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Antonia Forest's Spring Term - SPOILER THREAD

21 replies

puzzlesum · 17/11/2011 19:35

WARNING: If you are hopelessly over-excited at the prospect of a new Marlow book having been released - please don't read this and spoil your enjoyment of it!

Right. What did I like? No attempt to update it to a more recent date than 1982 - it would have taken Forest herself to carry that off (although I'm sure she would have done it very well). Mostly timeless in the Forest tradition with just a brief mention of Simon Le Bon and the Falklands War to give it context.

A good range of characters - admittedly more than you'd find an average Forest novel but we haven't seen these people for a long time, so definitely let's parade them all around. Missed Giles, though :(

A reasonable stab at covering the fact the end of Fly Away Home was not very believable, and I think Forest herself would have struggled to have her characters mention in passing "oh yeah, did a bit of international child smuggling over the hols. You?"

Developing a romance of sorts between Nicola and Patrick was inevitable, and quite well done. Patrick has blotted his copybook with me by snogging Claudie and he hasn't yet redeemed himself, particularly with being a bit shit at actually finishing things with Ginty. So the jury's still out on him as far as I am concerned.

The main problem was it was just a bit too Foresty. I think if the writer had been told to take out about 30% of the obvious Forestisms (sker-wash, methren, etc) it actually would have sounded more authentic. Likewise I think she stuck closely to the tried-and-tested themes of the previous school books in the series, and hopefully will gain the confidence/editorial approval to branch off from the 'cricket-match-school-play' type formula.

The play itself was a bit weird. In French? When no-one really spoke it? And when Tim took over (WTF) she didn't change it to English?

The Ann stuff was a good attempt to develop a character who Forest herself seems to have little time for, but Redmond's behaviour needed a better explanation, even if it was that Ginty had really annoyed her and she overreacted. It just came out of nowhere.

And my big problem. Ginty. Her storyline was a bit all over the place and over the top given all the trouble she'd already been in. Ginty is a difficult character to write well because she isn't sympathetic but is no Lois Sanger either (shame they couldn't have got her back as a trainee gym teacher!). I think I might have been tempted to send her to finishing school in order to find my sea-legs (to use a Marlow-y metaphor) with some of the easier characters.

A good length, though - all the school books seem terribly short after Autumn Term's richness. All in all I really hope the author writes more - not too many more, but a couple at least.

What does everyone else think?

OP posts:
RustyBear · 17/11/2011 22:17

I think it was a bit like those episodes of Dr Who where they bring back previous characters - very enjoyable for the fans, but somehow just a few too many references to past events and homage to 'catchphrases'.

I did enjoy it though, especially as I am a Nicola-rather-than-Lawrie person, but I think it all went a bit more smoothly for Nicola than it would have been with the original author; I kept expecting a sting in the tail that never came.

hels71 · 18/11/2011 18:34

I have to say I really enjoyed it! I would agree that it may have been a bit "over forested" in places but I thought that large chunks of it felt like actually reading AF.

I was very pleased about Nicola and Patrick as I was always rather annoyed that Ginty got in the way in the first place. I agree about PAtrick not being that good at finishing things off but maybe that's teenage boys for you!

I thought Ginty was very believable, although I am not sure that suspension was really a fair punishment....was it a bit harsh? I am currently reading The Marlows and Their Maker by Anne Hazelwood, and in it it mentions that AF has thought of sending Ginty to be a stable girl in Ireland in the sequel to Run Away home that she apparently planned but never wrote.......so maybe that could follow on from the events of this term quite well?

The French play also niggled me a little...I think having a play was fine and something hat LAwrie objected too was also fine, but I am not totally convinced by a play in French..........

I did like Nicola in this. She is my favourite character. MAybe the fact that she did get through to the on the radio bit was things not going smoothly for her?

All in all I did enjoy it, and hope that the author considers writing another one.....

TarquinGyrfalcon · 18/11/2011 20:24

I didn't love it - the French play and Redmond's reaction in particular grated.

