End of Term by Antonia Forest
published 1959 chapter 8
[The choir, dressed as angels, are waiting to go into the Cathedral to sing in a Nativity play, when they encounter some small children]
He was staring unblinkingly at Miranda.
With the gold cardboard circle on the back of her head, and her stern vivid face, she really did look, thought the surprised Nicola, rather like one of the carved angels in the reredos…. The little boy went on staring at Miranda, and continued to stare, gazing over his shoulder as he was marched off, and wrenching his hand away from his virtuous partner who wanted to yank him round and make him behave. Miranda was the first angel he’d ever seen, and he meant to make the most of her.
The curtain dropped back into place. And suddenly Nicola felt sober – sober and responsible. Did that infant really think of them, not as schoolgirls dressed up, but as angels who had arrived, naturally enough, to re-enact – or didn’t he even think that? Did he think, as perhaps one might if one were five, that this was the first Christmas being done over again?
observations: The Kingscote School Nativity Play gave us our Christmas Day entry too. The book is an account of life at a rather posh girls’ boarding school in the England of the early 1950s (time is a slippery concept in Antonia Forest’s books - the young characters remember ‘before the [second world] war’ in the first books, but are firmly in the early 1980s by the last one). This autumn term features netball, and quarrels, and lessons, and rehearsals for this play, and some unfairness all round – many of the girls’ parts in the play have been changed round at the last minute in a desperate attempt to make it all OK. So far, so routine, you might think.
Forest wrote 12 books, not particularly famous in her own time, over a period of 35 years, and died in 2003. The books should be forgettable and forgotten, but for a small number of determined fans, her world lives on. There is a website, Trennels, devoted to her work, and the books are being reprinted by Girls Gone By Publishers – who have also produced a fan-written followup to the books, Spring Term. Forest, and the books, arouse a peculiar, intense devotion in her admirers, even if most people have never heard of her. Hard to describe, or explain, and it might sound crazy to suggest that the books – stories of Middle England teens - are better than many adult novels. But they are.
Links up with: Xmas entries all last week and this week. The Nativity Play featured on Christmas Day. Jennings and Katy went to boarding schools. So did the Little Princess, and the notes on her entry mention Forest.
The picture is of an angel sculpture from a nativity scene at the Cathedral of La Antigua Guatemala.