Top positive review
Hilarious and horrifying in roughly equal measure!
11 November 2017
I originally ordered this as a gift for my sister (a lecturer in gender studies) as I thought she would find it interesting. Then it was inexplicably delayed for nearly a year but I was sufficiently intrigued to buy it when it was re-released. Reading a review on the American Amazon site I think I understand why, it cites a story where the headmistress of one school routinely kisses and gropes her sixth form girls goodnight. That story is not included in my edition so I suspect it was edited out of the published edition due to all the current child abuse hysteria, it rather beggared belief that you could have so many teenage girls living together without male companionship and have nothing more than asexual 'pashes' (crushes) on one another and the occasional hint at romances between the staff.
Nevertheless, the published version is a terrific read, a lost world and perhaps deservedly so, the upper and middle classes of the empire dumping their daughters off as they left for overseas assignments or in the hope of social climbing. You don't know whether to laugh or cry at these poor girls arriving with expectations of 'Mallory Towers' and other fictional idealized girls schools and finding the reality so different, one girl commenting that everyone was so mean and cruel so she had to be mean and cruel too. I remember I loved the Billy Bunter stories as a kid until a friend of mine who'd actually been to boarding school informed me of their true nature. When you look at how some of the high profile people who emerged (survived?) from this experience turned out it now seems so obvious why. I remember doubting Sandi Toksvig's story of her boarding school where they were only allowed to watch Top of the Pops in black and white because colour would have been too exciting for them but after this book is seems so plausible.
So a great read and I'd recommend it to all.