons, for instance, Cornelia Flower uses garlic cloves as flavouring for apple pies rather than normal cloves, and in Carola Storms the Chalet School, Carola Johnston's class fry their jam doughnuts in cod liver oil.
Loads and Loads of Characters - Over the years, there are many characters added to the alumni, including the children of the main characters in the first books.
Locked into Strangeness - happens to Miss Wilson in The Chalet School in Exile after she and a group of girls are forced to flee for their lives from the Nazis, via a secret passageway in a church. Her hair was chestnut originally, but by the time she gets out of the passageway, she's a White-Haired Pretty Girl.
Mama Bear - While escaping the Nazis through Innsbruck, the teachers defend their students admirably.
Joey becomes one later in the books, and is also very protective of the Robin.
Meaningful Name - Frieda Mensch (later von Ahlen)'s first name means 'peace'. As EBD points out, it's an appropriate name for her as she tends to be the peacemaker of the Quartette.
Morality Pet - the Robin acts as one to Joey. Sometimes, Joey will sic her on 'difficult' girls such as Gwensi Howell (The Chalet School at War) or Zephyr Burthill (Jo To The Rescue).
My God, What Have I Done? - several times. For example, Deira in Head Girl chucks a stone at Grizel's head (mostly accidentally - mostly) and suffers violent remorse.
Nouveau Riche - Joan Baker in Problem, whose family are able to afford to send her to the school after her father wins the pools, and Diana Skelton in Bride Leads. Both are seen as vulgar and classless by the other girls, though Joan does get better eventually.
Nuns N' Rosaries - several prominent characters, such as the Maynards (after Joey converts in order to marry Jack), Frieda, Marie and Miss Wilson, are Catholics, and Luigia di Ferrara, the Robin and Margot all become nuns. Jack's rosary is what enables Fiona to discover that he is alive in Highland Twins.Truth in Television as the Tyrol was a very Catholic area at the time of writing. See Real Life Writes the Plot too.
Nun Too Holy - Margot in The Chalet Girls Grow Up, to the point where the order basically kick her out because her outspokenness and political activism make her a risk.
Oireland - Irish characters tend to speak in a very stereotypical way, using phrases like 'tis yourself, acushla!' and 'to be sure'. Biddy O'Ryan is particularly bad for this - barely a mention of her goes by without EBD bringing up how Irish she is, and she speaks in a 'thick Kerry brogue' that's nigh-on incomprehensible at times. And yes, she is Genre Savvy about fairy tales and gets punished by Miss Wilson after she tells a story about a banshee that gives another girl nightmares.
One Steve Limit - averted. There are ten billion Margarets (with varying nicknames) floating round, not to mention three different Mateys (not including other matrons who don't last very long).
Only Known by Their Nickname - the Robin's real name is Cecilia Marya Humphries, but she's generally referred to by her childhood nickname. There's also Polly Heriot (real name Hildegard), Jack Lambert (real name Jacynth) and Tom Gay (real name Lucinda Muriel, and given that Tom is a huge tomboy, it's unsurprising she hates her name).
Papa Wolf - do not harm any of Jem Russell's kids. As the Mystic M found out the hard way in The New Chalet School, he will come after you and beat the shit out of you, even if you're a kid.
The Patriarch - Jack and Jem. Particularly Jem and his insistence on training the kids to instant obedience.
The Pollyanna - Joey and Robin. Despite the countless horrible things that happen to them - war, being forced to flee from Nazis, illness, parental death - they both manage to remain cheerful and optimistic throughout.
Plucky Girl - again, there are loads of them, Joey being a notable example.
Promotion to Parent - several examples, most notably Madge and her twin brother Dick, who are responsible for Joey after their parents die, and Gillian Linton, who takes care of her Bratty Half-Pint sister Joyce while their mother is ill.
Put on a Bus - with so many characters, it's bound to happen. Some characters are prominent for a couple of books and then disappear. One of the more notable examples is the Robin, who is a major character in the Tirol / Armishire eras, but is almost never heard from after becoming a nun and moving to Canada. Madge and Jem's role in the series is also greatly reduced once they stay in England while the School moves to Switzerland, despite Madge being the founder of the School - probably because EBD could not see any more use for them once Jack became head of the Swiss Sanatorium and he and Joey effectively filled Madge and Jem's original role.
