'Shame on You' by Clara Salaman

Discussion of the children's schools in the UK.
daska
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Re: 'Shame on You' by Clara Salaman

Postby daska » Mon Aug 24, 2009 10:17 pm

trubleshtr wrote:Thanks ET.

Clem Salaman was there on a Tuesday when I attended last year and although I have never met him personally, he does come across as a gentle, studious and kind fellow, not someone who would take a belt to his little girl.

It would be helpful to know what is true about the book.


Appearances can be deceptive, my dad comes across the same way but I can assure you a thrashing from him was not a gentle activity! A lot of SES parents did punish their kids physically, some highly regarded members also beat up their wives and at least one threw his wife down the stairs while his kids were in the house. One girl in my class came in to school more than once with welts the shape of her father's buckle. Conversely, I don't specifically remember any of the girls from non-SES families being beaten; I'm not saying they weren't but where I can specifically remember the bruising and welts the kids had SES fathers.

Considering the book as a novel (which obviously gives Clara the licence to use whatever locations/events/characters are best fitted to tell the story) I think the way I would view this scene would be that with regard to the general reality of our school experience, it is more 'fact' than fiction even if this specific scene isn't autobiographical.

While writing this I've realised that I'm not sure I want to know exactly what is true for specific individuals about this book. I know which bits are true for me and I know which bits are, on balance of probability, likely to be true for someone else. That's painful enough.

Matthew
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Re: 'Shame on You' by Clara Salaman

Postby Matthew » Mon Aug 24, 2009 10:53 pm

bonsai wrote:Can anyone shed any light on the legal action that the SES is taking against Clara regarding this book?


Bonsai, where have you heard this? Its the first I've heard of it.

All I knew is that they threatened the publishers with legal action if SES were named, but NOT that they were actually taking any action against Clara. She's said all along in her interviews that she "cant name them for legal reasons".

Curious to hear what you've heard otherwise?

Daffy
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Re: 'Shame on You' by Clara Salaman

Postby Daffy » Mon Aug 24, 2009 11:41 pm

I agree with Matthew. I haven't seen anything published suggesting that the SES is actually taking legal action - see my earlier post (viewtopic.php?f=7&t=688&p=9349#p9349).

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bonsai
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Re: 'Shame on You' by Clara Salaman

Postby bonsai » Mon Aug 24, 2009 11:55 pm

Matthew wrote:Bonsai, where have you heard this? Its the first I've heard of it.

All I knew is that they threatened the publishers with legal action if SES were named, but NOT that they were actually taking any action against Clara. She's said all along in her interviews that she "cant name them for legal reasons".


I haven't heard anything specifically, rather just that I notice the express article mentions Juliet Salaman leaving because of the planned legal action.

Daily Express wrote:My dad is still a highly respected member but my mum has recently left. She was annoyed that they planned to take legal action over my book.


I'm just wondering what is actually happening about any legal action and whether it is more than just a threat.

Bonsai

Matthew
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Re: 'Shame on You' by Clara Salaman

Postby Matthew » Tue Aug 25, 2009 12:34 am

Thanks for pointing that out. I imagine it was just a threat, but would also be interested if anyone knows otherwise.

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Re: 'Shame on You' by Clara Salaman

Postby Daffy » Tue Aug 25, 2009 2:05 am

I finished reading Shame on You last week and it turned out to be so much more (and so much better) than I had expected.

Before I opened the book I had expected an autobiographical miseryfest of stories about Clara's childhood experiences at St James: the teachers who had tormented her, the places and events that held unhappy memories for her. It was going to be a precise account of her childhood, with names changed at the insistence of the lawyers.

Shame on You isn't an autobiography. It is a fictional storyline that, as Clara says in her newspaper articles, draws heavily on her childhood experiences. I won't say anything about the account of the heroine's adult life to avoid spoiling it for those who haven't read it yet, but it's a fascinating tale of bottled up emotional baggage and its effect years later.

It's skillfully written, with clever similes used on every page to describe what is going on in her mind. She describes brilliantly her sense of injustice, her anger and disappointment at her parents, the hopelessness of having no-one believe in her, the sense of betrayal by her contemporaries who as adults were still involved in the schools, and the nauseating recoil she feels every time she goes near one of the SES's old buildings. Clara makes this kind of storytelling look easy.

I tried to imagine whether Shame on You would be interesting to a reader that had no knowledge of or interest in the SES, St James or cults. I can't put my own experiences aside and be objective, but I felt the book would attract the 'disinterested' reader too: the story's 'destination' isn't exactly hard to guess but the journey there is what makes it rewarding.

Having known some of the characters from my time at St James I was constantly wondering whether this subplot or that event actually happened, but this didn't detract from my enjoyment of the book as a novel.

