Good-bye, Mr. Chips Still Clears the Sinuses

Good-Bye, Mr. Chips is an an eccentric schoolmaster’s sentimental look back over his lifetime in a British boarding school for boys.

schoolboys sitting on benchMr. Chipping came to Brookfield to teach classics. He wasn’t much of a scholar or teacher, but he did his job. So he stayed.

In 1896, at age 48, he fell in love with a beautiful young woman half his age. She mellowed and sharpened Chips, making him a revered figure on campus. When she dies in childbirth, he hangs on, buoyed by the boys he loves.

He retired at 65 and moved across the road from the school, renting rooms from another former school employee.

When World War I depleted the pool of teachers, Chips was called back to act as headmaster until the war ended.

Then he went back into retirement, but he kept close ties to Brookfield to the day of his death.

In Good-Bye, Mr. Chips, James Hilton pays tribute to teachers who care more about their pupils than about their subject. There’s no plot to speak of, no real characterization. The novel is just an excuse to indulge in a few minutes of tearful nostalgia.

Make a cup of tea, butter a muffin, and enjoy this harmless indulgence.

Good-Bye, Mr. Chips
By James Hilton
Little, Brown, 1934
126 pages
1934 bestseller # 4
My Grade: B

© 2014 Linda Gorton Aragoni

 

Miss Bishop Is a Sentimental Sweetheart

As long as you don’t expect anything but pleasant diversion, Bess Streeter Aldrich’s classic Miss Bishop won’t disappoint you.

When Ella Bishop enrolls in the first class at Midwestern College in 1876, she has two dresses, an extroverted personality, and boundless enthusiasm for wholesome activities.

After graduating, Ella stays on to teach grammar until she marries. But Ella never marries. Instead, she devotes her life to family, friends, and students.

With extraordinary strength, Ella resists the temptation of an affair with a colleague, tenderly cares for her widowed mother who can’t even complete a sentence by herself, and practically adopts the lover who jilted her.

We all know someone who has done things just as extraordinary, but no real person would have those kinds of experiences and not be changed by them. Ella, however, never grows. She’s as mature at 60 as she was at 16. In her entire lifetime, the only thing that changes about Ella is her hair color.

Although sappily sentimental, Miss Bishop is so well constructed and Ella herself such a lovely person that you probably won’t want to put this novel down. And you might even blow your nose loudly once or twice as you read.

Miss Bishop
By Bess Streeter Aldrich
Appleton-Century, 1938
337 pages
My grade: C+

© 2013 Linda Gorton Aragoni