I have a soft spot for classic Girl’s Own fiction, especially boarding school stories written (roughly) between 1920 and 1960. There’s something about a boarding school story that appealed to me as a child and continues to appeal to me today. They’re a version of England, and the idea of the ‘stiff upper lip’, that never quite existed. There’s an innocence to them, and in the best ones, a message about being the best you that you can be.
My introduction to this niche genre probably came from Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers and St. Clare’s books, where good characters get their rewards, and bad ones their comeuppance. Darrell Rivers influenced me hugely as a child with a temper that I couldn’t always control, and she remains one of my favourite fictional characters. Not long afterwards, a friend bought me a book simply because it was on sale and she knew I loved to read. That book was A Problem for the Chalet School by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer, and it sent me on a still-not-quite-completed quest to own the entire series.
The quest has not been without its complications. The book series, as I encountered it, consisted of 62 books, and it turned out that many of these had been edited for paperback publication. I then learned that there were actually only 58 books, but some titles had been split in two for paperback publication. As I scoured second-hand bookshops and the internet (a trickier proposition at the time!), I discovered that although the Chalet School series had been in more or less continuous print since 1925, not every title had been republished in every print cycle. In other words, there were titles that were almost impossible to find, especially if you were looking for the original, unedited texts. And then there were the connecting titles, many of which had never be republished at all.
In 2000, a group of Brent-Dyer fans decided to republish the La Rochelle series which had direct links to the Chalet School books, and had been out of print for decades. On the back of their success with this, they established Girls Gone By Publishing (GGBP), an independent publishing house which aimed to reprint Brent-Dyer’s works, and the works of other forgotten Girls’ Own authors. Thanks to their efforts, I’ve read some truly wonderful books that I would otherwise never have come across. But, and this is where the Things I Want title comes into play, it’s 2016 and they still haven’t published the entirety of the Chalet School series.
Now I get that it’s their company, and I’m grateful to them for being so passionate about something I love, but 16 years later, I just really want the whole series in this one format, unedited and with original illustrations included. It’s selfish, but I want it! Part of what frustrates me is that GGBP have republished several of the rarer Chalet School titles more than once. That’s clearly due to demand, but it means that the titles that are commonly available keep dropping to the bottom of the publication schedule, making me wonder if I’ll ever own the entire, unedited series.
So there you have it. The (Selfish) Things I Want.