As the Chalet School opens for its first term in Switzerland, Barbara Chester is not the only newcomer for Upper IVB. There’s the form’s other new girl, day girl Sue Meadows, and the school is also welcoming a new form-mistress in the shape of Old Chaletian (and former ‘Saint’) Nancy Wilmot.
Nancy is thrilled to join the Chalet School as its new maths mistress. She is warmly welcomed and delighted to meet up again with her old friend Hilary on the Platz. Everything looks rosy, so she’s puzzled when she finds herself feeling like something of an outsider. Very last thing she ever expected to feel at the Chalet School is that she doesn’t fit in—but life in the Staff Room isn’t always as easy as she’d imagined it would be. Teaching and helping sort out the problems of girls in her form is the simple part—it’s feeling she belongs that is more difficult. It takes her a little time (and some wise words from Miss Annersley), to find her true place in the school.
Sue, meanwhile, is accustomed to living life on the outside. Solitary by nature, she’s been more than content in the past to go her own quiet way, happy in the companionship of her mother and father. When her parents must travel abroad and her aunt asks that Sue accompany them to the Alps to be a companion to her cousin, Leila, Sue is excited by the prospect of going to the Chalet School but a little dismayed by the thought of having to spend all her time with other people. Leila is very ill – she is also demanding, sulky and at times an absolute horror. Sue has to draw on deep wells of patience and understanding to cope with life in the Elisehütte, the chalet her aunt has rented. Her first term at the Chalet School brings its own share of challenges, too. There’s a bully in her form, and Sue also finds herself fielding questions from some of the more inquisitive members of the form about her home situation—questions she is not inclined to answer. Sharing a room with the triplets brings a rare moment of pleasure and offers a glimpse of what might lie ahead if only Aunt Adela can be persuaded to let Sue board at times. Luckily there are people at the school concerned for her welfare. It takes the combined ingenuity of Nancy Wilmot and a sympathetic Jo Maynard, as well as an unexpected snowstorm, to see that Sue has opportunities for some proper school fun, even while helping look after her cousin.
By the end of the term, both Sue and Nancy have faced their own problems and look forward to a happier future in the Chalet School in the Alps.
The action of this book takes place during the term covered in The Chalet School and Barbara.
The Chalet School Returns to the Alps was published on 8th June 2021.