Third Year at Malory Towers

Review by Laura Canning (February 2, 2005)

Enid Blyton seems to have a Thing about Americans (and the French, and...but let's not go there). There aren't many Americans in her books, but the few that are there are a bit...well, there's Sadie in St Clare's, obsessed with hair and nails; Junior in the Famous Five, spoilt and whiny...and Zerelda. Zerelda is the newest addition to Malory Towers, and is collected by Darrell's father on the way to school. Darrell is almost speechless when she sees the apparition that is Zerelda Brass (what a great name)—hair piled in a role on top of her head, nails polished, and is she actually wearing lipstick! So tell me about this school of yours, Zerelda drawls from the back of the car, and Darrell duly obliges. She tells Zerelda about the girls, the mistresses, the four towers, the gym—and Zerelda has fallen asleep. Well! Darrell resolves to have as little to do with her as possible.

This seems like it might not be a problem. Older than Darrell, Zerelda is placed in the fourth form, where the amount of order marks she receives for inappropriate hair and poor work soon enrage the sensible fourth. Zerelda is demoted to the third. She settles in there better than might be expected, as she is good-natured and kind, although she drives the girls mad with her constant refrain of 'When I'm a famous actress...' (The girls, rather unfairly, tell her that she must learn to speak properly first—twenty, not twenny, Zerelda!).

Alas, in the chapter 'Zeralda's Unfortunate Rehearsal', Zerelda is quickly disillusioned of her acting ability. She wants to play Juliet in the form play, and has been practising in the music rooms, complete with curtain wrapped about her and an adoring Gwendoline. Although Zerelda thinks she is an actress because she has gone all temperamental and thrown a book at a fourth former, drama mistress Miss Hibbert is not impressed. She assumes that Zerelda is playing the part for laughs, and she tells her off good and proper.

As far away as Zerelda as it is possible to get is Bill, horse-mad, cropped-hair new girl who arrives at school on horseback with seven brothers. Bill is rather ridiculously obsessed with her horse Thunder, and is finally forbidden by third form mistress Miss Peters to see him. But Thunder develops colic and Bill has to go out one night to check he is all right. Darrell goes with her and decides to wake Miss Peters, who rides through the stormy night to fetch the vet.

Meanwhile Mavis, a new girl the term before, is missing. Mavis has a wonderful Voice and her refrain of 'When I'm an opera singer' is heard even more often than Zerelda's hopes of Hollywood stardom. The girls tell her she is a Voice and nothing more, and that she should learn to be a schoolgirl first. In Blyton's world, vanity is punished, and Mavis duly has her lesson. She tries to persuade the girls to enter a talent contest in local village Billington, but the girls scorn the contest as 'third-rate' and refuse to go. Not to be prevented from stardom, Mavis sneaks out to go anyway. But she is not allowed to enter as she is too young, misses the bus back, and starts to walk. She is found by Miss Peter at the side of the road and her resulting illness means she loses her Voice. Like Zerelda, she is of course much nicer once she is a normal sensible schoolgirl (Zerelda even puts her hair in plaits!), and the two become Friends. Bill and Miss Peters are also close after Miss Peters' heroic ride to save Thunder.

Darrell's role in the third book is mostly involved with her trying to get on the school lacrosse team as third reserve. Sports captain Molly encourages her and Darrell finally gets her place. But, alas, the girls are in trouble for playing a trick on Mam'zelle, and Darrell is told she cannot play. The match is cancelled due to bad weather, and Darrell resolves to try again. But she is not on the reserve list for the next match, and, broken-hearted, she returns to the common room. She is stunned when the others appear and congratulate her on making the team—Darrell only looked at the reserve list when in fact she is on the team itself. Does she play well? Do the team win? Of course!