The book that I wish I’d written? I think the obvious choice would be The Chalet School In Exile by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer (1940). I find it a remarkable achievement because it recognizes what the Second World War was doing to the world and addresses it head on. It offers young female readers a way to ‘fight’ – ideologically and culturally – whilst also being unafraid to tell them of the horrors of Nazism. In a time where many writers were wrestling with decisions about what to do – and some of them were ignoring the real world entirely – Brent-Dyer told her readers that it was all going to be okay. They were going to survive.
Can I be naughty and sneak another pick in? I’m very fond of The Princess of The Chalet School (1927) which is an earlier title from the same series. Princess gives you an excellent school story (featuring the most dastardly of Matrons) and then it throws in a royal family, a dastardly plot, and incidental tips on the appropriate clothing to wear while you’re escaping from your potential captors. I mean, what more do you want? It’s just the most genuine adventure, and I love it.
Daisy May Johnson’s book, How to Be Brave, is published by Pushkin Press, 978-1782693253, £7.99 pbk.
The Chalet School books are available from Girls Gone By Publishers, www.ggbp.co.uk.