Books

Nick Duffell (2000) The Making of Them: The British Attitude to Children and the Boarding School System, London: Lone Arrow Press

https://www.boardingschoolsurvivors.co.uk

Nick Duffell’s book, written in 2000, should be required reading for those in the field of psychotherapy and allied practice and for former boarders making sense of their experience.

“At the dawn of the 21st century British society is still shaped by a private education system devised to gentrify the Victorian middle classes and produce gentlemen to run the Empire. Yet it is not on the political agenda. It is rarely the subject of public debate, and we remain blind to its psychological implications.

“A remarkable book which will be essential reading to anyone interested in the nature and culture of English, their education system, their attitude to children, and the psychological and social effects of sending their privileged sons and daughters away to boarding schools.”

“If the Church of England is the Tory Party at prayer, the Public School system may be called the Tory Party in the nursery. Here are set out the traumas, deformations and truncations of character that explain the British Establishment from the appalling Doctor Arnold to the Thatcher Matronocracy. The British are known to be mad. But in the maiming of their privileged young, they are criminally insane.” – John le Carré, best selling author, and former MI6 member.

Joy Schaverien (2015) Boarding School Syndrome: The Psychological Trauma of the ‘Privileged’ Child, Abingdon: Routledge

This book is an analysis of the trauma of the “privileged” child sent to boarding school at a young age.

Boarding School Syndrome describes common symptoms suffered by those affected by early boarding. Originator of the term, her very readable book was published by Routledge in June 2015. Based on extensive research with ex-boarders, in psychotherapy and in semi-structured interviews, it depicts the enduring psychological effects of this trauma. This is one of the leading books identifying ongoing issues to help identify the negative effects of boarding.

Innovative and challenging it offers a new understanding of a long-established British and colonial tradition.  Richly illustrated with pictures and the narratives of adult former boarders, it shines a psychological light on this time-honoured practice.  Readable and accessible, it demonstrates how some forms of enduring distress may be traced back to the early losses of home and family. Learn more or Buy here

Nick Duffell and Thurstine Basset (2016) Trauma, Abandonment and Privilege: A guide to therapeutic work with Boarding School Survivors, Abingdon: Routledge

Trauma, Abandonment and Privilege discusses how former boarders can be amongst the most challenging clients for therapists. Even experienced therapists may unwittingly struggle to address the needs of this client group skilfully. It looks at the effect on adults of being sent away to board in childhood and the problems associated with boarding. These patterns have only recently been acknowledged by some mental health professionals.

It is divided into three parts: Recognition, Acceptance and Change. It aims to help readers understand the emotional processes of boarding and the psychological aspects of survival. The book also explores how ex-boarders frequently struggle with intimate relationships and offers interventions and strategies for those working with ex-boarder clients.

 Buy here

Jane Barclay (2011) Does Therapy Work? Troutbeck Press

A book to demystify the practice of therapy. Part One strips down the ‘engine’ of therapy to examine the component parts and how they interact, then goes on to consider what might be the source of all struggle and suffering. Part Two is a demonstration by means of the author’s own story as a client, interspersed with insights from her perspective as therapist.

From the Introduction…

Twelve years ago, as a student of therapeutic counselling, I became a client in therapy myself. I wrote from the start, both accounts of sessions and the jumble of feelings and thoughts in between. Recognising the value of first-hand experience, I turned my scribbled notes into a case-study of myself to present as part of my diploma. But I didn’t stop there; writing had become my lifeline. I clung to the part of me who was able to remain curious, observing and recording my experiences as I navigated my way through.

I’ve drawn deeply from these earlier writings.

For the scornful (‘self-indulgent navel-gazing’) and suspicious (‘exploitative’) I hope my book at least evokes interest. I’ve written of human relationships in terms broader than biological functions and chemical interactions but avoided therapy-speak. I’ve examined and evaluated the work of therapy which stubbornly resists precise measurement.

In my endeavour, I’ve discovered both the limitations of language and the border where proof tussles with belief; I’ve allowed space for my own desire for clarity and love of mystery, for my hunger to know and admiration for that which eludes capture, its presence significant yet unnameable. Which makes therapy, in my view, a creative practice, and as such both science and art.

