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School Under Snowdon by Mabel Esther Allan
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School Under Snowdon

by Mabel Esther Allan

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201515,329 (3.71)None

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Bereft after the death of her father, young Verity Armitage, passionately attached to her home on the Isle of Wight, is dismayed when her aunt and guardian announces that she is to be sent to a boarding school in North Wales, under the shadow of Snowdon. Llanrhysydd Castle, whose very name seems outlandish to the "Anglo-Saxon" Verity, is a progressive, co-educational school, one in which the student Council plays a large part in running affairs. As if this weren't intimidating enough, in the eyes of a shy young girl who had always been educated at home, the pupils at Llanrhysydd were keen debaters and avid mountain-climbers, and the busy school life left few opportunities for the solitude that a budding young writer like Verity desired. Stiff and unhappy, Verity makes a poor first impression at school, where her tense relationship with her cousin Daffila, a popular and well-established member of the student body, causes some concern. The only bright spot in this new existence is Verity's friendship with the equally unhappy Welsh girl, Gwenllian Davies, who also resents being sent to Llanrhysydd, to which she appears to have some mysterious connection. Slowly, as Verity becomes concerned for her rebellious friend, who seems unable to accept the Council's prohibition on pupils under fifteen belonging to the Mountaineering Club, or the fact that she is not allowed to enter the Bardic Circle's tower room, the unhappy English girl begins to adjust to her new life...

I enjoyed School Under Snowdon quite a bit, immediately recognizing the setting and many of the characters from some of Mabel Esther Allan's short stories - notably, Gwynyth's Mountain Problem, in the collection Queen Rita at the High School and Other School Stories, and Unwillingly to Wales, from the collection The Two Head Girls and Other School Stories - that are also set at Llanrhysydd Castle. Although highly - one might even say, unrealistically - idealized, the school environment here provides an interesting contrast to that seen in more traditional school stories. Not only are the students largely self-governing - something that reminded me strongly of the pedagogical ideals espoused by the Polish educational reformer and children's author, Janusz Korczak, in works such as King Matt the First - but they also seem friendly, well-adjusted, and free from some of the usual school-day impulses that might cause problems in a less perfect world. Boys and girls get along, with no 'nonsense' (presumably romantic) between them - something a former pupil maintains in a related Allan story, Swiss School; the older students never bully or condescend to the younger, who also have a voice on the Council; the Welsh and English pupils are all good friends, and never seem to squabble along national lines, even when the question of Welsh nationalism arises; and the pupils are responsible for arranging their own studies around their particular areas of interest, provided certain basic requirements are met. In short: exactly the kind of school C.S. Lewis excoriated at the beginning of The Silver Chair, and the only kind of boarding school I would have ever consented to attend myself. That said, things did sometimes feel a little too easily resolved here, and the frequent forbearance shown by the established Llanrhysydd pupils to the recalcitrant newcomers, although admirable, often felt rather unlikely. Still, I enjoyed the story, and the setting of School Under Snowdon, and if I saw certain developments - the fact that Llanrhysydd was once Gwenllian's family home, or that Verity's children's book, Adventure on the Island, was accepted for publication at the end of the tale - coming from far off, it did not spoil the reading. Recommended to school-story fans, particularly those looking for school settings that are a little different. ( )
  AbigailAdams26 | Jun 17, 2015 |
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Left an orphan after a sheltered life, Verity is sent by her aunt to a co-educational school in Wales where her cousin, Daffila, is already a pupil. Verity dislikes her cousin and hates the Welsh mountains but she makes friends with Gwenllian, a mysterious girl who is miserable because she is not allowed to do any climbing. During a terrible blizzard and flood it becomes necessary for someone to cross the mountains for a doctor.
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