HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Good-bye, Mr. Chips
Author: James Hilton
Illustrator: H. M. Brock
Publisher: Important Books, republished in 2013
ISBN13: 9780316364201 (Hardback)
ISBN-10: 0316364207 (Hardback)
ISBN-13: 9780316010139 (Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0316010138 (Paperback)
Language level: 2
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Ages 13 and up
Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Hilton, James. Good-bye, Mr. Chips (published in 1934 by Atlantic-Little Brown Books, an imprint of Little Brown and Company). As the book opens, it is around 1933, and Arthur Chipping, known affectionately as Mr. Chips, is an 85 year old retired English schoolteacher. Born in 1848, he sits by the fire in his armchair and reminisces one evening about his life from the time he came to teach at Brookfield Grammar School for boys situated in the Fenlands in 1870 and helped shape the lives of generation after generation of boys during his 43 year long tenure there, through his marriage at age 48 to Katherine (Kathy) Bridges and her death after childbirth, up to his days of retirement when he took lodgings in rooms at Mrs. Wickett’s across the road from the school but still maintained contact with the faculty and students. The story ends when the time comes for the sad but grateful students at Brookfield to bid their final goodbye to Mr. Chips.
Author James Hilton, whose next most famous book is probably Lost Horizon about the mythical paradise of Shangri-La wrote Good-bye, Mr. Chips in loving memory of his own father, who was the headmaster of a school, and in tribute to his profession. It had originally been issued as a supplement to the British Weekly, an evangelical newspaper, in 1933 but came to prominence when it was reprinted in the United States as the lead piece of the April, 1934, issue of The Atlantic, the success of which prompted a book deal. The setting for Good-bye, Mr. Chips is probably based on The Leys School, Cambridge, where James Hilton was a pupil (1915–18), and the inspiration for Mr. Chips himself is likely to have come from W. H. Balgarnie, one of the masters at The Leys (1900–30). The novel has been adapted into two films and two television versions.
There is one reference to drinking sherry, and the word “Lord” is used as an interjection once. The book is certainly sentimental, but from a historical standpoint it accurately depicts the sweeping social changes that Chips experienced throughout his life, from the beginning of his time at Brookfield in 1870 as the Franco-Prussian War was breaking out, through the rapid fading of the Victorian social order after Queen Victoria’s death in 1901 whose remnants were fully destroyed by World War I, to when he lay on his deathbed shortly after Hitler’s rise to power. After I read a book and write my review, I often look t other reviews, usually noting the negative ones first to see why people did not like it. Nearly all those who panned Good-bye, Mr. Chips were students who had to read it for class. That is one thing wrong with “required reading lists” in school. Most kids just do not have enough life experience to appreciate what books like this represent. I am glad that I read it because I am better for having done so.