All relationships carry risk. In therapy, the client is, by nature, vulnerable. The debate concerning regulation of practitioners heats up. What measures, if any, can safeguard both parties and promote creative and pioneering practice?

Available here.

See review by Amanda Williamson and author’s Q&A here.

Nick Duffell (2014) Wounded Leaders: the Psychohistory of British Elitism and the Entitlement Illusion, London: Lone Arrow Press

In an age when America elected its first black president and the Middle East stirred with popular uprising, Britons were again content to elect the products of their elitist Public Schools.

But, their grooming for power aside, does such an education produce excellence – or expertise in self-deception and duplicity?

The early 21st Century gives us some clues. Tony Blair maintained his façade of inner conviction but lost the nation through blind allegiance to the Establishment. David Cameron let his boyish mask of caring sincerity slip to reveal a bully’s attitude beneath his meritocratic pretence. A bicycle in Downing Street highlighted a deep-seated problem in Britain: a divided society caught in the enduring trance of the Entitlement Illusion. Buy here

Joy Schaverien (2020) The Dying Patient in Psychotherapy: Erotic Transference and Boarding School Syndrome (2nd ed.), Abingdon: Routledge

This is the second edition with the title extended to include ‘Erotic Transference and Boarding School Syndrome’.

It gives a powerful sense of the meaning and purpose of erotic transference in psychotherapy.  It demonstrates the challenges faced by the therapist who experiences a corresponding erotic counter-transference.

This book was the forerunner to Joy’s book on Boarding School Syndrome.  It is a depth exploration of the damaging effects of early boarding on a sensitive eight-year-old child and the lasting impact of the trauma.

Tracing in detail the therapeutic relationship, it describes the emergence of the erotic transference and discusses how to work with it over time in order to liberate the trapped psyche.  It is both personal and technical and is a must for students and experienced practitioners of psychotherapy confronted with love in the psychotherapeutic setting. Learn more.

Margaret Laughton, Allison Paech-Ujejski and Andrew Patterson, Eds (2021) Men’s Accounts of Boarding School – Sent Away, Abingdon: Routledge

This book comprises the personal recollections of 25 men writing about their experiences of being sent to Boarding School.

The stories vividly portray the deep wounding that the boarding school experience has on children. There are common themes of bewilderment at leaving home and the difficulties of living, without love, in an institution. They describe ways in which boarding school has impacted their adult lives, the sense they have made of their experiences, and about their inability to trust and feel safe with others – even those closest to them. It gives deep and clear insight into an enclosed subject which has come into focus in recent years and it adds to the discussion and evaluation of this method of schooling.

Buy it from RoutledgeAmazon.

Nikki Simpson, Ed. (2018) Finding Our Way Home: Women’s Accounts of Being Sent to Boarding School, Abingdon: Routledge

This book shares the personal stories of sixteen women, all of whom were sent away to board at an early age. Their accounts delve into the depths of long suppressed emotions and feelings, and the lifelong impact that the early separation from their families has had.

Much has been written about the impact of ‘boarding school syndrome’ on male boarders, but less so about the female experience. This book is the first to explore the experience from a purely female perspective, and offers an intriguing insight into the world of boarding schools and the upbringing of girls born in the mid-to late 20th century.

Finding Our Way Home is a book for everyone who ever attended boarding school, as well as psychotherapists and counsellors working with boarding school survivors.

Buy it from Routlege, Amazon.

Royston Lambert (1974) The Hothouse Society, London: Pelican

An exploration of boarding-school life through the boys’ and girls’ own writings
with Spencer Millham

The experiences of children at boarding schools in their own words, even down to the sometimes bad spelling and grammar.

Some children were so articulate in the presentation of their thoughts and views that little was needed in terms of editing, introduction, explanation or summary.

The highs and lows of boarding schools were expressed by the people most affected. Those children who didn’t always have a choice in the matter and didn’t always have a forum in which to express an opinion.

