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Claudine at St Clare's
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Book Details...

First edition: 1944
Publisher: Methuen
Illustrator: W. Lindsay Cable
Category: St Clare's
Genre: School
Type: Novels/Novelettes

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Review by Terry Gustafson
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A French lassie and a girl with a hyphenated name arrive to study at St. Clare's together with the students that we know so well. There is also another new girl named Eileen and we are introduced to Angela, the daughter of a very beautiful woman. Yes, Angela honours St Clare's with her presence but the question is whether or not she can survive the fairly Spartan routine which is a feature of this renowned college.
No other Enid Blyton school-series book contained the name of a girl in its title so why did it happen? Was the student in question of particular note? Claudine commences at St Clare's when the twins, Pat and Isabel O'Sullivan, and their class- mates reach the fourth form and the notable facts concerning the girl in question are that she is French, very different in her attitude to life, and is related to one of the school-mistresses. Although there are other new girls this term, perhaps the author picked out Claudine because she is a niece of Mam'zelle the French instructor — a woman who plays quite a dominant part in the St Clare's stories.

The twins reckon they are really getting on since they began at St. Clare's way back in the first form. This time there is none of the flurry at home with packing or sicknesses or the journey to school — they just walk into their new classroom right from the very first sentence. In a very anticipative mood we are taken through the preliminaries which involve the twins familiarising themselves with the view of the beautiful English countryside from their classroom window, bagging a suitable desk, meeting up once again with their friends, and finding out if there are any new faces. Yes, there are so Pat and Isabel introduce themselves to one new girl who gives her name as Pauline Bingham-Jones. She appears to be of high-born parentage and it is reasonable to assume that she and the other new students will play their special parts throughout the term.

As they are in the fourth form the girls have a different class mistress whose name is Miss Ellis but she is not Roberta Ellis's mother of course. She is firm, calm, seldom raises her voice and is well respected. There is also a different Matron and by-golly it won't pay to get on the wrong side of her. Carlotta, the impulsive, wild and don't-carish yet popular ex-circus girl, is back and so is the wise and responsible Hilary. There are not all that many references to the regular characters but this in no way detracts from the story-interest in fact it is to the advantage because there is more time to learn about the new students and judge them as we see fit. Gladys Doris, Kathleen and Mirabel are mentioned in passing however and this time there is a different head of the Form — Susan Howes and I wonder if she is as capable as the esteemed Hilary Wentworth. Pat and Isabel's very pretty cousin — Alison, is back again and ready to face whatever relationship comes her way — and one does. She experiences rapture because the new girl — Angela, is the ultimate as far as breeding and beauty go and if you put Sadie and Miss Quentin, Alisonís previous idols, together — they still wouldn't scratch the surface as far as gorgeousness goes when compared with this teenager. It's worth noting that there are not many males in the St. Clare's stories for obvious reasons but one lad does accost this beauty which is very understandable because what boy wouldn't be so-inclined, however the W. Lindsay Cable picture which illustrates this in the original editions could be misleading so the book must be read to get the real oil. Angela ... and Pauline, the other student of apparent wealth and high status, seem so pedigreed that a certain amount of rivalry is called for and this manifests itself in various ways but which of them comes from the more well-heeled family? We will find that out eventually.

Enter Claudine — several days after the beginning of term. Her first words are "Hallo, buddies!" when she is introduced to the class and this gives some indication of her potential for adding a little spice to life. She certainly does contribute a good share of fun and laughter because of inbred inclinations which pertain to her different culture and due to her manipulative, easy-going and simple attitude to life she is described quite accurately as a funny mixture of honesty, sincerity and deceitfulness. The French girl does not have much of the English Sense of Honour but she is ready to learn if given the chance — meantime she is just Claudine with her delightful quirks which entertain the girls as the months pass by.

Half-term is welcomed by one and all and also by the reader because we are interested in finding out what happens on that special day and we are not disappointed. The parents of the various students arrive, as always, to be entertained and to see how the talents of their daughters are being utilised. One mother stands out not only because of her position in society, but also because she is downright ravishing. Yes, she is a delectable piece who Makes Her Mark and the way she conducts herself will always be connected with an incident which goes down in the annals of St Clare's ... an event which will be the subject of discussion for many years afterwards. The picture on the cover of the original book gives a little grounding as to what happens but you must read about it to be fully informed and you will also learn a little more about the character of the particular girl who participated.

As is right and proper, a trick has to be played on one or other of the mistresses. These always supply mirth and merriment but can you guess who plays it? You probably know that it would be one of the Dreadful Duo whose future lives could well involve some kind of stage entertainment should they choose to drop-out of St Clare's. Everything that typifies the school stories is in this book and it includes a midnight feast although there is a very nasty girl in the fourth form and a vindictive staff-member who both want to put spokes in the wheels of enjoyment — so sparks fly! Towards the end there is a shocking revelation that occurs because of an accident and it ties up with yet another bolt from the blue — a thief's presence is manifest! Finally there's a lot of sorting out in order to tie up several loose ends so surprises are in store and interest is maintained right to the finish.

Claudine at St. Clare's is an excellent and very readable example of yet another Enid Blyton school saga which is still available despite the fact that it first appeared in 1944. The pictures may have changed a little but the story itself will reveal all. These illustrations are hidden by default to ensure faster browsing. Loading the illustrations is recommended for high-speed internet users only.