I am a massive fan of vintage school stories, especially those written by prolific author Angela Brazil, who was instrumental in popularising and developing the genre. I’ve been collecting them for about 8 years, and have quite the collection! Monitress Merle was one I picked up in Hay on Wye – I just couldn’t resist that title!
Book: Monitress Merle by Angela Brazil
Read before: No
Ownership: Had a while, but never got round to reading.
This is a perfect example of the genre – set between the wars, it has a charming innocence to it. Brazil’s girls largely exist outside of time, and the majority of her books stick with a girl or a family of girls for a single term, when they are around 14. Monitress Merle is unusual in that it is the second book about this particular pair of sisters, Mavis and Merle, and also features a family who appeared in a different book, so this one had a little more foundation to it – however, changes in the management of the school meant that there was still a stand-alone feel, and the book can certainly be read on its own without any prior knowledge.
There’s friendships to maintain, teachers to deal with, pranks to play, mild peril to be had (in this case, as with most of the books featuring schools by the sea, the danger is posed mostly by the tide), and while this book doesn’t include a midnight feast, there are societies, prefect elections, and all sorts of school fun. If you’ve read any of the Malory Towers or St Clare’s books, this will feel like familiar territory. Perfect for a quiet sunny afternoon of nostalgia (even if you went to a boring comprehensive in the 2000s like me, and not a boarding school in a castle in Cornwall in the 1920s, like Merle).
4 cats out of 5!