This book gave these children a voice and is something to learn from, even in other educational settings and even in wider arenas of children’s lives and learning.

Available here

Royston Lambert (1975) The Chance of a Lifetime? London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson

A study of boys’ and coeducational boarding schools in England and Wales
with Roger Bullock and Spencer Millham

From the dust-jacket:

Here is the first dispassionate consideration of boarding education as a whole – the different types of boarding with their aims, ‘styles’ and effects – actually based on research, and (an unusual combination) an account of five years of practical experiment, directly arising out of that research, at the progressive school at Dartington Hall.

…based on field work both extensive and intensive, the book discusses the objectives of residential education of all types, not just the public schools. It gives the first published evidence of the effects of boarding as opposed to day education… It also gives the first published evidence on the impact of boarding on the family.

Available here

Richard Beard (2021) Sad Little Men: Private Schools and the Ruin of England, London: Harvill Secker

In 1975, as a child, Richard Beard was sent away from his home to sleep in a dormitory. So were David Cameron and Boris Johnson.

In those days a private boys’ boarding school education was largely the same experience as it had been for generations: a training for the challenges of Empire. He didn’t enjoy it. But the first and most important lesson was to not let that show.

Being separated from the people who love you is traumatic. How did that feel at the time, and what sort of adult does it mould?

This is a story about England, and a portrait of a type of boy, trained to lead, who becomes a certain type of man. As clearly as an X-ray, it reveals the make-up of those who seek power – what makes them tick, and why.

Sad Little Men addresses debates about privilege head-on; clearly and unforgettably, it shows the problem with putting a succession of men from boarding schools into positions of influence, including 10 Downing Street. Is this who we want in charge, especially at a time of crisis?

It is a passionate, tender reckoning – with one individual’s past, but also with a national bad habit.

Available here.

Mark Stibbe (2021) Home at Last: Freedom from Boarding School Pain, Milton Keynes: Malcolm Down Publishing

Sent away to boarding school on his eighth birthday, Mark Stibbe watched his adoptive parents drive down a gravel road, leaving him standing in front of a huge country house with his trunk and his teddy.

That night, already confused and frightened, he was given the first of four beatings in his first two weeks. This trauma of abandonment and abuse was to scar Mark’s life until his fifties, when divorce forced him to deal with what he calls his “boarded heart”. In this ground-breaking book, Mark argues that there are many thousands of wounded people, men and women who suffer throughout their lives with homesick souls. This often leads to them being driven to succeed in their work while failing to engage emotionally at home.

Arguing that boarding schools are orphanages for the privileged, Home At Last is split into two parts. The first part looks at four deep impacts to the soul: desertion, deprivation, disengagement and dependency. The second part embraces the four corresponding stages of the healing journey: revelation, restoration, re-connection and recovery. They must be experienced if former boarders are to enjoy the long-awaited end to their spiritual winter.

While the author interprets this reclamation religiously as a return to the Father, it does not have to be seen this way – whatever the reader’s beliefs, it is a homecoming.

Available here.

James Scudamore (2020) English Monsters, London: Vintage

When ten-year-old Max is sent to boarding school, his idyllic childhood comes to an abrupt end. Away from the freedom of his grandfather’s farm, a world of rules and punishment awaits. But so too does the companionship of a close-knit group of classmates. Years later, as Max and his friends face down adulthood, a dark secret from their schooldays is revealed, drawing them together in unforeseen ways. Who knew what, and when? And who now wants to see justice done?

James Scudamore is now a force in the English novel, his voice calm and assured. English Monsters is psychologically astute as a study of collusion and denial, and effective as a picture of time and class; but it has wider reach, as a story about the limits of empathy, the ease of retribution and the difficulty of justice.
Hilary Mantel

The pages bubble with quiet rage about an elite education system that wrecks even those it elevates… Scudamore is here for the long haul.
John Self Spectator

Written in cool, clear-eyed prose, English Monsters is a taut psychological thriller and an astute comment on the institutional neuroses that now haunt our nation.
Amanda Craig Daily Telegraph

Spanning several decades, English Monsters is a story of bonds between men – some nurturing, others devastating. It explores what happens when care is outsourced in the name of building resilience and character, and presents a beautiful and moving portrait of friendship.

