Christine Poulson (author, blogger and academic) and I became friends via blogging, and because of my enthusiasm for her excellent crime novels.
Last year she and I shared our lists of favourite Agatha Christie books – this is my list, while hers is here – and our books that made us laugh. We enjoyed this a lot, and the lists were very popular with readers, so we’re going to do more. Today we are each publishing a list of favourite schools in books – Christine’s blogpost is here. Here are my books (with links to blog entries where relevant) – we’re hoping for lots of great additions in the comments.
1) Meadowbank, a select all-girl boarding school in Agatha Christie’s Cat Among the Pigeons. The games mistress is murdered, the foreign princess is abducted, the gardener is an impostor. That’s what I call a proper school. Also, it seems the girls have rooms to themselves, not dormitories. Also, contains one of my all-time favourite Christie lines, after schoolgirl Julia tells Poirot that her Aunt serves up ‘peculiar’ food, but ‘makes smashing omelettes.’
“Hercule Poirot has not lived in vain,” he said. ‘It was I who taught your Aunt Maureen to make an omelette.”(To get the full effect you have to have read Mrs McGinty's Dead, where Aunt Maureen's cooking is a feature.)
2) The Marcia Blaine Academy in Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, a select day school in Edinburgh. I always fear that I would not have been one of the crème de la crème, Miss B would not have taken a fancy to me. For a start, I would have had my sleeves rolled up like someone ‘doing a day’s washing.’ She says: ‘I won’t have to do with girls who roll up the sleeves of their blouses… Roll them down at once, we are civilized beings.’
3) Linbury Court, where Jennings and Derbyshire hang out in the books by Anthony Buckeridge – wandered over from my list of books to make me laugh.
4) St Custard’s, home to Nigel Molesworth in the books by Geoffrey Willans and
Ronald Searle. Home also to his ‘grate frend Peason’, and head boy Grabber, and Fotherington Thomas skipping round saying ‘Hello clouds, Hello sky.’ Either you are straight-faced and unamused, or you are smiling already and hoping to win the Mrs Joyful prize for raffia work.
5) Honest to goodness, old-fashioned school stories: Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers was my great favourite when I was very young….
6) …..while Antonia Forest’s books set at Kingscote School (Autumn Term, End of Term, Cricket Term, Attic Term) exert a magnetic hold over their fans well into adulthood.
7) What Katy Did at School by Susan Coolidge – Katy Carr and her sister Clover go to Hillsover School, hundreds of miles from their home in the mid-West of the USA, and stay there for a year with no holidays – this is the 1870s. I loved the SSUC – the Society for the Suppression of Unladylike Conduct – with faithfully-reproduced games and verses. And it would be a sad heart that didn’t beat faster when the girls get their Christmas boxes: Coolidge lists the contents, and then describes how Katy and Clover share the goodies out with pupils whose parcels haven’t got through the snow yet.
8) I have to choose one more murder mystery – schools, and any academic institutions, are my favourite settings for a crime story. So I’ll go with Nicholas Blake’s 1935 A Question of Proof. It has all the proper ingredients: beautiful wife of the headmaster, the young master in trouble, the unpopular schoolboy being murdered. The first book to feature Blake’s regular sleuth Nigel Strangeways, and apparently noted at the time for quoting from TS Eliot – young intellectuals sat up when they read that in the book, did they know that the writer was really poet C Day Lewis?
So that’s my eight – look forward to seeing what Chrissie chose, and hope to have lots of extras from the comments….
ADDED LATER: Intriguingly, Christine and I (who did not compare notes beforehand) have a very high proportion of our books-in-schools in common - I was very surprised...