I also felt the author tried a bit too hard to litter it with Antonia Forest words/phrases so it felt a bit laboured.

It has made me go back and start a complete reread of the series which is always a good thing.

puzzlesum · 18/11/2011 20:35

Ginty was already up shit creek (as Miss Keith did not put it) because of the phoning/O level apparent scammery that got Patrick booted from his school. She had an order mark and a serious bollocking. An infraction as serious as reading someone else's mail would, I think, have had her out for sure. But then she's only suspended til half term and then allowed back and then lies about her suspension, among other things, and Keith finds out - and still she doesn't get the chop?

The trouble is that Lawrie-at-school is always a bit of a one-trick pony I think. It's always a play (or Christmas performance thing) and she's always either marvellous or marvellously diva-ish about her role and then not being in it. I might have been tempted to go a little bit Noel Streatfeild and have Lawrie acting in a telly series or something for part of the book - it's just a little bit too samey I think. Plus Miranda doesn't get enough credit for the excellent job she did with Ariel, she should be given more to do. But then I always think about Miranda. Pomona as well, on the acting front.

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ASuitableGirl · 18/11/2011 20:45

Am being bad and joining this thread even though haven't quite finished Grin.

I like Miranda. I would possibly like to be Miranda :)

Am finding the play a little frustrating but very much enjoying the book. Have always found Ginty highly annoying and part of me does wish she would get expelled tbh.

PrideOfChanur · 18/11/2011 20:50

I did enjoy it,on the whole.Liked Nicola and Patrick,and also enjoyed the scene where Rowan visits Karen (who I always liked) and the stuff with Ann
( I felt Sally Hayward liked Ann,where AF didn't really)
What I didn't like was the Ginty stuff,it didn't quite work for me in terms of her character,and the end ,with Monica - poor Ginty...that didn't seem consistent with the picture I had of Monica either.I found Lois Sanger and her mental juggling to turn what she actually did into what she knew she should have done,trying to make sure that other people didn't realise this was what was happening,horribly believable.I always felt AF portrayed that process uncomfortably well.
But I don't see Ginty being like that - I know she changes to fit with whoever she is with,but it doesn't seem so calculated.Wearing changable taffeta because your mind is a very opal (or whatever Grin) doesn't seem to me the same thing at all as the one lie after another scenario here.
Hm,not sure - will have to have a reread,I think!

I hope she writes another too!

puzzlesum · 18/11/2011 21:24

No, I think Ginty is a very reflecting kind of personality (romantic and earnest with Patrick, floaty-mad with Verity, sensible and sturdy with Monica) but she isn't dishonest. It might have been credible if she'd fallen in with a new girl (or indeed boy) who was a bit of a wrong 'un and so been swayed - but I don't think she herself would have behaved so badly.

Lois Sanger is terrifyingly realistic, isn't she? Incredibly brave writing for a 'children's' writer.

I liked the reconciliation scene between Rowan and Karen - I never really understood why Rowan was quite so appalled that Karen got married instead of going to Oxford. It wasn't like she chose a conventional path for an 18-year-old herself. I'd quite like to see Karen getting a bit modern, though, and resuming her studies - bet old Edwin wouldn't like that at all Grin

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RustyBear · 18/11/2011 21:56

Wasn't it Karen pushing Mrs Tranter out of the farmhouse that really alienated Rowan, though? And Karen's accusation that the real reason Rowan wouldn't ask Mrs Tranter to move was that Karen hadn't told her she was getting married first?

PrideOfChanur · 18/11/2011 22:02

Yes,puzzlesum,that's what I was thinking - you've put it much better than I did!
I reckon you/one could write Karen resuming her studies,she seems happy as a SAHM,but she doesn't seem under Edwin's thumb in the way it looked as if she might be going to be initially.

puzzlesum · 19/11/2011 08:47

Rusty - yes, I think you're right. Doubly a cheek when it was Rowan who was taking over Mr Tranter's work, but presumably still living chez Marlow.

Actually, never mind love interest for Nick, what about Rowan?