Available here

See James’s article as background to the novel.

Vyvyen Brendon (2009) Prep School Children: a Class Apart over Two Centuries, London: Continuum

Since the days when nine-year-old Tom Brown set off by stage coach to be prepared for entry to Rugby, middle-class British boys have been sent away to prep school. Here children between the ages of seven and thirteen have been systematically groomed for public school, for gentlemanly life, for military service, for colonial rule and for worldly or, in the case of Harry Potter, wizardly success.

In a compelling and sometimes shocking account, Vyvyen Brendon dwells not on the adult purposes behind a peculiarly British institution but on the lives of the children. This book continues the poignant story about the separation of parents from offspring which the author told in her acclaimed ‘Children of the Raj’. But it focuses, with greater empathy than ever before, on the unique nature of the prep school experience both at home and in outposts of the empire.

More than two hundred youngsters appear in these pages, describing their schooldays through memoirs, letters, diaries, poetry, fiction and interviews.

The impressions left, whether happy or miserable, comic or tragic, were indelible. The smell of stale tobacco, which lingered in the nostrils of so many old boys, may evoke the genial bedtime stories of one headmaster or the savage beatings of another.

Mention the old school and some former inmates conjure up an idyll of japes in the dorm and golden afternoons on the cricket field; others shudder at the memory of what one bullied ex-pupil called ‘a Belsen of the spirit’.

Such responses were seldom expressed at the time for, according to the ancient maxim, children should be seen but not heard. This book gives them a voice. In doing so it reveals a neglected area in the history of childhood and casts a sharp beam of light on the national character.

Available here.

Robert Verkaik (2018) Posh Boys: How the English Public Schools Ruin Britain, London: Oneworld Publications

Imagine a world where leaders are able to pass power directly to their children. These children are plucked from their nurseries and sent to beautiful compounds far away from all the other children. They are provided with all the teachers they need, the best facilities, doctors and food. Every day they are told this is because they are the brightest and most important children in the world.

Years later they are presented with the best jobs, the grandest houses and most of the money. Through their networks of friends and family they control the government, the courts, the army, the police and the country’s finances. They claim everyone is equal, that each person has a chance to become a leader. But this isn’t true.

If such a world existed today wouldn’t we say it was unfair, even corrupt?

With Posh Boys Robert Verkaik issues a searing indictment of the public school system and outlines how, through meaningful reform, we can finally make society fairer for all.

Alex Renton (2017) Stiff Upper Lip: Secrets, Crimes and the Schooling of a Ruling Class, London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson

“No other society sends its young boys and girls away to school to prepare them for a role in the ruling class.

“Beating, bullying, fagging, cold baths, vile food and paedophile teachers are just some of the features of this elite education, and, while some children loved boarding school, others now admit to suffering life-altering psychological damage. Stiff Upper Lip exposes the hypocrisy, cronyism and conspiracy that are key to understanding the scandals over abuse and neglect in institutions all over the world.

“Award-winning investigative journalist Alex Renton went to three traditional boarding schools. Drawing on those experiences, and the vivid testimony of hundreds of former pupils, he has put together a compelling history, important to anyone wondering what shaped the people who run Britain in the twenty-first century.” [The Telegraph]

This is the story of generations of parents, Britain’s richest and grandest, who believed that being miserable at school was necessary to make a good and successful citizen. Childish suffering was a price they accepted for the preservation of their class, and their entitlement. The children who were moulded by this misery and abuse went on – as they still do – to run Britain’s public institutions and private companies.

Confronting the truth of his own schooldays and the crimes he witnessed, Alex Renton has revealed a much bigger story. It is of a profound malaise in the British elite, shown up by tolerance of the abuse of its own children that amounts to collusion. This culture and its traditions, and the hypocrisy, cronyism and conspiracy that underpin them, are key to any explanation of the scandals over sexual abuse, violence and cover-up in child care institutions that are now shocking the nation.

