For this week’s BotW, we’re back in the world of the boarding school books that I love so much, after I happened upon this on the collectible shelf of the charity shop last week for the bargain price of £2. My love of the Chalet School, Drina books and boarding school and ballet books in general is well known, but I’d never had a chance to read any of the Dimsie series – which was out of print by the time I was old enough to read them. This is the sixth book in the series, and so probably not the best place to start, but I’m not one to let a trifle like that stop me!
Dimsie is a prefect at Jane Willard Foundation, and the start of this book sees the prefects shaken by the unexpected departure of the head girl Erica and her replacement with the dreamy second prefect Jean. The title gives it away that Jean’s reign may not be a long one, but it’s a lot of fun watching how it all unfolds. Dimsie is a butter-inner, slightly lacking in tact, but utterly devoted to her school. When she sees that Jean isn’t pulling her weight in the way that she should be, she tries to set the Head girl on the right track. When one of the new prefects proves to be too officious and inflexible in her dealings with the younger girls, it’s Dimsie who tries to sort the situation out. To be honest, I’m surprised she wasn’t Erica’s replacement in the first place – except for the fact of course that that if she had, the author wouldn’t have had a book!
It wouldn’t be a boarding school book without the Middles causing trouble – here it takes the form of insubordination to the prefects, illegal pet keeping and midnight feasts. What more could you want? And yes, this is a slightly higher level of spoilers than I usually give out – but to be honest, I can’t imagine that many of you are going to be able to lay your hands on a copy of this! Which is a shame really, because it’s not half bad – some of it is funny in a way the author didn’t intend but that’s one of the joys of reading a book written for children in the 1920s now! It does have some of the usual problems of outdated language and a very homogeneous cast, but that’s sadly to be expected in a children’s book of this era and it’s by no means as bad as some.
This was my Dorita Fairlie Bruce book, and I suspect it won’t be my last – I’ve already been playing on the used book websites to see if I can find more. Because of course what I need at the moment is more books. Of course it is. The big worry is if it sends me off down another rabbit hole of classic school story authors that I haven’t read.