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The Twins at St. Clare's
By Enid Blyton
Methuen, 1941

The Twins at St. Clare's is the first of the St. Clare's School series, six books following the girls at a private boarding school (a private school in the UK sense, what Americans would call a public school). It is not very different from other books/series of the same sort -- in fact, the series was started only a year after The Naughtiest Girl in the School, and Blyton wrote all six St. Clare books during the same years as the first three Naughtiest Girl books. After finishing the St. Clare books, she immediately started on the Malory Towers books. Apparently, it was boarding school time.

Isabel and Pat O'Sullivan are a bit stuck up -- they are coming to St. Clare's from an expensive public school, and are rather annoyed that they didn't get to go with their friends to the high-brow Ringmere School. They decide that they will enjoy nothing at St. Clare's, refuse to participate in activities that they didn't have to do at their previous school, and show how much better they are than these more common children. Also, they will be well-liked and respected by all.

Surprisingly, this plan doesn't work out. They make some dumb mistakes, are scolded by their betters, reform their ways, act decent to the other girls a couple times, and Isabel wins a lacrosse match. Thus properly socialized, they become well-liked. As a coda, they then help some other poor misguided girls become better people by means of their newly acquired powers of compassion.

This is a quite nice mix of 1940s anthropology, childhood wish-fulfillment, and a series of slice-of-life adventures that tie together to make a nice arc. It is also moralizing and twee, and often predictable. Later books will contain more adventures, but in this first book there's nothing more exciting than the twins sneaking out for a trip to the circus that they've been unfairly denied (naughty, but don't worry, karma slaps them down). The saving grace of these books is that Blyton makes for a very light and engaging read; if they aren't great literature, at least they're quick and fun.

Because these books were written in the 40s, they are probably not something to recommend to the average kid. Aside from some light scorn for the lower classes, there is nothing in these books for parents to object to, but most kids would probably prefer something in the modern idiom. On the other hand, if you happen to have one of those weird kids who are actually interested in how their grandparents had to suffer through French lessons and life without cellphones, this is probably one of the easier entry points into ancient children's literature.


The St. Clare's School series:

  1. The Twins at St. Clare's (1941)
  2. The O'Sullivan Twins (1942)
  3. Summer Term at St. Clare's (1943)
  4. Second Form at St. Clare's (1944)
  5. Claudine at St. Clare's (1944)
  6. Fifth Formers at St. Clare's (1945)