Complicity in child abuse is the bleak secret at the heart of today’s British elite.

Available here.

Hilary Jacobs Hendel (2018) It’s not always Depression, London: Penguin Life

A New Theory of Listening to Your Body, Discovering Core Emotions and Reconnecting with Your Authentic Self

We were all taught that our thoughts affect our emotions, but in truth it is largely the other way around: we have to experience our emotions to truly understand our thoughts, and our full selves. This is why we should think not only about cognitive behavioural therapy or medication, but also about our emotions, when addressing psychological suffering.

In It’s Not Always Depression, pioneering psychotherapist Hilary Jacobs Hendel reveals the most effective techniques for putting us back in touch with the emotions we too often deny – methods which can be used by anyone, any time, anywhere. Drawing on stories from her own practice, she sheds light on the core emotions (such as joy, sadness and fear), defences (anything we do to avoid feeling) and inhibitory emotions (anxiety, shame and guilt), and how understanding their interaction can help us return to mental well-being.

This is the basis of ‘accelerated experiential dynamic psychotherapy:’ it accelerates healing through having an emotional experience in the here and now. It allows you to reacquaint yourself with your feelings, to recover a more authentic self and to be more calm, curious and connected.

Available here

Read the introductory article

Christine Jack (2020) Recovering Boarding School Trauma Narratives, Abingdon: Routledge

Christopher Robin Milne as a Psychological Companion on the Journey to Healing

Unique and powerfully written, Jack takes the reader on a journey into her childhood in Australian boarding school convents in the 1950s and 1960s. Comparing her experience with Christopher Robin Milne’s, she interrogates his memoirs, illustrating that boarding school trauma knows no boundaries of time and place. She investigates their emerging individuality before being sent to live an institutional life and traces their feelings of longing and loneliness as well as the impact of the abuse each endured there.

As an educational historian, Jack writes in a ground-breaking way from the perspective of an insider and outsider, revealing how trauma remains in the unconscious, wielding power over the life of the adult, until the traumatic memories are recovered, emotions released and associated dysfunctional behaviour changed, restoring well-being. Engaging the lenses of history, life-span and Jungian psychology, feminist and trauma theory and boarding school trauma research, this book positions narrative writing as a way of reducing the power of trauma over the lives of survivors.

Personal and accessible, this book is essential reading for psychologists and educational historians, as well as students and academics of psychology, sociology, trauma studies, ex-boarders and those interested in the life of Christopher Robin Milne.

Buy from Routledge, Amazon.

Andrew Motion (2006) In the Blood: A Memoir of my Childhood, London: Faber

The Poet Laureate’s autobiography of his early years including being sent away to prep school. A sensitive account of the interplay and ambivalence experienced by all his family. A good account of Motion’s relationship with his mother. Learn more

Jane Barclay (2011) Does Therapy Work? Exeter: Troutbeck Press

“My aim is to demystify the practice of therapy, drawing on my experiences as both therapist and as client.

In Part One, I examine the ‘component parts’ of therapy and how they interact. I go on to consider what might be the source of all struggle and suffering.

In Part Two, I offer as demonstration a narrative of my own story as client in therapy, interweaving insights from my perspective as therapist.

All relationships carry risk. In therapy, the client is, by nature, vulnerable. The debate concerning regulation of practitioners heats up. What measures, if any, can safeguard both parties and promote creative and pioneering practice?” Learn more

Roald Dahl (1984) Boy, London: Penguin

Roald Dahl’s autobiography during his time at prep school, and later at Repton. Told very much from young child’s perspective about the horrors and fears he felt being sent away. Covers the period from the 1920s to the beginning of the Second World War. Learn more

Michael Heatley (2004) John Peel: A Life in Music, London: Michael O’Mara Books

“Peel was a shy boy who tended towards obstinate non-conformity, for which he paid in regular thrashings – he recalled that the school authorities ‘practically had to wake me up during the night in order to administer the required number of sound beatings’. Peel estimated the ‘flagellation rate’ in his first term at once every three days, but denied having been scarred by the experiences. ‘You developed techniques for coping’, he reflected.” Learn more

Jonathon Gathorne-Hardy (1977) The Public School Phenomenon, Lodon: Hodder and Stoughton

A book that looks at the development of the Public Schools from their ancient origins, through their survival over time.  Includes the introduction of girls’ schools. Very approachable and quite critical of the Public School system.  Helps to understand why the Public Schools came to look and function as they do in the present.

