I have a great fondness for the British School Girl genre--I find tales of plucky girls at boarding school rather soothing in a pleasantly escapist way. I don't talk about them much here, because it's so very rare to have a new one to read, in as much as almost every author I collect is dead. But thanks to small publishers reissuing hard-to-find books, sometimes there are new-to-me books to read...books like Erica Wins Through, by Josephine Elder (originally published in 1924, recently republished by Girls Gone By Publishers).
Josephine Elder wrote one of my Favorite Books Ever--Evelyn Finds Herself. It's an incredibly intelligent look at the coming of age of an extremely likable heroine, which I particularly enjoy because of Evelyn's focus on botany with an eye to a medical career (I do so enjoy school books in which people are actually learning interesting things, and in which people take school seriously!) Erica was Elder's first foray into the school girl world, so I wasn't expecting it to quite measure up to Evelyn; still, there was much to enjoy here.
12 year old Erica resents that her brother has been sent to boarding school, while she herself has been left at home with a new governess. After her bad behavior makes it clear that she will not cooperate, she's packed off to boarding school herself. Shy, quirky, and uncertain, Erica has trouble fitting in...there are mean girls, and strange customs, and so Erica retreats into a world of daydreams. But happily she finds two comrades at arms, her hockey playing improves, and she begins to apply her intellect (she's an ace at Latin) and creativity (expressed as set design in the end of term play) to the world of the school, with happy results.
It's fairly standard, plot-wise, but Elder manages to make Erica both believable and likable. It is nice to escape into a world where the problems experienced by the central character are both utterly like one's own, but applicable to one's own life--the conflict between conformity and main tining one's own identity, the shy girl finding confidence. Erica's particular personality makes her story (initial horrible-ness of boarding school, followed by the pleasures of becoming one of a threesome) especially appealing to introverts.
In short, I'm very glad my sister got it for Christmas! My own school story was The School On Cloud Ridge, by Mabel Esther Allan, which I haven't read yet....I had to read my sister's books first, of course, because of going our separate ways.