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Literature / St Clare's

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The St. Clare's novels are a series of six books by Enid Blyton following twins Pat and Isabel through the titular British Boarding School. A lot of the characters are very similar to those in the Malory Towers series.

The original books were written from 1941 to 1945, but subsequently three additions to the series have been made by Pamela Cox: The Third Form at St. Clare's and The Sixth Form at St. Clare's in 2000, and Kitty at St. Clare's in 2007. However, they aren't particularly convincing as authentic portrayals of Forties life. The original books are as follows:

  1. The Twins at St. Clare's
  2. The O'Sullivan Twins
  3. Summer Term at St. Clare's
  4. Second Form at St. Clare's
  5. Claudine at St. Clare's
  6. Fifth Formers at St. Clare's

Excellent summaries and other information can be found here.

This series contains examples of:

  • The Ace: Lucy Oriell from the third book. She's rich, beautiful, does well in all her studies (including French and sports), and is a talented artist. When her family lost her wealth, she manages to secure a scholarship in St. Clares, even though the scholarship is only available for third formers, while Lucy herself is only a first-year.
  • Aesop Amnesia: Basically every girl who has a major role in more than one book. Angela learns to not be such an Alpha Bitch in Claudine, but is right back to her old behaviour in Fifth Formers. Alison, though she does become more assertive and less air-headed overall, never stops foolishly idolizing more glamorous girls. Mirabel learns not to be so gruff and antagonistic in Second Form, but then pushes everyone around in her role as games captain in Fifth Formers.
  • Affably Evil: Many of Claudine's actions point to this. She's friendly, bright and very likable, but she does exactly what she likes, whether it is good or not, like locking Matron in a cupboard or disrupting an outdoor lesson so their teacher will send her inside.
  • Alliterative Family: Eileen has an older brother called Edgar.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: There's usually at least one in each book. Some examples:
    • Prudence from Summer Term At St Clare's, but that one was justified because she was extremely holier-than-thou and didn't hesitate to spread rumours or talk shit about anyone she didn't like.
    • Elsie, Gladys and Mirabel from The Second Form At St Clare's. Elsie was spiteful and thought she could boss everyone around- OK, fine. But Gladys was ignored because she was always miserable and very quiet, and nobody bothered to ask why, or they would have learned that she had an extremely good reason to be sad. A few times, someone asked her, but mostly they just ignored her, referring to her as "Misery-girl". Way to go there. When Mirabel finds out why Gladys is so sad and tells the other girls, they tell her off for not saying anything, when they could have just asked directly. Mirabel was initially written off by the others as 'spoiled' and 'peevish' because she outright stated that she didn't want to be there and wouldn't fit in. To be fair, Mirabel did her best to make life difficult for everyone in protest, but at no point did anyone try to see her side of things, or consider that being sent to boarding school for months without a say in the matter is by no means a minor issue- even the twins, who also got sent to St. Clare's without a say in the matter and should have been sympathetic. The similarities are even pointed out, and one of the girls says that the twins, having gone through Mirabel's situation before, should know how to deal with her.
    • Alma in Fifth Form At St Clare's. She's not friendly, is constantly eating due to a medical condition that no one else knows about, and gets furious whenever people call her 'Pudding' because her last name is Pudden and she's fat. Nobody tries reaching out to her, and at no point does anyone consider that maybe they shouldn't call her by a nickname she doesn't like. Really, it's no wonder that the poor girl was so unpopular when everyone was being such a dick to her.
  • Always Identical Twins: The titular twins, although they're not identical in personality and their classmates can easily tell them apart by the end of the series. The anime does at least give them different hairstyles.
  • Ambiguously Brown: Carlotta. She is described as "dark like a gypsy", but it is never really confirmed whether she is Romani. She’s described as half-English and half-Spanish, but it’s never confirmed whether she has any Romani in her family.
  • Anachronism Stew: Some of the later releases of the books were extensively bowdlerized to try and make them more appealing to current generations - shillings to pounds, grandmother to grannies and so on. Particularly egregious are the more modern illustrations - the '90s versions of the books find the girls drinking from plastic lemonade bottles and wearing baggy T-shirts and Rachel haircuts, while others have them wearing shorts instead of hockey skirts and so on. Carlotta threatening to slap Angela has also been edited out. "Sew a button on a shoe" gets turned into "sew a button on".
  • Animated Adaptation: Has one in the anime Mischievous Twins: The Tales of St. Clares.
  • Anime: Yep. See above.
  • Apron Matron: The school has one of these, although when she falls sick in Claudine at St. Clare's she gets replaced with a sour woman who doesn't fit this trope at all. Luckily, she returns healthy and well again at the end of the term.