Bard Azima (2018) Boarding School: An Invitation to Dig Deeper

Reflections on the patterned roles of betrayal, trauma & boarding school on British & global politics & culture

“What is going on in Britain? What is going on in the world? Is all of this judgement, alienation, prejudice, anxiety, resignation and aggression ‘normal’? …  Our society is a macrocosm of a boarding culture that unwittingly betrays its children… Boarding School: An Invitation to Dig Deeper, not only reveals the historic and destructive patterns that govern every aspect of British life, but lays out an evolutionary road-map for how Britons can find the courage and consciousness to chart a more humane and productive course.

Available here.

John Wakeford (1969) The Cloistered Elite: A Sociological Analysis of the English Public Boarding School, London: MacMillan

This excellent book takes Goffman’s theories of total institutions and applies them to a study conducted in boarding schools. It examines how children are systematically stripped of their individual identities and expected to conform to the regime of the school where they live and work seven days a week. It looks at how subcultures emerge from these arrangements and the consequences for the individual.

Royston Lambert (1968) The Hothouse Society, London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson

An Exploration of Boarding-School Life through the Boys’ and Girls’ own Writings.

Andrew Tolson (1977) The Limits of Masculinity, London: Tavistock

A book written during the 1970s that questions masculine socialisation. It looks at the role that boarding school plays in making men emotionally estranged from themselves.

Christine Heward (1988) Making a Man of Him: Parents and their Sons’ Education at an English Public School 1929-50, London: Routledge

Accounts for how parents and headmasters worked together to shape men to feed the British Empire and middle class roles. Relying on correspondence between parents and the Head, hints at how the educational process sacrificed the individual.

Irving Goffman (1961) Asylums: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and other Inmates, London: Penguin

A original book about the stages an individual goes through to become absorbed into an institution. It is about how a person slowly loses their identity and takes on the identity of the institution and is subject to its rules and regulations. Frightening reading, when you see the implications for those who went to boarding school.

Donald Leinster-Mackay (1984) The Rise of the British Prep School, London: The Falmer Press

Jenny Ostini, Bernard Dainton, John Chenoweth, Janet Smith, Bernice Watkins, Eds (2020) Sent: Reflections on Mission, Boarding School and Childhood

A collection of stories from missionary kids who were sent to boarding school in Malaysia.

“Young children were sent to boarding school so that their parents could do missionary work. These are the stories of those children’s lives… Here are our voices from the past and from today, trying to make sense of what being sent away as children meant, and continues to mean for us.”

There have been books telling about missionary lives. This is one of the few to tell of the adult lives that followed in children sent away to a mission boarding school from young ages.

Available here.

Alisdare Hickson (1996) The Poisoned Bowl: Sex and the Public School, London: Gerald Duckworth & Co.

An anecdotal history of sex in Public Schools, with a foreword by George Melly. Contains reminiscences from over 100 notable contributors, including Alan Ayckbourn, Quentin Crisp, Lindsay Anderson, and generals, academics, religious figures and Members of Parliament. With recollections on events from petting in the boathouse at Lancing to prostitution at Eton. The book charts the ways public schools have attempted to control sexuality. Provides a history of homosexuality in the Public School system and the hysteria that raged for more than a century.

John Rae (1981) The Public School Revolution: Britain’s Independent Schools 1964-1979, London: Faber

Looks at the adjustments the Public Schools made during the social revolution of the 1960s and 1970s.

Geoffrey Walford (1986) Life in Public Schools, London: Methuen

A study that looks at the organisation and conduct of life in boys and girls schools during the early 1980s.