"The Reason You Suck" Speech - non-villainous example. Miss Annersley gives a lot of these to misbehaving or careless students, often resulting in them feeling mentally reduced to fragments.
Joey delivers a particularly scathing one to Kitty Burnett:
"I'm too disgusted with your behaviour. You make me feel sick! Please go away, and don't let us see anything more of you this week as can be helped. You are a disgrace to the School, and the sooner you realise it the better for you. Now go!"
And to Joyce Linton:
"Joyce, you seem to be somewhat above yourself, and the only thing I can suggest is that you should try to realise that you are only a Middle — and a very new Middle at that. It's rather too early for you to have assimilated our ideals, I suppose, though your sister doesn't seem to have had such trouble. Just get it into your head that all such things as passing notes are despised here, and the people who do them are considered despicable. And remember that you are really a very insignificant person, as well."
Regal Ringlets - Lavender Leigh sports these when she first comes to the school in Lavender Laughs. As part of her Character Development, she cuts them off at the end of the book.
Rescue Romance - several, usually involving doctors who either help a female character and end up marrying her, or help one of the students and end up marrying one of the teachers who was present at the time. There's Jem Russell and Madge in Jo of the Chalet School, Frank Peters and Phoebe Wychcote in Jo to the Rescue, Hilary Burn and Phil Graves in Carola Storms the Chalet School, and Biddy O'Ryan and Eugene Courvoisier in The Chalet School Does it Again.
Rich Bitch - two particular examples spring to mind:
Thekla von Stift, Marie von Eschenau's cousin and one of the main characters in Exploits of the Chalet Girls. As a member of the Junker class, she expresses horror at having to be educated alongside 'the daughters of shopkeepers', and looks down on most of the other students, such as Sophie Hamel, whose father is a self-made businessman. Her arrogant and childish behaviour makes her greatly unpopular amongst the other kids, and although she does thaw out a tiny bit - this being the Chalet School - after her petticoat catches fire, she still has a cruel streak and is eventually expelled in A Rebel at the Chalet School.
In Jo To The Rescue, we meet Zephyr Burthill, a spoiled brat who covets Ill Girl Phoebe Wychcote's cello, since Phoebe can't play it due to illness and Zephyr is a talented musician herself. She's so desperate to get her hands on it, her father sends some thugs to the house where Joey and co are staying to try and steal it. She's used to getting everything she wants and resorts to begging Simone on her knees to get it for her. Joey overhears and tells her where to get off. Of course, after she's introduced to the Robin, she sees the error of her ways and takes a level in kindness.
Rousing Speech - Emmie Linders gives a particularly memorable one in Highland Twins, after she and her family escape from the Nazis. Miss Annersley also gives a few over the course of the war books, reminding the girls to be brave.
Sadist Teacher - woe betide any pupil who gets on the wrong side of Miss Cochrane or Herr Laubach, the temperamental art master (who's surprisingly popular, despite having made several pupils cry and having thrown art things at Joey after she was messing around in one of his classes). Miss Cochrane does have reasons for being difficult, though - see Broken Bird above.
Samaritan Syndrome - Joey and Mary Lou Trelawney have a mild case of it in the Swiss books, with their insistence on 'butting in' whenever a new girl has problems. Justified to an extent as characters such as Phoebe Wychcote genuinely need and appreciate their help.
Shipper on Deck - Joey and her friends act as this towards Phoebe and Dr Peters in Jo to the Rescue, when the former is in hospital and the latter is treating her, and they both clearly like each other but aren't sure whether to say anything. They end up married.
Shout Out - Joey bears more than a few similarities to Jo March of Little Women fame, what with the dark hair, being a bit tomboyish and a wannabe writer, and not wanting to grow up. She even quotes Jo at one point. There's also a Margaret (Bettany, and several other characters), an Amy (Stevens) who starts off as a blonde-haired Bratty Half-Pint, and later a Beth (Chester).
