The first books I seriously set about collecting were the Chalet School books by Elinor M Brent-Dyer. I acquired the first one (actually the seventeenth in a series of fifty eight) when I was eight. It took me until I was twenty five to complete my collection. In the early days, Mum found many of them for me and they became birthday and Christmas presents. Although they hadn’t reached the ridiculous heights of their value in my early collecting days, they were still expensive enough for a family on a limited budget.
My best Chalet School collecting story comes from when I was around ten. We were driving back to Lossiemouth, having (I think) visited my grandparents in Musselburgh. We stopped en route in St Andrews and came across a secondhand bookshop near the golf course. Naturally we went in and I discovered two Chalet books I didn’t have: Althea Joins the Chalet School and Prefects of the Chalet School, the final two in the series. I still had holiday money left, just enough to cover the cost of both of them. I swithered and swithered, doubtless driving everyone concerned crazy, and eventually decided to buy both. I’m very glad I did as, only a few years later, I saw these books on sale at £350 each. I had paid a total of 70p!
I have chosen Jo Returns to the Chalet School as today’s book. It’s one of the early titles and is set in inter-war Austria in the fictionalised (and renamed) Pertisau-am-Achensee. The first fourteen titles, set primarily in Pertisau, are my favourites, partly because of their setting and partly because I think they’re better books than most of the later ones. I often cite Jo Returns as one of my favourite books in the series but sometimes I think it’s because of the wonderful dustwrapper and plates by the artist Nina K Brisley.