‘Autumn Term’, Part Three

Chapter Five: –And Nicola Loses It

A storm is brewing in Third Remove! Nobody much likes Marie, so she makes friends with ghastly Pomona and they plot to unseat Nicola from her prize desk at the front of the classroom. Actually it’s mostly Marie doing the plotting (“Marie remembered her defeats, sucking persistently at the memory as though it were a particularly hard, unpleasant-tasting toffee”). An approach to Miss Cartwright fails but Marie is not deterred, “being possessed of a dull obstinacy which could carry her successfully through any number of snubs”. She comes up with the bright idea of simply swapping all Nicola and Pomona’s books over during midday dinner, thinking that Nicola is bound to accept this fait accompli. Yeah, that’s really going to work, Marie. I can see why Marie is in Third Remove.

Anyway, the twins and Tim come back early, Nicola chucks Pomona’s books on the floor, Pomona tries to pull Nicola out of her chair and after a tussle, “desk and combatants fell sideways in one final, glorious crash”. Naturally the prefect who arrives to investigate is Karen, who doesn’t listen to explanations and says Nicola should have the place and Pomona the desk (which is damaged now anyway). Karen thinks she’s been fair and impartial; most of Third Remove thinks she’s been a “silly ass”, but they’re too polite to say. So unfair!

Chapter Six: A New Patrol

More complete and utter unfairness! It turns out Third Remove aren’t allowed to play netball, because the headmistress regards them as “delicate, gentle souls who aren’t strong enough to romp in rough games like netball”. All they can play is boring old rounders. Lawrie is devastated because “this was absolutely the very worst thing that had ever happened”, even worse than when she accidentally tore up her father’s important papers or Nicola got mumps the day they were supposed to go to the circus. How are the twins going to become netball stars now? Are all their plans ruined?

The twins tell Tim, who is not exactly devastated by the news. I have to say, I’m with Tim. I’d be ecstatic about not having to play netball. (I’m not sure if netball is a thing in America, so I’d better explain here that it’s a bit like basketball, but with even stupider rules. It is pretty much mandatory for Australian schoolgirls, so much so that it’s claimed you can predict an Australian woman’s personality based on which position she played on the netball court. I was Wing Defence, “the Jan Brady to [Wing Attack]’s Marcia”, which I chose because with a bit of luck, I could get through an entire game without touching the ball.)

Anyway, the twins decide they’d better join the Guides, so at least they’ll be triumphant in something. After all, they were really good at Brownies! Tim refuses to have anything to do with it, especially when the twins sing her the Brownie song:

We’re the Fairies glad and gay,
Helping others every day!

Also, Pomona and Marie are joining the Guides. Also, Ann, the twins’ annoyingly helpful sister, will be their Patrol Leader. Also, their Captain is Miss Redmond, the domestic science teacher, who only that morning “told Lawrie she would never catch a husband if she couldn’t remember to put salt in her greens”. (Take note, ladies, that’s what men really want – well-salted greens. Although if she’s Miss Redmond, what would she know about catching a husband?)

But the twins pass their initial Guide tests and everything is going smoothly until DRAMA!

First, Rowan’s netball team unexpectedly loses a cup match and is out of contention for the County Shield. Then rumours fly around the school that “Rowan and Lois Sanger had fallen on one another foaming with fury and had had to be parted by the umpires” (this rumour courtesy of Tim, of course). Then it turns out there are so many new Guides they have to create a new patrol and the patrol leader is none other than Lois Sanger! Who hates all the Marlows! Then it’s revealed that Lois only has to do one more test before she passes First Class, and that’s to take her patrol on a hike and bring them all back intact! WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?

Next, Chapter Seven: A First Class Hike

10 thoughts on “‘Autumn Term’, Part Three”

  1. The rules at Kingscote are… weird. I managed to make it all the way through school without playing netball, hooray for me!

    Autumn Term is not the best, or in some ways even very typical of the Marlow series, but for me it’s a satisfying mix of conventional school story tropes (the Girl Guide hike, netball, let’s-put-on-a-show) and the subversion of the way those storylines usually play out. There are also relationships being set up in this book which play out over the entire series (spoilers!), sometimes in unexpected ways.

    To my mind the best books are in the middle of the series: End of Term, Ready-Made Family and the Cricket Term. I hope you make it that far, Michelle, but collecting Antonia Forest is an expensive hobby!

    1. Most schools have strange, arbitrary rules, but this netball one seems completely ridiculous. Surely it would be a good idea for the girls who aren’t academic stars to have a chance to excel at school sport?

      I definitely want to read the rest of the series – I’m hoping Girls Gone By will publish all the out-of-print ones soon! Do I need to read them in order?

      1. You don’t absolutely have to read them in order – I didn’t – but you may find you get confused about some of the back story if you don’t.

  2. You just have to accept the Netball rule as a Plot Device. They are the least convincing part of AF but lead to intriguing situations and relationships

    1. When a book’s this engaging, Sue, I’m quite happy to go along with ridiculous Plot Devices – and having finished reading it, I can now see why the author wanted to pile on the complications and injustices in the first half of the book. It makes the twins’ eventual triumph so much sweeter.

    1. Yes, that’s true – and possibly she’s old enough to have come of age during the First World War, which was even more devastating in terms of eligible young men being killed.

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