Spoiled Sweet - while Joey does have a tendency to baby the Robin even when she's older and less delicate, it doesn't have a bad effect on the Robin's personality at all - in fact, she grows into a kind, sensitive teenager with a strong sense of right and wrong, who acts as a Cool Big Sis to Daisy Venables. Princess Elisaveta is another example; she might be a princess, but she's not stuck up at all and makes plenty of friends.
Stern Teacher - Madge tries to be this, and later teachers do well, especially Miss Wilson, Miss Annersley and most of the male teachers.
Supreme Chef - Anna, the Maynard family maid, and Karen, the school cook (who also has Chef of Iron tendencies). The school go nuts in A Feud in the Chalet School for Anna's greengage jam (but she's not giving the recipe to anyone), and the narrative waxes lyrical about Karen's 'heavenly' bread twists and cakes.
Took a Level in Badass - Joey in her rescue of Princess Elisaveta in A Princess at the Chalet School, as if her previous attempt to save Grizel from being stuck on the Tiernjoch in Jo of the Chalet School wasn't already a sign that she's pretty damn tough. And Miss Wilson, Joey (again), Robin, Cornelia Flower, Violet Allison and Maria Marani all take several levels in The Chalet School in Exile. Miss Wilson leads a group of girls to safety through a hidden passageway (see Badass Teacher above) after Joey and Cornelia put them all at risk by yelling at a bunch of Nazis who are terrorising an old Jewish man, while Robin rushes to help him. Later on, Cornelia, Violet and Maria rescue a pilot from a burning plane, with Cornelia's eyesight being severely damaged and all three of them ending up in hospital.
Margot takes several in The Chalet Girls Grow Up, joining the Black Sash, becoming an anti-apartheid activist and getting thrown in prison after protesting at Greenham.
Took a Level in Jerkass - Margot Maynard around the time of Theodora and the Chalet School. She goes from temperamental and merely mischievous to blackmailing Ted, throwing a bookend at another girl's head and knocking her out, and bullying her charges. Presumably this is to make her eventual vocation as a nun even more dramatic.
Took a Level in Kindness - girls who start off as bitchy, sulky or standoffish will often come to learn the error of their ways and become nicer people after being introduced to the ways of the Chalet School, or getting a good ticking-off from one of the mistresses. And if that doesn't work, there's always a handy accident (see Break the Haughty above for what happens to Eustacia Benson).
Totally Radical - or whatever the '20s version is. If you are an American Chalet Girl, especially if your name is Cornelia Flower or Evvy Lannis, you will use ridiculous amounts of slang.
Tragic Dropout - Elfie Woodward. After her stepmother dies, she drops out of school in order to take care of her brothers and father, who is an emotional wreck and can barely take care of himself. However, she is able to go back after other relatives take over caring for the family.
Tyrant Takes the Helm - the plot of Gay from China at the Chalet School revolves around this trope. When Miss Bubb, the tyrant in question, takes over as temporary headmistress after Miss Wilson, Miss Annersley and others are injured in a car crash, her fixation on exam results and crackdowns on the girls' free time and privileges makes her very unpopular, to the point where Joey writes a letter begging Miss Wilson to come back. Things comes to a head when she forbids Gay Lambert - who has broken rules on more than one occasion - to see her older brother before he is stationed in Asia, which leads to Gay running away and culminates in Miss Bubb having to resign, to everyone's relief.
Working Class People Are Morons - Averted by Rosamund Lilley, a girl from a working-class background who wins a scholarship to the Chalet School. She's academic, but is looked down on by some of the other pupils because of her background.
Also, there's Biddy O'Ryan, a maid's daughter; it's thought that she's going to become a lady's maid herself until a local priest discovers how bright she is, and she ends up going to Oxford and becoming a history teacher at the Chalet School.
World War II - Interrupts the girls' schooling when the Nazis start sweeping across Europe. Also a major plot point in The Chalet School in Exile, The Chalet School Goes to It (aka The Chalet School at War) and The Highland Twins at the Chalet School.