  • Big Brother Worship: Eileen has an older brother called Edgar, whom she constantly talks about and clearly admires very much. Later on, Miss Theobald muses that while Eileen has little strength of character, her love for her brother will be what helps her become stronger.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Carlotta riding off to rescue Sadie, calling her circus friends to help and then getting Sadie back to school.
  • Boarding School: The titular school, as well as the preparatory school (Redroofs) the twins attended before that and the posh, exclusive Ringmere School that the twins wanted to go to instead of St Clare's.
  • Book Dumb: The final book introduces Felicity. She's a musical genius, but otherwise does poorly in her studies. She was held back in her form a couple of times, and was only allowed to "graduate" into Pat and Isabel's form because she's getting way too old to be in her form.
  • Break the Cutie: Lucy in The O’Sullivan Twins. Lucy is super-smart, rich, adored by her classmates and teachers alike and kind to everyone, even people who have been major assholes. Then near the end of the book, her painter dad loses the use of his hand in a car accident so he can’t paint anymore. The family are now poor and can’t afford to send Lucy to school anymore. Fortunately, she’s able to earn a scholarship and stay at St Clare’s.
  • Broken Pedestal: Alison for Miss Quentin after she overhears her teacher talking about her and hears Ms Quentin describe her as akin to a little pet dog, and then learns that Miss Quentin doesn't think she has much acting talent at all and that the role she wanted is going to someone else. Alison is very hurt, and treats Miss Quentin politely but coldly in their next class.
    • This happens a couple more times to a lesser degree with Alison again, towards Angela and Miss Willcox - Angela after she is horrible about Pauline's mother, and Miss Willcox after she insults a poem only because she thought Anne-Marie wrote it when it was actually by a famous acclaimed poet (allegedly proving she's not as cultured as she claimed).
      • As a note, the poem Miss Willcox insulted is a real poem by Matthew Arnold, called "Despondency" and is available to look up on the internet.
  • Characterization Marches On: Mirabel is initially introduced as musical genius who excels at playing violin, while her friend Gladys is the sporty one. In the final book, Mirabel becomes the school's sports captain, while the role of "the musical genius" is passed on to Felicity.
  • Cheaters Never Prosper:
    • In one book, Isabel accidentally comes across the answers to a prescribed test and ends up reading them. She ends up wracked by guilt, but it turns out the test was actually for another class, so she was fine (but she ended up being so relieved she screwed up some of the questions.)
    • Prudence is caught with the answers for a French test by Carlotta and Bobby, but in her case, the intention to cheat was intentional.
  • Circus Brat: Carlotta was raised in a circus, and is often described as a fickle little monkey due to her wild Circus antics.
  • Class Clown: Doris provides the class with much entertainment, usually by parodying various teachers and/or students they don't like.
  • Cool Big Sis: Claudine to Antoinette. Both girls have the same penchant for mischief and rule-breaking. It's Claudine's idea for Antoinette to interrupt Mirabel's meeting by ringing the fire-bell, and she also hides the food for the second form's midnight feast at Antoinette's request. When Antoinette purposely screws up doing jobs for Angela, Claudine is almost complimentary.
  • Conviction by Contradiction: Anne-Marie gets mad at Ms Wilcox because she thinks she's a genius poet and Ms Wilcox refuses to recognise that (in reality, she's just a shitty poet). She comes up with a test to see if Ms Wilcox is capable of recognising good poetry, which consists of her submitting a poem by a famous poet (Matthew Arnold) for an assignment and seeing what Ms Wilcox says about it. Ms Wilcox calls the poem rubbish and insults it, so Anne-Marie declares that obviously, Ms Wilcox has no idea what good poetry is. Because there's no way that Ms Wilcox hadn't read and memorised every poem by Arnold. And it's not possible that maybe she read a few of Arnold's poems, decided she didn't like them and didn't bother with the rest. And of course she couldn't have genuinely thought the poem was bad, because of course teachers have to agree that every poem is good and every poet is a genius. But nobody points any of this out. To be fair, Ms Wilcox had only insulted the poem because she didn't like Anne-Marie.
  • Demoted to Extra: Pat and Isabel's roles get increasingly smaller as the series progress, with the spotlight given to the various new students introduced in the book.
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
    • In The O'Sullivan Twins, the class choose not to cheer for Margery in the important lacrosse match due to Margery's behaviour in class. Then Pat's knitting is ruined and she believes that Margery is responsible. The entire form decides to refuse to cheer for Margery in the upcoming game, even though she didn't do it and won the game for them. Pat had reminded the other students and Margery retaliated by threatening revenge, which the other girls assumed resulted in the ruined knitting.
