I say, old sport. What a ripping story! Three cheers for Angela Brazil and her jolly schoolgirl tales!
I have never been a huge fan of stories set in boarding schools, unless they have a magical element. It’s therefore unsurprising that I’ve not encountered Brazil’s work before although I’ve read work influenced by her. This novel, first published in 1920, turned up as one of my random Project Gutenberg reads.
Skip the deadly dull hockey matches and what you’ll find is a well-written story which is both modern and of its time. It follows Ingred Saxon, the popular schoolgirl of the title. Her family life changes when they can’t afford to move back into their lovely house, which was used by the Red Cross during the War. Worse luck, the girl who lives there now would be a wonderful friend but Ingred refuses to like her. There are various troubles with her brothers and sister, which you know will be resolved by the end. One issue I had with the story was that there was no villain. Ingred is her own worst enemy and although she is a decent sort, she must strive to be a better and more useful member of society. Even the teachers were all right and the meanest girl in the class is said to be capable of telling lies. It’s all a bit too pleasant for today’s young readership, I suspect. The Empire spirit and English patriotism in the school, plus the use of cocoa powder to emulate an exotic skin tone for fancy dress, would be frowned upon now. However, there are some classic comedy moments and daring escapades which definitely make this book worth reading.
There is an added historical interest, as the effect of the First World War on civilian life is explored. Cinema culture is also referred to and there is even a mention of looking like a flapper. The illustrations by Balliol Solomon are decidedly contemporary, showing the schoolgirls as uniformly tall and slim with bodies like cigarettes. It has occurred to me that this book, in which teenagers are the main characters, would have been in the category of YA fiction, had that category existed at the time.
In summary, I recommend this book, old chum. It’s simply topping, although the hockey is rather a bore.
2 thoughts on “Review of ‘A Popular Schoolgirl’ by Angela Brazil”
I’ve never heard of this book before though it does sound like an interesting read! Great review. 🙂
Thanks! I think possibly she’s a little out of fashion but maybe could do with some new readers! I would never have read it, without my Project Gutenberg random reads 🙂