Nan’s Schooldays – Mrs Henry Clarke MA

Yet another auction book and the start of a bit of a run of children’s books, which I tend to dip into when either I’m not feeling well or my brain is overloaded!

This book was written in the late 19th century, although I had assumed from the style of writing that it was a pre-war school story. Nan, is living in poverty with her father, who has lost his job through some sort of disgrace. She is “rescued” by her aunt who persuades the father to disappear to Australia and leave Nan with her.

The aunt, although a teacher, doesn’t understand children and doesn’t understand why Nan isn’t properly grateful at having being rescued and given the opportunity to go to a good school.

Nan is upset at her father disappearing, resentful of her aunt and determined to loathe the school.

Eventually, after the usual trials and tribulations of schools stories, Nan settles down, makes friends, calls a truce with her aunt and blossoms. At the end of the story her father reappears, having been exonerated of the fraud he had been accused of and having inherited some money.

I enjoyed this book. It was a nice, if predictable, school story that didn’t take too much effort to read.

I didn’t like the character of the aunt: I remember having teachers like her and wondering why, if they didn’t like children, they’d ever gone into teaching. What I did like though was that the author didn’t reform the aunt out of recognition; Nan and she definitely called a truce rather than the aunt’s hard shell melting and this felt more like real life than most school stories.

I think the fact Amy Clarke had been a teacher and headmistress before she married shows in her writing. I suspect teaching may have been her vocation, as it was my mothers, giving her a good insight into school children and helping her to create believable characters.

A much better read than your average Sunday School prize book.

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