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March 2019



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In Prunella Plays the Game by Irene Mossop (first published 1929), the game is cricket, hurrah! Although Prunella is the new girl and titular heroine, this book is really about her cousin Jacinth: plain, good humoured and underestimated. St Prisca’s is a boarding school for sixty or seventy girls, depending on which page you believe. The previous headmistress was rather lax and a group of girls, headed by another of Prunella’s cousins, the lovely Camellia (known as Queen) has had things all its own way. The in-crowd run everything to suit themselves and their friends regardless of talent. This has particularly affected Thyra, a brilliant but wayward girl who has never been allowed to shine and has turned to mischief instead. (It's rather cheek of girls called Thyra, Dione and Aveline to tease Prunella about her unusual name.)

The new head, Miss Kestrell (The Hawk, obviously) is determined to get the school to pull together and perceptively appoints Jacinth head of the Rubies, to the amusement of Queen and her set. How Jake builds up a successful cricket second XI, doggedly defending her own decisions and her friends, makes for a very entertaining story with believable characters. Even the baddies are not all bad and astonishingly the girls visit some ruins without getting trapped inside them and have a boating mishap with no one even near drowning.

I liked this book so much that I fished out Charm’s Last Chance (1931) by the same author. I’ve had this for a while but never read it. There is a slight connection between the two books as both schools are on the same local circuit. Again we have a school divided; this time it’s boarders against day girls at St. Anne's. Again we have a related pair, sisters this time, one good looking and outgoing, the other plainer, quieter but with more solid virtues. There’s the added mystery about Charm, the new day girl and her past relationship with Jean, head of the remove. Cricket is again used as a test of character as well as skill. The relationships between the girls are well explored but there are three heroic rescues in the book and the plot is itself somewhat melodramatic. I much preferred Prunella, yet Charm was popular enough to be reprinted in the Children’s Press series. A pity, because reading just this one might put you off an interesting author. Incidentally, how old would you guess the girl on the cover to be?


Ha ha! I thought the artist made her look too young! She's fifteen.

You'd be surprised how many men do read these books. I have a complete set of Jennings. They still make me laugh out loud but they are a completely different genre from the classic girls' school story.
I started collecting the Jennings books because my daughter loved (loves) them so much. Like me, she was about seven when she began.

Prunella and Co. are rather an esoteric taste. Enid Blyton's Malory Towers books and E M Brent-Dyer's Chalet School series are still popular with young girls and would probably be the ones for Ivy.
I am notoriously bad at estimating ages, but...about 10.
I thought maybe twelve. She's actually fifteen and a strapping lass.
Excellent reviews. I now want to reread The Secret of Border Castle by Angela Brazil, one of my favourite school stories.
Good plan. I like Angela Brazil more than most people do and get annoyed with people always putting her down.
Body of a nine-year old, face of a twenty-five-year old.

I'm intrigued at the prevalence of cricket in these stories. I'd always thought Kingscote was a bit odd in playing it but maybe it used to be more widespread among girls' schools. At my girls' boarding school in the 1980's cricket was an option you could choose in U6, which usually meant it was only played by rabbits who weren't already enjoying tennis/rounders/athletics...
Ha ha!

Cricket does appear in a lot of other school stories of the period although off the top of my head I can't remember any. Oh, hang on. Jen plays rather well in the Abbey series. Obviously the best book ever about schoolgirl cricket is The Cricket Term.

We played cricket at school and two of our games teachers were in the England Women's team, so it was taken quite seriously. I think lack of pitches probably stops a lot of schools from offering cricket.
We had a cricket pitch (rubbish rural comprehensive) but only boys got to play.
only boys got to play.
*is shocked*