The Enid Blyton Society
Fifth Formers of St Clare's
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Book Details...

First edition: 1945
Publisher: Methuen
Illustrator: W. Lindsay Cable
Category: St Clare's
Genre: School
Type: Novels/Novelettes

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Review by Terry Gustafson
Further Illustrations

It is winter term and the girls are back at St. Clare's to continue their studies. An item of note is that Claudine, the French student who joined up in the Fourth, has a younger sister commencing in the second form and her name is Antoinette. The fairly obvious expectation is that no new faces will appear in the fifth form yet it turns out there are three — Anne-Marie Longden, who is a self-confessed poet, Felicity Ray, a musical genius who has been pushed up from the fourth form (apparently it's about time she was), and there is a girl sent down from the sixth who's been described as a bit like a suet pudding — fat, stodgy, and dull. Her name is Alma Pudden! Hilary Wentworth is once again head-of-form and that's a very wise choice ... would any other girl in the school be able to tick Claudine off in a way that at least registered? The impressions of Blyton characters can be very personal because I always saw Hilary as a brunette although she was described as having curly, golden hair and furthermore, way back in the first form, the twins saw her as a cheeky-looking individual but in the fifth she has become an extremely eligible candidate for head girl of St. Clare's.

The fifth formers are privileged in that after two terms they are allowed studies of their own which they share with one other student and Enid Blyton's selection of partners once again demonstrates her talent for placing her characters exactly where they should be. Pat and Isabel are easy of course, and so are Gladys and Mirabel, but who should be companion to say ... Carlotta? Doris? Alma Pudden? The girls enjoy the independence which their studies provide and call on each other for gossip sessions, afternoon tea, or even poetry readings in fact there is much to be reported about the fifth formers in their little homes-away-from-home and how they associate with each other. Fagging is a practice that involves the younger girls performing small tasks for the older students at the college and St. Clare's embraces the system thereby introducing several notable and sometimes hilarious situations.

There are quarrels and feuds as can be expected plus much hard work on the part of most because an exam is looming. How will Claudine fare? Mirabel? Doris the Dunce? Well, we know they have passed exams before and we are fairly confident they will repeat their success with this one although there could be one or two exceptions. Doris who has gone through the grades with the other girls could be classed as: "Dumb as they Come" — but she is well regarded by her classmates and possesses an extraordinary flair in the comedic arts. The combination of a stiff exam plus Doris and her capabilities or lack of them in some instances might cause a problem for this popular girl and it would be sad indeed if she had to remain in the fifth form whilst her buddies ascended to the sixth. In one of the chapters she displays a quite brilliant way of remembering things she has learnt but is her technique acceptable in the staid surroundings of an examination hall? We at least get to experience her memory-boosting performance in the relaxed environment of her study and then the stricter atmosphere of the classroom. There are others who have cause for apprehension — girls such as Alison. Now she is a cousin of Pat and Isabel and not too good at schoolwork and neither is her enchantingly beautiful partner — the Honourable Angela Favorleigh. Alison has become considerably more confident and self reliant over the years and is less foolish towards Angela although she still admires her beauty but she slips just a little when she falls for a vague and romantic teacher who expresses herself with graceful and dramatic gestures. Her name is Deirdre Willcox and she thrills Alison's heart. As this new idol is a poet, Deirdre is admired in a slightly different way by Anne-Marie, a girl who believes she herself is talented in a poetic way but Alison has the advantage because whereas she "gives" (praise, adulation, flattery) Anne-Marie wants to "receive" as well. To make more sense of that you can read one of the chapters such as The Term Goes On! Anne Marie is really into her poetry and in one instance borne of frustration and rejection she seizes on a quite brilliant way to resolve a problem that occurs but is it ethical? Some would say "Absolutely!" and others such as the highly-principled Hilary Wentworth might judge otherwise.

Some of the younger girls are mentioned quite regularly because of their fagging visits to the fifth form studies and also because of their interest in games which is actively encouraged by the sports captain — Mirabel. Angela flaunts her beauty and charm to get the very best out of her fags or perhaps that should be "slaves" but maybe we shouldn't be too hard on Angela because she is of a very high-class background and therefore desirous to be treated in the fashion to which she is accustomed. Poetry and sewing are two other activities which entertain the reader and there are also problems which arise with the fagging regime due to misplaced loyalties and personality clashes. Antoinette proves to be as capable as her older sister Claudine in handling challenges with innovation and accompanying drama when she wants her own way. Rumblings are heard in the common rooms and this is caused by one girl's dictatorial attitude and steps need to be taken because in any war there is always a Resistance Movement. The exam draws nearer and nearer. A secret is held by some of the first and second formers but it's inadvertently discovered by a deceitful upper form student who indulges in the fruits of her knowledge.

Whenever Fifth Formers of St Clare's is mentioned, the first image that swims into view might be that of a riotous night which features the French mistress as the unwitting star. It involves many of the girls and sweeps through various areas of the school with vintage Enid Blyton humour at the back of it all. It's a real tour de force that will never be forgotten by the readers and for that matter, the girls themselves! The result of this episode is also very interesting because it reveals one or two quite critical situations which come out in the wash as it were.

The St Clare's series began with the twins — Pat and Isabel, and featured them as anchor-points throughout the series, and finally it ends with these two popular students who ultimately gain an additional enhancement to their school career.
It does not seem clear as to whether it was just the first formers who were the fags because Claudine's young sister who is about fourteen was also called upon and she's in the second form. Jane Teal who is fourteen and her friend Sally who presumably would be the same age were also regularly visiting the fifth form studies to perform tasks. In the chapter "Angela Loses Her Temper" Jane is referred to as a half-baked first former and certainly there were some fourteen and fifteen year-olds in that form so it could go either way. Inconsistencies like this occur every now and again in the Blyton collection and searching them out can be a bit of fun.

Quite regularly this particular book of the series gains a very high place in the polls — and I think it is well-deserved. Despite the title, this volume is unfortunately the last in the series and I'm sure many fans would like to have discovered another half-dozen books (by the same author of course) some of which could have been Upper Sixth at St Clare's, Seventh Formers of St Clare's, St Clare-ites at University, Ex-Students' Daughters at St. Clare's ... and more such titles which are limited only by one's imagination. These illustrations are hidden by default to ensure faster browsing. Loading the illustrations is recommended for high-speed internet users only.