Despite the dark subject matter, there are equal numbers of laughs and tears. Those of you who have been holding back from reading it in case it stirs up disturbing memories or further anger, I think you should give it a go - you won't be disappointed.

trubleshtr
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Re: 'Shame on You' by Clara Salaman

Postby trubleshtr » Tue Aug 25, 2009 3:58 pm

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daska
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Re: 'Shame on You' by Clara Salaman

Postby daska » Tue Aug 25, 2009 4:54 pm

@ trubleshtr: I am not Clara so I can't clarify much about the book except my own views, but what I can say is that there was nothing in the description of the school/ philosophy/ SES family home life that struck a wrong chord - even if the plot took it to extremes.

trubleshtr
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Re: 'Shame on You' by Clara Salaman

Postby trubleshtr » Tue Aug 25, 2009 6:29 pm

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daska
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Re: 'Shame on You' by Clara Salaman

Postby daska » Tue Aug 25, 2009 7:09 pm

The greatest blame has to be laid at the door of the person that told them that what they were doing was good.

But, just in case someone chooses to misunderstand what I've said earlier: In no way are my comments to be taken to imply that all / only SES men are wife-beaters.

Free
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Postby Free » Tue Aug 25, 2009 8:41 pm

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bluegreen
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Re: 'Shame on You' by Clara Salaman

Postby bluegreen » Tue Aug 25, 2009 8:44 pm

St James school for girls 1977-1981

Hello
I have just finished Shame On You and it hit me so hard with memories that I almost had to check it wasn't me who had written it.
All the teachers seemed to have their victims and they picked the same child or small group of children to blame every time. Miss Caldwell obviously selected Clara, that much is autobiographical. For me it was Miss Hartigan (later Mrs Skinner) and Mrs Coxle (?sp). Luckily I was one of 3 who were picked on every lesson, Clara's character Caroline definitely suffered for being alone in it. I remember the humiliation. I remember the torturings to confess, that Clara describes. I remember what a fearsome person Miss Caldwell was and what the corner of her room looked like. I bet that licked streak was there but unfortunately I don't remember that.
Like all of you I was in no doubt that what she described that went on in that school and that home, happened to somebody or a few people. Because the way the SES people talk, the things they punished children for, the punishments they used, the silence and coldness, the forcing to confess to something you were accused of, is all too familiar to too many of us. Plus we had more insight into other children's homes because of the weeks we had to stay with others while our parents were off scrubbing floors and living in a present moment that didn't contain their kids. We witnessed other peoples cold houses, angry fathers and submissive floaty mothers even if ours weren't too bad.
I would say Clara still had a lot of anger when writing the book, not least toward her father. When the character swore, that was necessary for the storyline but when the narrator swore, I think that was burning anger. And there sure was a lot of that. She did say on the radio that her father didn't beat her, but she plainly has worse grudges against him than that if the psychological stuff is true. And the fact that even though his daughter has written a novel, he won't read it himself but is getting his wife to read it to him, suggests the SES crap is still more important to him than his children. I would like to see her mother struggling with F words and extra marital sex whilst reading it to him. That forms an amusing picture. My parents left the SES because my sister and I spent so much time in punishments we were rarely getting taught anything. Although with hindsight I wonder how much vedic maths, ancient greek, sanskrit, scripture, vedic dance etc an under 9 year old needs. My mother went along with all the sexist stuff up to a point and still does but when my father was involved in our discipline a handful of times, he did it SES style and my mum told him never to discipline us again. How one forgives a mother who didn't stand up for her babies, I don't know.
I too wondered how this novel would work for someone who doesn't recognise every person and place like I do. I think that because it's novel she added the thriller element which takes it into mainstream interest. I will see if I can lend it to someone who never went there to see what they thought. For me it was unputdownable, and despite having 2 toddlers I got through it in 2 days.
Thanks Clara, I needed that.
St James Girls School 1977-1981

bluegreen
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Re: 'Shame on You' by Clara Salaman

Postby bluegreen » Tue Aug 25, 2009 8:46 pm

I wondered why she called him that. Did he get like that physically in his declining years?
Another one was Riversmead for Waterperry.
St James Girls School 1977-1981

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bonsai
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Re: 'Shame on You' by Clara Salaman

Postby bonsai » Tue Aug 25, 2009 8:48 pm

Free wrote:However over the years I began to see how deeply troubled he was. His idea of truth was rigid and insular. He was dogmatic, controlling and deeply misogynistic. He thought nothing of interfering in the lives of others to achieve SES' goals. He thought nothing of attacking and belittling his students publicly. He had little experience with happy family life, successful child rearing or education, yet launched a day school that terrorised a generation. These failings overwhelmed any good he may have done.
That is quite simply the most succinct and accurate description of MacLaren I have heard. Spot on Free

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bonsai
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Re: 'Shame on You' by Clara Salaman

Postby bonsai » Tue Aug 25, 2009 8:57 pm

bluegreen wrote:... it hit me so hard with memories that I almost had to check it wasn't me who had written it.

This is the thing that I find so amazing about this book and why it is so important that it has been written, the fact is that I'm a bloke who went to the boys school and started 4 years behind Clara yet the mental discussion revealed by Clara is so similar to my own. It is a book the puts down in black and white what many of us are probably thinking and feeling. The benefit of it is to realise that you are not the only one who has reacted this way to the environment that we were thrust into.

Bonsai


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