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TarquinGyrfalcon · 19/11/2011 13:04

But I think Mr Tranter wanted to retire - he only agreed to stay on to help Rowan when she took over the farm

puzzlesum · 19/11/2011 13:22

Yes, but then he had a heart attack and Karen basically said "oh dear, what a shame, you can be packed by five then? Grreeeeatt" to Mrs Tranter. (Or rather, I think expected Rowan to do it for her).

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PrideOfChanur · 19/11/2011 13:28

puzzlesum,did you mean mean that if anyone was going to move into the farmhouse it should've been Rowan,not Karen and family,given that she is now farm manager -rather than why is Rowan getting cross about Karen taking his house when she has taken his job - which is how I read the post initially?

clarinetV2 · 19/11/2011 13:32

First off, I loved it and was completely absorbed - I always wanted to know what happened with Nick and Esther, and I thought that part of the plot was completely believable. I was initially disappointed that it wasn't set in 2011 as I'd thought it would be, but I do take the point that the author makes at the end, that it would have been beyond her to do it well.

Now for the gripes. I wasn't at all convinced by Ginty's suspension. OK, she was already in big trouble for the previous term, but I can't believe that in the early 80s reading someone else's letter would really have been such a big deal. Lawrie was even more of a caricature than in the originals. All she seemed to do was stamp her foot and say 'not fair'. I do think there's more to Lawrie than this - she's Sophia Lawrence of Thuggery Affair, after all. It felt like Sally Hayward couldn't really be bothered with her.

I thought the French play was believable. I can see Tim getting into the challenge of doing it well, and I liked the way Sally Hayward dealt with Miss Keith's role in the affair. I thought this was realistic. When the characters are younger, we only see Keith as Authority. But as they get a little bit older, we see a more rounded picture, as the girls begin to see her as a real human being. So we see her thinking (rightly) that the girls would enjoy the play, and standing by her beliefs. That worked for me. I was OK with Redmond's reaction to Ann's dilemma. I think she would genuinely have thought Ann wanted her to take action. After all, Redmond's never exactly been portrayed as the thinking, sensitive type. She's a person of action and not endless reflection. I also think that, of all the staff, she would have been most likely to take an anachronistic exception to the breach of honour that is reading another girl's letter, because of her Guide honour.

I cringed a bit when Nick, having agreed to join the Prospects list, wonders who on earth would make arrangements to be elsewhere when the practices were on. Obvious or what? I also thought that religion was overdone and over-Forested. Though perhaps Nick's experiences in Run Away Home might have had that effect on her? I think I'd like to see another family book now. What's going to happen next to Rowan? Is she doomed to spend her youth running the family farm? Will Ginty have learnt from her Spring Term's experiences and emerged a sadder, wiser girl? Where is the Nick/Patrick relationship headed? Will Peter be released from Naval duty (I hadn't realised he hated it) and will Nick get to join up instead? Will the Dodds finally move to the local county town so that Karen can find something a bit more satisfying to do?

MuddlingMackem · 19/11/2011 21:52

I found the Redmond bit totally believable, given the whole Guides thing in Autumn Term. Not that I can remember the details, but Spring Term's actions didn't seem out of character to me.

I did like the bits of Ann that we saw, but then I've always rather liked her in all the original books.

I'm weird in that Lawrie was always my favourite character, whereas I think AF always wanted people to like Nick best. I always saw it that her family just don't get Lawrie, but then they don't seem to get Ann either, so maybe that's why I rather like her too. Grin

hels71 · 20/11/2011 08:37

With Ginty I can sort of see it. I can see why she would want to read the letter.....and therefore why she did. All her other issues are caused by her trying to cover up what she knew was wrong and I always got the impression that Ginty panicked when things did not go her way......so I suppose her actions are believable in that way even if she is a bottom an honest girl.....

RustyBear · 20/11/2011 13:43

Clarinet - I agree that the letter reading does sound a bit of a weak excuse for suspension, but when Rowan is talking to Nick about it, she says it was because Ginnty first told the hair clip story and then changed it "and her version didn't tally with Ann's and Ann being so virtuous she couldn't lie if you told her how, that was what Keith clobbered her for in the end. And even then, if it hadn't been for her telephonic capers, she might've got off with a Conduct Mark".

