Top Ten Tuesday: A School Freebie

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. For the rules see her blog.

The topic this week is School Freebie (In honor of school starting up soon, come up with a topic that somehow ties to school/education. The book could be set at school/college, characters could be teachers, books with school supplies on the cover, nonfiction titles, books that taught you something or how to do something, your favorite required reading in school, books you think should be required reading, your favorite banned books, etc.)

These are 10 of the books set in schools/universities/colleges that I’ve enjoyed reading.

J K Rowling’s Harry Potter books are an obvious choice – all 7 of them would nearly fill a Top Ten post on their own. I haven’t got this box set, but I have read all seven books telling the story of Harry and his friends at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. It’s a selective school, only children who show magical ability are admitted. Each student is allowed to bring an owl, a cat or a toad. And first-year students are required to acquire a wand, subject books, a standard size 2 pewter cauldron, a set of brass scales, a set of glass or crystal phials, a kit of basic potion ingredients (for Potions), and a telescope (for Astronomy). 

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark is set in 1936 in Edinburgh in the Marcia Blaine school, where schoolteacher Miss Brodie has groomed a group of young girls, known as the Brodie Set, to be the ‘creme de la creme‘. Marcia Blaine school is a traditional school where Miss Brodie’s ideas and methods of teaching are viewed with dislike and distrust. The Head Teacher is looking for ways to discredit and get rid of her. I enjoyed both the book and the film with Maggie Smith in the title role. The story is told in flashbacks from 1930 –1939 and quite early on in the book we are told who ‘betrayed’ Miss Brodie.

Cat Among the Pigeons by Agatha Christie is set in an exclusive and expensive girls’ school, Meadowbank, in England, said to be based on her daughter Rosalind’s school. Miss Bulstrode is the headmistress and like Miss Brodie she has built a reputation for excellence. But disaster strikes when two of the teachers, Miss Springer, the new Games Mistress and the History and German teacher, Miss Vansittart are murdered. Rather late in the day Hercules Poirot is called in to investigate their deaths.

Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay. On St Valentine’s Day in 1900, a party of nineteen girls accompanied by two schoolmistresses sets off from the elite Appleyard College for Young Ladies, for a day’s outing at the spectacular volcanic mass called Hanging Rock. The picnic, which begins innocently and happily, ends in explicable terror, and some of the party never returned. What happened to them remains a mystery. I loved the detailed descriptions of the Australian countryside and the picture it paints of society in 1900, with the snobbery and class divisions of the period.

South Riding by Winifred Holtby. Set in the early 1930s in Yorkshire this book paints a moving and vivid portrait of a rural community struggling with the effects of the depression. One of the main characters is Sarah Burton, the new headmistress of Kiplington High School for Girls, a fiercely passionate and dedicated teacher. As the villagers of South Riding adjust to Sarah’s arrival and face the changing world, emotions run high, prejudices are challenged and community spirit is tested

Miss Pym Disposes by Josephine Tey. Miss Pym was pleased and flattered to be invited to Leys Physical Training College by her old school friend, Henrietta Hodge, the college Principal, to give a lecture on psychology. But then there was a ’nasty accident‘. This is not a conventional crime fiction novel. It’s a psychological study focusing on the characters, their motivation and analysis of facial characteristics. It looks at the consequences of what people do and say.

Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte, published in 1847, is a novel about a young woman, a governess and her experiences working for two families in Victorian England. Agnes is the younger daughter of an impoverished clergyman. Her parents had married against her mother’s family’s wishes and when their fortune was wrecked Agnes determines to help out by working as a governess. It gives a very clear picture of the life of a governess, with all its loneliness, frustrations, insecurities and depressions. Anne Bronte based this novel on her own experiences as a governess and depicts the loneliness, isolation, and vulnerability of the position. 

The Hiding Place by Simon Lelic, a murder mystery set in Beaconsfield, a prestigious boarding school. When Ben Draper, a 14 year-old teenager with a troubled background, and a history of absconding from school, started at the school he is bullied, disliked and feels shunned and despised. But he does make three friends, Callum, Lance and Melissa. Longing to be accepted, he thinks they are his friends, but then he is drawn unwillingly into their plot to damage the school. After playing a game of Hide and Seek with them, that ended in terror, he went missing and his body was never found.

An Advancement of Learning by Reginald Hill, the 2nd Dalziel and Pascoe novel. It’s set in a college, Holm Coultram College, where Dalziel and Pascoe investigate the discovery of a body found when an eight foot high bronze statue of a former head of the College, Miss Girling, is being moved. The two detectives uncover plenty of disagreements and power struggles in both the staff and student bodies – from rivalries to revelries on the beach, and more dead bodies turn up before the mystery is solved.

I loved the setting in Gaudy Night by Dorothy L Sayers – Shrewsbury College, a fictional all female college, at Oxford University (based on Somerville College, Sayers’ own college). Harriet Vane decides to go back to the College to attend the Shrewsbury Gaudy (a college reunion involving a celebratory dinner), not sure she can face meeting her fellow students and the dons. It doesn’t go well – there are poison pen letters, nasty graffiti and vandalism causing mayhem and upset. Under the pretence of helping one of the dons to rewrite her manuscript that had been destroyed in one of the nightly attacks Harriet is asked to investigate. 

37 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: A School Freebie

  1. I love a school setting for a story, too, Margaret! And you’ve mentioned some that I particularly enjoyed: the Christie, the Spark, the Hill, the Tey, and the Lindsay. What a great choice for this meme, and I really enjoyed reading it!

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  2. I’ve really enjoyed visiting blogs and reading people’s choices for this week. I love a good school/college based story and have read several of your books. I’ll be looking up The Hiding Place as that sounds really good.

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  3. A very varied list of books with school settings. I’ve read and enjoyed Cat Amongst the Pigeons – I thought it felt like an adventure story mixed with crime fiction. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie has been on my radar for a while, hopefully I will find time to read it during the autumn season.

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  4. Harry Potter made my list too. Favorite academic setting ever. 😀 I haven’t read any of the others, but they sound really interesting. I was excited when I saw The Hiding Place because I just checked out Paula Munier’s book, but then I saw yours was by a different author. I’ll have to check it out.

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