Harry Thompson (1977) Peter Cook: A Biography, London: Hodder and Stoughton

“I hated the first two years”, he (Peter) explained, “because of being bullied. And I was as cowardly as the next man. I didn’t enjoy getting beaten up, and I disliked being away from home – that part was horrid. But it started a sort of defence mechanism in me, trying to make people laugh so that they wouldn’t hit me.” Learn more

Antony Worrall Thompson (2003) Raw – My Autobiography, New York: Bantam Books

“St Ann’s was a kindergarten for boys up to the age of seven. As the official school starting age was five, I was being given a valuable headstart on the educational front, though I didn’t of course appreciate that at the time. However in terms of emotional damage, no one will ever know how deeply I may have been affected by being sent away to board at the age of three. My overriding memory is of feeling incredibly unwanted. I don’t recall anything specific from those first weeks other than that I looked forward to Sundays, when I could see my mum.” Learn more

Nuala O’Faolain (1996) Are You Somebody? The Accidental Memoir of a Dublin Woman, Dublin: New Island Books

Memoir of the Irish journalist, TV producer and columnist. Includes being packed off at the age of 14 to a boarding school in County Monaghan run by the St Louis nuns. Learn more

Angela Lambert (1990) No Talking After Lights, London: Black Swan

Set within a girls’ boarding school in the 1920s, this novel tells the story of new girl Constance King as she arrives at Raeburn boarding school. Lambert (1940-2007), a British journalist, author and art critic, went to boarding school herself. This left her with the memory of being “dumped by unfeeling parents”. Her experiences inspired this novel. Learn more

Antonia White (1933) Frost in May, London: Virago Press

This novel about convent life follows nine-year-old Nanda Grey at the Convent of the Five Wounds, a catholic boarding school, where she clashes with the closed, authoritarian regime. Learn more

Carole Inman (2015) Only Now Do I Know: Poems of a Five Year Old Boarder

Carole tells her personal story of feeling abandoned, excluded and worthless, which she recognised and confronted in 2011, aged 64. This is a story of hope and transformation, of finding a way out of that darkness and into a lighter, brighter way of living in the present.

Peter Lewis (1991) Mummy, Matron and the Maids: Feminine presence and absence in male institutions 1934-63. In: Michael Roper & John Tosh (eds) Manful Assertions: Masculinities in Britain since 1800, pp 168-189, London: Routledge

An essay that explores Public Schools originally being masculine institutions that completely excluded women. Questions the effects on male socialisation.

John Chandos (1985) Boys Together: English Public Schools 1800-1864, Oxford: OUP

Chandos writes about the dissolution of Public School culture at the beginning of the 1800s.  He shows how Victorian reforms gradually changed the schools over the next half century. Did the schools become better places? Or was brutality absorbed into the traditions of the schools?

Laura Knight (1936) Oil Paint and Grease Paint, London: Ivor Nicholson & Watson

Autobiography of the English Impressionist painter Dame Laura Knight (1877-1970), the first woman to be elected to the Royal Academy in 1936 and the official war artist at the Nuremberg Trials. Learn more

J R Honey (1977) Tom Brown’s Universe: the Development of the Victorian Public School, London: Millington

Details how Victorian chaos and dissolution of the Public Schools transformed them into the structure of the schools as we know today. The book explains Old Boy networks, the prefect system, the cult of games, religion and sexual relations in the context of boarding.

Penelope Lively (1975) Going Back, London: Penguin

This children’s book traces the lives of Jane and her brother Edward growing up on a farm during the Second World War. How the idyll is shattered when Edward is sent to prep school. Learn more

Margaret Kennedy (1936) Together and Apart, London: Cassell

A novel tracing the impact of divorce. Includes the boarding school experience of the son and his relationship with his sister as their parents’ marriage breaks up. Learn more

Oliver Sacks (2001) Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood, London: Picador

A horrifying account by Oliver Sacks of being whipped at Bradfield School. Learn more

Cyril Connolly (1928) Enemies of Promise, Pt 3: A Georgian Boyhood

Part 3 of Connolly’s three-part autobiographical account analyses his time at Eton College. Learn more

