So I finally managed to finish reading Summer Term at St Clare’s for my review this week.
It’s a nice story, and has quite a few smaller stories that I recognise from the Malory Towers series. This is the third book in the St Clare’s series and it starts with the twins being on Easter Holidays (four whole weeks for Easter – jealous!) They go to play tennis with a friend, and find out that the girl who was playing with them has mumps! The twins are now in quarantine, and unable to go back to school until two weeks into the term, which is a great disappointment to these reformed twins.
When they get the all clear they head back to school, glad to be back with their friends and wanting to know who the new girls are. In fact there are quite a few this term; there is Bobby, a quick witted prankster, Pam, a hard working thirteen year old, Carlotta, a mysterious half Spanish girl, Sadie, a vain American girl and the sneaky, pious Prudence.
These girls provide much of the action in this story, with the twins and the older girls getting sidelined for the antics of the new girls. Prudence makes up quite a lot of the action in this book. She is a sneak and thinks that she is making herself liked by the teachers. She is jealous of Bobby and Carlotta who are easily accepted, and thinks herself much better than these two girls and goes out of her way to try and make life difficult for these two girls, but it always seems to backfire on her.
There are plenty of tricks going on in this book, mostly played by Bobby, ones that seem to get her into heaps and heaps of trouble, but all the girls like her. She makes firm friends with Janet and they get along fine. They remind me a bit of Irene and Belinda in Malory Towers because of the way that Irene takes Belinda under her wing, but in reality they are more like Alicia and Betty with all the tricks they play.
Sadie, the American is instantly recognisable as the prelude to Malory Tower’s Zerelda, but has none of Zerelda’s charm or likeability. She fades easily into the background of the story only for a short dramatic part towards the end of the novel, but I shan’t spoil it for you.
Carlotta seems to carry a lot of the story on her shoulders, and between her and Prudence they help the reader get through the book. There is something in the mystery of Carlotta that makes her fascinating; she’s quiet and clearly hiding something, good with horses and in gym.
Prudence is the ‘baddie’ of the book, and I think she’s one of the nastiest school girls I’ve come across in Blyton’s books. She’s sneaky, a liar, manipulative, weak, judgemental… and the list goes on! In parts she reminds me of Gwendoline in Malory Towers but even Gwen was never as bad as Prudence. Its a shame in a way that Miss Theobald doesn’t give Prudence the chances that Miss Grayling gives Gwendoline, but perhaps Blyton didn’t like Prudence either and didn’t want to write her any more! I don’t suppose we shall ever find out.
After the second book, The O’Sullivan Twins where part of the school caught fire, the Summer Term does seem rather tame. There is plenty going on, but none of it seems to last very long, lots of tiny ideas with potential squished into a chapter or two. It’s a shame because even though Malory Towers will always be a favourite of mine, it would be nice to feel a bit more connected to the St Clare’s books, and the stories just don’t do it for me. As I have mentioned before, I do keep seeing connections to Malory Towers and my belief is that MT carried the ideas off better; Blyton was more planned and in control.
Something else I have mentioned before, the twins seem to have very little to do in this book, their shining moment, dashed somewhat when Isobel sprains her ankle in a tennis match and they are unable to win. However, it is perhaps possible that there is a move away from the twins for a reason, as the book is not named after them in anyway, Blyton felt that it might be best that they rest for now.
At the end of the story we are told that a number of girls, including the twins will be moving up to the Second Form, and that is where we join them next time.