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Partridge, S. (2010). Prep School Children: A Class Apart over Two Centuries (2009) by Vyvyen Brendon, published by Continuum, London.. Att: New Dir. in Psychother. Relat. Psychoanal., 4(2):188-192.

(2010). Attachment: New Directions in Psychotherapy and Relational Psychoanalysis, 4(2):188-192

Prep School Children: A Class Apart over Two Centuries (2009) by Vyvyen Brendon, published by Continuum, London.

Review by:
Simon Partridge

This is a powerful book. For me it was a roller-coaster, re-experiencing pain (Partridge, 2007) sparked off by Vyvyen Brendon's numerous, well-documented, often first hand examples, followed by anger and outrage that this was allowed to go on for so long - and, as Brendon admits, still does, even if in less overtly brutal form.

Brendon announces her intention as ‘not to produce an affectionate apologia for prep schools … nor do I presuppose with Nick Duffell that former boarding school pupils are all victims (Duffell, 2000). Instead, I have followed the evidence where it leads’. Thus, Brendon nails her colours firmly to Anglophone ‘empiricism’, and, in most respects, she lives up to her self-denying ordinance. However, this creates a problem when, at the end, she tries to draw more general conclusions, which evidently have to include some notion of ‘victimhood’ and its construction. I intend to return to the issue from a more conceptual perspective later.

Brendon has to be congratulated on gathering together between two covers so much material over such a long time span - two centuries (she does not have room to fully address the shorter history of girls' prep schools, which deserves its own study). Developing an approach pioneered in her acclaimed Children of the Raj (Brendon, 2006), she has again turned up ‘varied and abundant evidence’ which sees prep schools ‘through the eyes of children in a way that has not been attempted before’.

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