Hello, all. First post, having discovered the community very recently and thrilled to encounter other AF nit-pickers, as curiously few people in my life are capable of worrying about what Daks did all day in Noah's Ark, or who think in times of peril or indecision 'What would Nicola Marlow do?'
Was amused by other people's various comparisons with the Chalet School series, and a thought occurred, in the context of the discussions of how much AF expects the reader to adopt Nicola's POV. What about the conspicuous school 'failures' in either case? How much are we supposed to despise the Kingscote failures?
The Chalet reforms virtually everybody who steps between its fragrant floral cubicle curtains, bar the proto-Nazi Thekla von Stift (who, however, as far as I can remember, did do a Gwendolen Mary Lacey by later writing a half-ashamed letter to Mademoiselle Lepattre to apologise for her bad behaviour...?) and Joan Baker, who combined, from the Chalet's point of view, the twin scourges of being working-class and distinctly sexually savvy. All others are butted in upon by Joey or Mary Lou until they desist from being anything other than good Chalet girls.
The obvious Kingscote 'failure' (cue inevtable Tim Keith joke) is Marie Dobson, whose death has always chilled me rather. (AF deciding to get rid of a character who is so utterly useless she is effortlessly trumped by the 'pale idiot rabbit' Elaine Rees in The Prince and the Pauper and thereafter goes downhill? There seems to me both realism and contempt in the manner of her death. Heart failure from getting up to turn on Top of the Pops, really, when Nick is continually risking her neck jumping the Cut on Buster, outwitting spies and child abductors etc. What's Marie's function in the novels, though?
I've always found her characterisation as chilling as her death. Lest we imagine that all humanity is as upright, vivid and vaguely heroic as the Marlows, who, whatever their individual defaulting, do have a collective blonde glamour at Kingscote, AF gives us Marie, repellently plain, cowardly, unpopular, untalented, untruthful and clammy-handedly desperate for approval. Does AF give her a single redeeming feature, or so much as a moment of sympathy? Is she only there to make the Marlows extra vivid? Or to show us moments of moral compunction in Nicola as distinct from other characters? I suppose one other thought is that AF uses Marie to buck the trend of schools reforming the substandard, a la the Chalet - she never 'improves', but the depiction of her awfulness from Nick's POV is more detailed and more disgusted than the other 'flat' character failures, like the 'steaming nit' Gina French.
I don't have my AF books to hand, and can't produce the brief section of Autumn Term (the rickyard scene) which is from Marie's POV, which talks about her fear of farm animals and lack of athleticism, or her excruciating attempt after the play to help Nick clear up, and am not remembering clearly their tenor. Or in End of Term when she is left out of the twins' swap-over for the match.