Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Review: Penelope’s Prefects (1950) by Judith Carr

Penelope's PrefectsPenelope’s Prefects by Judith Carr
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Three and a half-ish stars.

School Story Type: Madcap Schoolgirl.

Given a scholarly, vague and forgetful Prefect for the ill-reputed Middle School, the Middle School monitress, Penelope, decides to reform her form with the help of her self-appointed “prefects”, her best chums. Given that Penelope is not exactly a model schoolgirl herself–it’s beyond me why she’s monitress in the first place–her gang’s efforts to bully the form into line only cause more chaos.

The plot is predictable enough: ill-advised attempts to improve things, followed by rebellion by other girls, pitched physical skirmishes and predicaments and furious mistresses and seniors. Detention and punishments inevitably follow, including the fairly barbaric one of being locked in a cupboard for half an hour a day. But you know all will be well in the end, and Penelope and her “prefects” will win out.

The girls often seem too young and idiotic for their age, and there is a preoccupation with stockings and suspenders, including trying to wrestle them off each other to put the seams straight, which feels quite strange out of historical context. All the manic energy is a bit tiring after a while, too, and I found myself wishing Penelope was just a wee bit more self-reflective, and that her schoolfellows had a wee bit more personality. But these are prettyy minor complaints.

All in all, this is an amusing and sometimes sparkling example of the madcap schoolgirl subgenre.

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