Book #2 for my Malory Towers challenge/project. In the first book that I read a couple of months ago we saw Darrell Rivers heading off to Malory Towers in Cornwall for the first time, where she is keen to make friends. But her admiration for the clever but hard Alicia John, and her own temper issues get in the way for a bit but she eventually settles down and finds a friend in Sally Hope, good-hearted and friendly, after she has got over her own issues in the first term, of sibling jealousy. My post on book 1 is here. In this book, the girls have spent a few terms at Malory Towers, and are now about to enter the second form with Miss Parker as their teacher. There are new girls as always, the very pretty and rich Daphne who Gwendolen and Mary Lou both admire, scholarship student Ellen who starts off her stint at Malory Towers well enough but begins to turn sullen and snappy, as the term progresses, and drawing whiz Belinda Morris, who is as scatterbrained as Irene. There are the usual school happening, lessons, a few tricks, and a concert which finds the two Mam’zelles arguing over who should be lead in their French plays. There are also some mysterious goings on with purses and valuables disappearing, and Ellen snooping somewhat strangely around the school which leads the girls to misunderstand the situation while the reader is aware from the start that Ellen, insecure about her ability to do well on tests, is beginning to consider cheating, as the pressure leads her to fall ill. Alongside, Alicia is jealous and angry as Sally Hope has been chosen head of form over her.
When I started reading this instalment, I thought I hadn’t read this before at all but about half way in I began to remember the story. This was a fairly enjoyable instalment in the series—with pretty much the ordinary happenings of school life, not only events but also personal issues like Alicia’s anger over Sally being chosen over her (in Malory Towers, it is the form mistress who chooses the head), Ellen’s insecurities, and the girls’ friendships. Ellen’s issue with her work performance is something that so many students and others face, and Blyton goes into two of the effects of this, one Ellen stressing herself out so much that she falls physically ill, and two considering turning to cheating so that she can do well, pointing out that it is only later that she stops to consider what her parents might think of what she did rather than exam results, and also the need for others (peers) to be supportive and empathetic rather than hard and needlessly (without proof) casting aspersions. It was also interesting how Blyton wove in the issue of disagreements between teachers and how that might be viewed by students. The third plot that stood out to me was the one where Mary Lou goes out to post a parcel in bad weather—here we are taken out of the school premises though not into a village or town but into part of the country with its cliffs and gales which might prove dangerous. Darrell in this one has to face her temper issues again, and finds that it isn’t as easy to keep it in check even when she’s aware of the problem. This was another instance in which Miss Grayling shows her sense and understanding, putting it across that she too sees this as something that will be achieved over time, and the fact that Darrell is trying is enough for the moment.
Another Cover (Dragon Books, 1967): The Second Form Plays a Trick on Mr Young the Singing Master.
There were no midnight feasts in this one (I’m beginning to wonder if those only happen in St Clares) but definitely some fun tricks thanks to Betty and Alicia. Belinda’s drawing skills bring their own touch of humour to the story. Looking forward to see what happens in the next instalment.