The author later to be known as Elinor Mary Brent-Dyer was born Gladys Eleanor May Dyer in South Shields, near Newcastle, UK on 6th April 1894, the daughter of Charles Morris Brent Dyer and his second wife, Eleanor. She had a half-brother, Charles Arnold, from her father's previous marriage, but the boy was never to live with the family -- this caused arguments between her parents and two years after the birth of her younger brother, Henzell, her father left the family home. Gladys was three at the time.
Charles Brent Dyer eventually went to live with a third woman by whom he had another son, also called Charles.
This kind of irregular domestic arrangement was not what the neighbours expected in the respectable lower middle class area the family lived in, and so they hid the desertion by saying that Eleanor had "lost" her husband. Mrs Brent-Dyer later married again.
In 1912, brother Henzell died, of cerebro-spinal fever and, inexplicably, this too was hushed up -- though there can have been no disgrace in the fact -- death from illness was an all-too common event, a situation reflected in the books Brent Dyer wrote later, which abound with orphaned heroines and characters with 'delicate constitutions'.
However, friends who knew her after Henzell's death were not aware that she had ever had a brother.
With public schooling being woefully inadequate at the time, Elinor was educated privately in South Shields. On completing school, she trained as a teacher at the City of Leeds Training College, then returning home to teach.
She became Elinor Mary Brent-Dyer when she began writing in the early 1920's and her first book, Gerry Goes to School was published in 1922.
It was a holiday in Austrian Tyrol at Pertisau-am-Achensee that provided her with the location for the series of books for which she is chiefly known and loved, however. This was where she set the Chalet School -- the brainchild of the intelligent but broke orphan, Madge Bettany, and the stomping ground for her younger sister, the delicate, but determined Joey.
Brent-Dyer continued to teach in the 1920's at St Helen's, Northwood in Middlesex and in Fareham near Portsmouth. In the 30's the family moved to Hereford, where Elinor worked first as a governess, and later opened her own school, the Margaret Roper, that did not enjoy the success of her fictional creation, and would probably have folded quickly had it not been for the Second World War.
From 1948, Elinor turned her efforts to writing full-time.
Brent-Dyer was clearly an avid reader of girls school books, and her characters too, devour the latest stories, but unlike those in series like Enid Blyton's Mallory Towers and St Clares, the girls of the Chalet School rarely indulge in pulling pranks on their teachers or scoffing midnight feasts. Instead, these are stories of jolly decent girls who do jolly decent things like pulling unwanted St. Bernard pups from watery graves and foiling kidnappers through judicious use of Girl Guide skills.
This makes them sound priggish, but they aren't. Characters at the Chalet School often comment on the books they read as 'tosh' or 'unrealistic' and Brent-Dyer doesn't fall into this trap -- her characters aren't all perfect angels or endearing scamps -- each has their foibles and their strengths. They lead believable lives, overall, with adventures that really could happen -- flood, illness, accident and injury; and they're as frequently scolded for them as they are lauded. Admittedly Joey -- heroine in chief throughout the series -- gets considerably more than her fair share of adventure; but what heroine doesn't?
What's more, there are occasional touches of reality I have never seen in another school series -- after a particularly hair-raising adventure (in a book published in 1926) a doctor comments to Joey that she could have come down with a dreadful disease. Her reply: "You mean like thrush?"
The story evolves as the characters grow up, marry, and have children of their own, who in their turn become Chalet School girls. (An incredible number of Old Chaletians also return to the school to teach) Joey grows up to write her own series of girls school books. The School moves to the Channel Islands and the South Wales coast as war threatens Austria. In all, she wrote 62 books based at the Chalet School, as well as many others.
Brent-Dyer was a devout Christian, who converted to catholicism during the 30's and this is reflected in the books -- not in any preachy way, but in the simplicity of the faith that both girls and teachers have, faith that is often rewarded.
Elinor never married, and lived with her mother until she died in 1957. After her mother's death Elinor moved to Redhill in 1964 and she died there on 20th September 1969.
The "Friends of the Chalet School" an international organisation of fans of the series celebrated the centenary of Brent-Dyer's birth 1994, erecting plaques in Pertisau, South Shields and Hereford.
Chalet School Books
- The School at the Chalet
- Jo of the Chalet School
- The Princess of the Chalet School
- The Head Girl of the Chalet School
- (The) Rivals of the Chalet School
- Eustacia Goes to the Chalet School
- The Chalet School and Jo
- The Chalet Girls in Camp
- Exploits of the Chalet Girls
- The Chalet School and the Lintons
- A Rebel at the Chalet School
- The New House at the Chalet School
- Jo Returns to the Chalet School
- The New Chalet School
- A United Chalet School
- The Chalet School in Exile
- The Chalet School at War
- The Highland Twins at the Chalet School
- Lavender Leigh at the Chalet School
- Gay Lambert at the Chalet School
- Jo To The Rescue
- Tom Tackles the Chalet School
- The Chalet School and Rosalie and The Mystery at the Chalet School
- Three Go to the Chalet School
- The Chalet School and the Island
- Peggy of the Chalet School
- Carola Storms the Chalet School
- The Wrong Chalet School
- Shocks for the Chalet School
- The Chalet School in the Oberland
- Bride Leads the Chalet School
- Changes for the Chalet School
- Joey Goes to the Oberland
- The Chalet School and Barbara
- The Chalet School Does It Again
- A Chalet Girl From Kenya
- Mary-Lou of/at the Chalet School
- A Genius at the Chalet School
- Chalet School Fete
- A Problem for the Chalet School
- The New Mistress at the Chalet School
- Excitements at the Chalet School
- The Coming of Age of the Chalet School
- The Chalet School and Richenda
- Trials for the Chalet School
- Theodora and the Chalet School
- Joey and Co in Tirol
- Ruey Richardson at the Chalet School
- A Leader in the Chalet School
- The Chalet School Wins the Trick
- A Future Chalet School Girl
- The Feud in the Chalet School
- The Chalet School Triplets
- The Chalet School Reunion
- Jane and the Chalet School
- Redheads at the Chalet School
- Adrienne and the Chalet School
- Summer Term at the Chalet School
- Challenge for the Chalet School
- Two Sams at the Chalet School
- Althea Joins the Chalet School
- Prefects of the Chalet School
Non-Chalet School Books
- Gerry Goes To School
- A Head Girl"s Difficulties
- The Maids Of La Rochelle
- Seven Scamps
- Heather Leaves School
- Janie Of La Rochelle
- Janie Steps In
- A Thrilling Term At Janeways
- Caroline The Second
- The New House-Mistress
- Judy The Guide
- The Feud In The Fifth Remove
- Carnation Of The Upper Fourth
- Monica Turns Up Trumps
- They Both Liked Dogs
- The School By The River
- The Little Marie-Jose
- Elizabeth The Gallant
- The Little Missus
- The Lost Staircase
- Lorna At Wynyards
- Stepsisters For Lorna
- Bess On Her Own In Canada
- A Quintette In Queensland
- Sharlie"s Kenya Diary
- Verena Visits New Zealand
- The Susannah Adventure
- Chudleigh Hold
- The Condor Crags Adventure
- Top Secret
- Kennelmaid Nan
- Nesta Steps Out
- Beechy Of The Harbour School
- Leader In Spite Of Herself
- The School At Skelton Hall
- Trouble At Skelton Hall
- Jean of Storms