Third Year at Malory Towers isn’t quite the entire full year that the title suggests. In fact it is only the spring term (at closest guess) as the girls come back in the cold and are squabbling over places next to the radiator.
I do love this book, and next to In the Fifth at Malory Towers it has to be my favourite Malory Towers books. There is something about the atmosphere and the real emotions that bring this book alive for me. Not to mention that it contains one of my three characters: Wilhelmina “Bill” Robinson. I probably shan’t be able to adequately describe the reasons why I love this book, but I hope to try.
We start off with Darrell at her house just about to leave for school and lamenting the fact that her best friend, Sally, is in quarantine for mumps. Darrell is also a little concerned that her parents have agreed to pick up a new girl, Zerelda Brass, on the way to Malory Towers. Zerelda Brass is an American girl and right from the beginning (because Darrell doesn’t like the sound of her very much) the readers are also a bit wary/intrigued by this new girl. From the description we are given of her when we first meet her, the over all impression is of disbelief, and wonderment if American girls were really so different from their English counter-parts.
Zerelda already thinks herself above the English girls and treats Darrell patronizingly when she talks to her. Zerelda also has aspirations to be a grand movie actress like her heroine, Lossie Laxton. Unfortunately, as we find out later on, Zerelda has no acting talent what so ever. She is also 16 and, as Darrell notes, likely to be in a higher form.
We feel the loss of Sally by Darrell’s side as much as Darrell does, but when she teams up with form joker Alicia, Darrell seems to stop missing her best friend because there is so much more going on. But I miss Sally. Darrell becomes a different character away from her friend, one I’m not entirely sure I like all too much, there is just something about the loss of steady Sally that means Darrell loses something. She becomes a little more daring like Alicia, a little more ambitious I suppose is the way to look at it. However, I don’t think I’ve explained things properly at all, but that’s how I feel.
The loss of Sally is somehow made up, for me anyway, by the arrival of Wilhelmina a.k.a Bill Robinson on horse back with her seven brothers! Yes you read that correctly, seven brothers. This may give you some idea of why Wilhelmina is called Bill, she is more of a boy than girl with seven brothers and love of all things horse related.
In fact this love of all things horse related and particularly her own horse, Thunder, who she is allowed to keep in the Malory Towers’ stables. Bill often daydreams about Thunder in class, causing a very funny incident with Miss Peter’s the form tutor. However, Miss Peters and the other tutors struggle to get any level of consistent work out of Bill so start punishing her by forbidding her to go to the stables, leaving Bill resentful and disobedient.
Earlier I mentioned that Zerelda is moved up to higher form, but unfortunately because of her standard of work, she is sent back down to be with the third form once more. We are treated to scenes where she wraps herself up in a curtain and table-cloth while trying to rehearse for the form’s play Romeo and Juliet (Zerelda just LOVES Shakespeare “Gee he’s just wunnerful!”) During the rehearsal for the play, Miss Hibbert who takes the third for their plays tells Zerelda in no uncertain terms that she is dreadful as an actress, shattering the young girls dreams.
BUT this is the making of Zerelda in a way. She has a chance to start from the ground up and discover what she really is good at, and become an all together nicer person.
Rather late in the book, Sally comes back. You almost get the feeling that Blyton had forgotten about her slightly, what with all the drama she was planning. Sally’s return, while joyous for me and Darrell, is sour for Alicia who had gotten used to having Darrell all to herself as her best friend Betty was also off ill with whooping cough. Sally and Alicia dislike each other the most in this book I feel. We see them butt heads in the Second Form when Sally is head girl, but now it’s personal. Both of them want Darrell’s friendship, and Sally doesn’t like the idea that Darrell has been hanging around with Alicia, this makes her jealous. Alicia plays up to this because she doesn’t see why she should give up Darrell’s friendship entirely. There is a section where Darrell is considering the situation, and Blyton says that Darrell couldn’t understand Sally’s jealousy because she had never been jealous herself; this almost taints Sally’s steady, wholesome image but if you recall in the First Term at Malory Towers, Sally is described as being jealous of her baby sister.
We get a lot of this push and pull from Sally and Alicia, and my loyalty lies with Sally, I don’t tend to feel as much for Alicia as I do for Sally, and wish to simply be there to help Sally through her jealousy.
We are have two big dramatic scenes in this book: I shan’t give them away, but one has to do with Bill and her horse, and one to do with a character called Mavis. I would honestly rather not describe things for you too much because otherwise I shall really spoil the books.
One of the nice things that happens at the end of the book is that we get to see Darrell play in her first lacrosse match after training hard all term and it’s a super scene to read, full of action and excitement. Truly wonderful.
Then we come to the end of the book, it’s a full packed adventure this one, with wonderful sub-plots and fascinating new characters. Out of all the Malory Towers books, if you don’t read any of the others, you need to read this one. It’s just a perfect example of what I wanted school to be!
Next review: Upper Fourth at Malory Towers
Or read a review of the audio adaptation of Third Form here.