And, of course, in Attic Term, Keith said something about there being a belief that you could get three Conduct Marks without being expelled, but that it wasn't true, so it does look as if she went in for cumulative punishments.

notcitrus · 24/11/2011 17:30

Just read it.
I found the first half cringemakingly full of italics - halving them and slightly reducing the number of previously-used AFisms would have improved it a lot. But then got into the plot and enjoyed it.

The play in French I can totally see happening - I recall my school doing them in French and Latin not long after! And Tim wouldn't have had the authority to change it to English - she was risking enough in keeping an extra third of the play! I liked how the cast slowly got into it as they understood more of the words, though I'm surprised none of Kempe, a French teacher, or Barby grasped that the cast needed it translating enough so they knew what they were saying! I can see Tim missing that though.
Lawrie is Lawrie, with a tiny bit of growing up on the roof at the end. And loved her pointing out to Ann that she should have talked to God not Redmond - a very Lawrie-level understanding of what those believer types do! Ann herself was clearly shocked that this hadn't occurred to her in her time of need.
Some nice bits about the Nicola-Miranda-Tim relationship - while Nicola had previously realised that, unusually, 'Tim liked Lawrie best', I don't think it had really dawned on Tim before that only Lawrie out of the three really liked her.
Esther was handled OK but would have liked either more detail about her family and her feelings, or reducing her role in the book further.

I liked how Patrick was played, but then I've always related to Patrick. He clearly has little idea about Ginty's feelings and none at all about what to do about them if they are still there, so has simply moved on and appreciated any distraction.
The other 'home' characters felt rather as if they were mentioned because they had to be, and didn't do much.
Which brings us to Ginty. I felt really sorry for her, especially because I could see how her attempts to justify herself only led to more confusion when talking to Keith and as someone said upthread, it was the discrepancies with Ann's story that would have triggered suspension rather than mere letter-reading (which I find hard to believe would have been considered that sinful, and would expect at least a dozen people trooping off to Keith!). Especially as they are sisters - what is the point of having 'sisters rooms' if the sisters aren't supposed to be sharing possessions more communally?
It was 1985 when I went to boarding school and the assumption was anything really valuable or private you kept on your person or really well hidden (blu-tacked behind a poster, for example), as all sorts of people would rummage through your stuff - usually the kleptomaniacs but often someone being a bit malicious.
The bits that didn't really ring true were Ginty's friends - they've never been well-characterised but I felt we needed more to understand their treatment of Ginty, though the bitchfest in the common room sounded most plausible. I think if more of the 'home' scenes and Selby etc had been booted for more development of the Quad (Ginty, Isa, Monica, the other one), it would have been a much better book.

spendthrift · 26/11/2011 20:15

I'm confused... last read Spring Term years ago, as I thought. Is it the one that has the hilarious letter from the Head of St Benedict's or wherever it is supposed to be (the Vaughan or the Oratory?) sacking Patrick because of his pre Vatican 2 views? How does this one vary from the original?

Should I buy it?

Should I give it to two avid Foresters?

RustyBear · 26/11/2011 22:43

That one was Attic Term, spendthrift, about the previous term at Kingscote; then there was Run Away Home about the Christmas holidays, which was the last one AF wrote.

Yes, I'd recommend buying it, it is an enjoyable read for AF fans.

JaneRustle · 01/12/2011 15:35

I think it worth reading.

I never properly understood Karen and the Dodd marriage, don't know what to make of it still.

Poor old Miranda with her problems at home and nobody taking their head out of their backside long enough to listen to her. I felt she was a good character wasted. And no follow up with Ann/Redmond, what was going on there?

And very annoying about the italics littering every page I mean it know it was a trait but not to that extent and once you notice it you just can't stop. Got very conscious of all the "Me Auntie" and "Methren" which stood out in the same way.

Having said that, hats off, plausible job, well done.

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