    • Mirabel denies Jane Teal a spot in the lacrosse team, treats her rudely and doesn't even care when the poor child becomes very ill. All of this because Mirabel had vague (and unproven) suspicions that Jane had ruined her meeting for a prank. She only relents when Claudine confesses to telling Antoinette to do it.
  • Divergent Character Evolution: Inverted with Pat and Isabel. At the beginning of the series, Pat was written as the dominant and more rebellious (shown by her refusal to wait on the older students, even when Isabel relented to do her duties, then pulling a Twin Switch and taking Isabel's place when Pat was banned from going out to town for her disobedience). However, Pat later mellows down to become as responsible and reliable as Isabel is, to the point where the teachers can't choose between the two girls when they're to be appointed as head girls, because they're apparently that interchangeable now. (Pamela Cox's book taking place after the last one points out that Pat is hot-tempered and Isabel isn't, to the point where it really seems as if Isabel could have been the only head girl.)
    • It is worth pointing out that the reason the twins were chosen to work together was because the teachers were concerned about the reaction of the twin who wasn't chosen, rather than them just being interchangeable. The twins state that they wouldn't want to be the only head girl because they wouldn't want something they couldn't share.
  • Double Standard:
    • A Protagonist-Centered Morality variant. When Pat and Isabel first arrive at St. Clare's, determined to be defiant and unpleasant because they don't want to be there, all the other students took it pretty lightly, and just laughed them off by calling them the "stuck-up twins" behind their back. When Mirabel comes and does pretty much the exact same thing, the girls pranked her with Stock Shoujo Bullying Tactics. Of course, the harsher treatment towards the latter might be justified because Elsie, the head girl of the class whose primary trait is being spiteful, was the ringleader of the whole scheme.
    • The girls' bullying of Alma Pudden is treated as harmless and justified because she is fat and unpleasant, even after learning she can't help it. After learning about it, Doris immediately imitates Alma's eating, and apparently that's okay to laugh at because it's "not malicious". In an earlier book, they were disgusted when Prudence mocked Carlotta's background specifically because it was something Carlotta couldn't change.
  • Drunk with Power:
    • Angela exploits her fifth-form privileges to have first-formers do chores for her, something which is discussed and disapproved of a lot by the other characters...
      "Angela sends for the young ones far too much, though," said Pat, frowning. "She and Alison make them do too many jobs. They've got a bit of power and they are using it badly."
      Hilary knew that Antoinette was being very naughty about coming when she was sent for - but she knew too that Angela used the younger girls far too much. She used her prettiness and charm to make them into little slaves.
      Angela gets told off for it, but it doesn't seem to help: "You're not given power to play about with and get pleasure from, Angela, as you seem to think. You're given it to use in the right way."
    • Mirabel becomes a sports captain, working the younger girls way too hard and forcing them to attend constant practices, until they eventually get sick enough of her to literally go on strike and it's only Gladys' advice that stops her resigning completely.
      Mirabel was tasting power for the first time as a sports captain...
  • Even the Girls Want Her: Angela. Even the characters who recognise her shallow (and often nasty) nature think Angela's so beautiful she looks like a literal angel, especially her friend Alison (although she tones the open devotion down after a book or so).
  • Extreme Doormat: Pam, whom the nasty Prudence forces into being friends with. It eventually becomes so bad that Pam becomes ill with fear.
  • Fear of Thunder: Several girls turn out to be scared of thunder at the culmination of an outdoor midnight feast spoiled by rain.
  • Green-Eyed Monster:
    • Jane Teal and Violet Hill have serious romantic rivalry over Angela. Angela in turn gets jealous of their affections for Mirabel.
    • Alison and Anne-Marie spend the complete year fighting for Miss Wilcox's attention.
  • Gym Class Rope Climb: This trope gets a positive portrayal as the girls are awed by Carlotta's ability to swarm up the rope.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: The blurb for the Dragon edition of Fifth Formers at St Clare's says that for "Antoinette...The final straw was having to fag for Angela." In this context, it refers to performing menial tasks for an older girl. There's also plenty of use of "queer" to mean "strange".
    • Not forgetting a sixth-form girl's reaction to finding out the twins don't know how to make a fire or clean boots in the original text first book - "Goodness gracious, Pam, did you ever see such a pair of boobs?" Unsurprisingly, this was changed in later editions.
  • Hero-Worshipper: Allison has the tendency to attach herself to another person, and would follow them around, sings them praises and generally tries her best to impress them. Over the years, she's dedicated herself to Sadie, Miss Quentin, Angela, and Miss Willcox.
  • I Just Want to Be You: Anne-Marie and Miss Willcox. Miss-Willcox is a successful and gifted poet. Anne-Marie is a wannabe poet with very little actual talent. You can see where this is going.
    • The text literally describes Miss Willcox as "a grown-up Anne-Marie in many ways".
