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Rumours in the Fourth Form ... Illustrated,…

Rumours in the Fourth Form ... Illustrated, etc

by Dorothy Dennison

Other authors: Arthur Twidle (Illustrator)

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Originally published in 1925, Rumours in the Fourth Form is the story of Rosemary Aston, who comes to Rothermere High School as a new girl, and finds that some of her fellow pupils, particularly the clique led by snooty Natalia Foreman, seem hostile to her. What Rosemary does not know, because her mother had deliberately kept her ignorant of the fact, is that her father - an Englishman who lived for many years in Lucerne, Switerland, where she herself was born and raised - was widely believed to be a thief, one who committed suicide after his shady dealings brought his business down, and that this fact had come to be common knowledge at Rothermere, thanks to Natalia, who overheard headmistress Miss Loughton making reference to it, and did some investigating of her own. Although Rosemary soon has her own coterie of devoted friends, from mischievous Gwen Forrester to merry May Bryant (known as "Matches," because of her fiery hair), the damage done by malicious gossip can not be completely undone, and she is made desperately unhappy by Natalia's (inevitable) revelations. Was Rosemary's father truly a thief and suicide? Would she have to live in that shadow all her life? Most of all, when Rosemary, in a moment of weakness, does wrong herself, will she have the strength to put it right...?

This girls' school story from Dorothy Dennison is an interesting example of the genre, as it straddles the line between the earlier Victorian school story tradition, in which religious conversion and conviction play such an important role, and the newer developments of the interwar years, in which concerns about schoolgirl honor become paramount, supplanting spiritual matters such as sin, redemption and Christian fellowship. On the one hand, honor is explicitly made an issue from the very beginning of the book, as Natalia's actions, in listening to a private conversation, are debated by the girls of the Fourth Form. On the other hand, the resolution of Rosemary's crisis comes through a Sunday Bible class to which Gwen invites her, and during which she experiences a religious conversion. Her efforts to make restitution for the wrong she has done are couched in explicitly Christian terms, as is the final denouement in her ongoing conflict with Natalia. Dennison is apparently a writer in the evangelistic mode, so I believe her subsequent stories retained the religious themes that were no longer common, in the rest of the genre, but the appearance of concerns about "honour" (as opposed to Christian virtue) here, does point to the changes occurring in the wider world of British children's literature.

That tension, between older and newer themes in the school story genre, gives Rumours in the Fourth Form, which has a foot in each world, an interesting feeling. If the resolution to the story was somewhat improbable - coincidence piled upon coincidence, with all troubles being miraculously resolved, through a sort of deus-ex-machina - it was still a pleasant little read, especially for those with an interest in the genre. Recommended primarily to readers with a strong interest in school stories. ( )
  AbigailAdams26 | Apr 1, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Dorothy Dennisonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Twidle, ArthurIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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When one of the girls in the Fourth Form at Rothermere High School overhears the headmistress discussing a new girl, and a scandal involving her father, rumours - about what he could have done, and what his daughter will be like - are soon rife amongst the pupils.

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