It was always going to be incredibly difficult to choose only one book by Elinor Brent-Dyer for this list. I almost chose The Chalet School in Exile in an effort to have both Austria and Guernsey, two of my favourite places in real life, but in the end I chose The School at the Chalet because it’s where it all begins. And, although it isn’t my favourite story (I like Rivals of the Chalet School and Jo Returns to the Chalet School as well as Exile), I think it has the best descriptions and brings Pertisau and its environs back to me whenever I read it. I like it, too, because Madge Bettany, the school’s founder, is such a believable character to whom one can still relate in it. And it’s one of the few Chalet books that makes me think I’d like to be there. It has such a strong and real sense of community.
Think of resistance fighters of the Second World War and you will almost certainly have France in mind. Mal Peet’s novel of that time, however, focuses on the intertwined and inter-dependant lives of one cell of the Dutch resistance during the cold, hungry winter of 1944. Tamar tells two stories: that of the eponymous present-day heroine alongside her SOE agent grandfather’s. The shift between the two is skilful and unobtrusive, the one often coming as a relief from the other. For this book is not an easy or undemanding read. It is powerful and shocking but it is also memorable and compelling. I guarantee that, as Tamar uncovers her grandfather’s tragic and terrible story, you will be as surprised and horrified as she is.