Robert Graves (1929) Good-Bye to All That, London: Jonathan Cape

Account of Graves’ life as a British Army officer in the First World War. Includes his family history, childhood, schooling at prep schools and his scholarship education at Charterhouse. Learn more

Drusilla Mojeska (1994) The Orchard, Toronto: Women’s Press

Born in England, the author lived in Papua New Guinea before arriving in Australia in 1971, going on to become one of its most acclaimed writers. Learn more

Byron Rogers (2006) The Man Who Went Into The West, London: Aurum Press

Biography of R S Thomas, one of the great post-war British poets. Damaged by her own boarding experiences, his mother found it hard to mother him. Thomas did not board but sent his son to Shrewsbury. Learn more

Fraser Harrison (1989) Trivial Disputes, London: Collins

The third volume in an autobiographical trilogy, this is Fraser Harrison’s account of his own childhood, including prep school and his time at Shrewsbury. Learn more

Rupert Everett (2007) Red Carpets and Other Banana Skins, London: Abacus

Actor Rupert Everett’s candid memoir, in which he describes his boarding school experiences – first at prep school and later at Ampleforth, the Catholic public boarding school. Left alone at prep school at just seven years old, his recollection of his initial few days are described as “haunting” by our reviewer. Learn more

Rudyard Kipling (1889) Baa Baa Black Sheep, in Wee Willie Winkie and Other Child Stories, Allahabad: A.H. Wheeler & Co.

Kipling’s powerful short story, likely based on his own childhood experience about coming from India at the age of five to a foster family, and then a day school. Learn more

Sheila Hancock (2004) The Two of Us: My Life with John Thaw, London: Bloomsbury

Actress Sheila Hancock’s memoir, in which she recounts her relationship with fellow actor John Thaw who, although not a boarder, had been abandoned by his mum as a child, and exhibits the same patterns of behaviour as former boarders.

Our reviewer says that from a spouse point of view, it was interesting and helpful to read how Hancock dealt with the issues and how these patterns manifested until he died. Learn more

Michael Morpugo (1996) The Butterfly Lion, London: HarperCollins Children’s Books

Award-winning book from former Children’s Laureate, who ran away from his prep school. The book is about the lifelong friendship between a young boy, Bertie, growing up in Africa, and an orphaned white lion cub. Separated when Bertie is sent to boarding school in England, the lion is sold to a circus. Learn more

Erich Maria Remarque (1929), tr. Brian Murdoch (1994) All Quiet on the Western Front, London: Jonathan Cape

Remarque’s classic novel about the horrors of war, which was banned by the German government.  One of our supporters comments: “I first read it when I was 13 at boarding school and it has long been my favourite. It’s only recently I’ve worked out why. It is the point at which he goes home on leave that has me in bits every time., when he lies to his mother about how it is at the front.” Learn more

Stephen Fry (1997) Moab is My Washpot, London: Arrow Books

Fry’s autobiography, including his boarding school days. Learn more

William Boyd (1985) School Ties, London: Hamish Hamilton

Speculative memoir of Gordonstoun schooldays from best-selling author and screenwriter William Boyd.  In this non-fiction introduction to his two TV plays about “the vicissitudes” of public schools – Good and Bad at Games (1983) and Dutch Girls (1985). Buy here

Charlotte Brontë (1853) Villette, Ware: Wordsworth Editions

Draws on her own deeply unhappy experiences as a governess in Brussels. Charlotte Brontë’s last and most autobiographical novel follows Lucy Snowe, as she sets sail from England to find employment in a girls’ boarding school in the small town of Villette. Learn more

Charlotte Brontë (1847) Jane Eyre, Ware: Wordsworth Editions

The classic novel includes five chapters about orphan Jane Eyre’s wretched time at Lowood, a charity school. Learn more

Charles Dickens (1848) Dombey and Son, Ware: Wordsworth Editions

Dickens’ account of life in a boarding school where Dombey Jnr and the other boys undergo both an intense and arduous education. Learn more

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