Reading books about School Girls

Here are the thoughts of Lucy Mangan, a columnist for the Guardian, on why she is not rushing to embrace the remake of the Famous Five. She feels that "the assumptions that underpin these remodelling quests deserve to be unpicked from time to time - the main one being that children want, or should be provided with, only entertainment that reflects their own reality."

As a grown up who really does not want to read any book that reflects my own reality (especially the messy house bit), and who can attribute most of her general knowledge to reading books about places and peoples far away in time and space, I say hear hear. I read to be taken somewhere else, which is one reason I enjoy English school stories so much--the stark contrast between regimented tidy life of that alien creature, the School Girl, and my own life, to which cannot apply the word "controlled," is great. In my favorite stories, the School Girl turns against the regimentation, and bravely makes her own path, allowing me to think, comfortingly, that I would do the same (rather than just get into constant trouble over my untidy sock drawer).

Lucy Mangan is also a fan of school stories, and uses them as one of her own examples, although she highlights a different aspect of their unreality--"Dimsie, the Marlows and the Chalet School heroines articulated the vanishing ideas of moral duty and the honour of the school, and although I never got to demonstrate either - not being able to play lacrosse, never mind with a fractured leg, and the shortage of clifftop rescue opportunities in the Lewisham borough - it was good to know they had once existed, and the knowledge afforded a valuable glimpse into the minds of grandparents and teachers whose thinking had been moulded by such strange notions."

I've read the three series above--all are beautifully escapist, but I would most recommend Antonia Forest's books about the Marlow family. The writing is incredibly sharp.

And then there's the wonderful case of Millie in Diana Wynne Jones' The Lives of Christopher Chant, who uses this same genre to escape from her childhood as a living goddess ...

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