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: In the second book, some of the other girls accuse Erica of ruining Tessie's midnight birthday party, and they mention a kitchen maid brought something for them. Erica immediately says she doesn't know anything about the frying-pan, making it clear she does since the girls never said that's what she was bringing.
  • Irritation Is the Sincerest Form of Flattery: Allison with first Miss Quentin and then Miss Willcox, and Anne-Marie for Miss Willcox as well. They get mocked by the other girls and called "Deirdre-fans" (after Miss Willcox's first name although it's actually the far less exotic Doris) due to the fact they start dressing like her and imitating her (rather unusual) voice and mannerisms.
  • Mock Millionaire: Pauline, who is really from a poor family who scraped and saved to send her to school but pretends she's from an incredibly rich one, going so far as to keep a photo out of a magazine by her bed and pretending the rich people in it are her parents and telling her real mother there's been an outbreak of scarlet fever at the school to stop her coming to the half-term open day and thus people discovering the truth.
  • Narrative Profanity Filter: In one book, Carlotta flies into a rage and 'addressed the startled teacher with a flurry of furious words in Spanish, some of which Mam'zelle unfortunately understood'. It doesn't end well.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Claudine at St. Clare's is oddly named after one of the new students although she doesn't have a larger role than any of the others. The O'Sullivan Twins to a lesser extent too, since Pat and Isabel's roles are much smaller than in the first book.
  • Non-Uniform Uniform: A school-allowed variant; the summer tunic can be made in any colour a girl chooses. Subtle differences in the quality of the cloth or how "well-made" a girl's clothes are also often pointed out as indicators of social status.
  • One-Gender School: St. Clare's is an all-girls school.
  • Out of Focus: The titular twins of the first and second book are only minor characters in the later ones. Generally each book focuses on a different group of girls, with only a few, like Alison, having larger roles in several of them.
  • Pool Scene: A midnight swim and picnic. And yes, if you've read Malory Towers many of the plots are shameless copies of the ones in there (or vice versa).
  • Serious Business: All kinds of sports are treated like the most important stuff at school by most of the girls. Lacrosse and tennis are of paramount importance, and nothing like a silly injury should stop you racing up the field to score a winning goal for the Good Old Team.
  • Stage Mom: Felicity's parents pushes their daughter to take a very difficult Music Exam which she's too young to participate in. This eventually leads to her breaking down and having to give up music for a year.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: The second through fourth book each have a different antagonist girl who is nasty and spiteful and tries to make life hell for other pupils: Erica in the second, Prudence in the third and Elsie in the fourth. In the fifth, Angela fulfills that role, but since she's more just arrogant and bitchy than an outright evil schemer and more integrated into the group overall, she doesn't have to leave at the end of the term and stays on for the next book. The books did do their best to distinguish them, though- Erica was just plain mean and held grudges like hell, Prudence was a holier-than-thou princess who thought she was a model student and had a huge grudge against Carlotta because Carlotta was from a circus and was extremely popular, while Prudence, who was from a very prestigious background, was unpopular for being so uptight and bitchy. Elsie wanted to be a dictator, but everyone overthrew her easily and then she just sulked.
  • Teacher's Pet: Most teachers disapprove of this sort of behaviour, but Miss Willcox and Miss Quentin actively encourage it for Alison and Anne-Marie, and Mam'zelle certainly has a soft spot for her nieces Claudine, and later Antoinette.
  • Twin Switch:
    • Twins Pat and Isabel try passing for another to get around one of them being punished by being forbidden to go into town.
    • Pamela Cox's book takes it to a new extreme, when two girls joining the first form pretend that one of them is stuck at home ill and will arrive when she gets better, and both pretend to be the same girl. They are caught when they go into town together, and are caught by the O'Sullivan twins and Anne-Marie.
  • Tyrant Takes the Helm: In Claudine At St Clare's the normal kindly matron goes off sick and is replaced by a thin, bitter woman who punishes kids she doesn't like by tearing their clothes, blaming them for it, and making them miss Games to stay in and mend them.
  • Unequal Pairing: Angela and the many, many first-formers that idolize her. Also the very assertive Mirabel and the very timid Gladys, although Gladys does try to stand up to Mirabel a few times, it usually ends with Mirabel storming off in anger.
  • Unfortunate Names: Alma Pudden, who is fat due to an eating disorder with a medical base. Everyone calls her Pudding, which she absolutely despises.
  • Weather Report Opening: The first book starts with this sentence: "One sunny summer afternoon four girls sat on the grass by a tennis-court, drinking lemonade."
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Margery admires her father very much, but he disapproves her constant conflict with her stepmother and sends her to St. Clare for her bad behaviour. Suffice to say, his "betrayal" only makes her worse.