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==Synopsis of the book:==
The year is 1978 and Jack Sheffield is beginning his second year as headmaster at a small primary school in North Yorkshire. It is his dairy of the events, thoughts and characters that around both the school and its place within this small local community. It is a time when Blondie and the Boom Town Rats are riding high in the charts, there is an air of discontent as Unions take on the Labour government and the Rubik cube makes its mark on the British public.
Jack arrives at his desk for the first day of term with several letters awaiting his attention, one addressed to 'Mister Teacher' though immediately takes his interest. It is from a nine year old boy Sebastian suffering from leukaemia. Jack is enchanted by this boy's letter and he decides he will try and provide some comfort to him while he battles with this disease.
Meanwhile Jack's secretary Vera who worships the current opposition leader Margaret Thatcher is undertaking this most important period in her life. She like her idol are both preparing for elections with Vera trying to forfil her lifetime ambition of becoming President of the Radley's Womens Institute. Jack's settled life with long term girlfriend Beth Henderson is now threatened by her desire to become a Headmistress herself with limited local opportunities. Plus the appearance of Beth's enchanting younger sister Laura.
==My thoughts on this novel:==
I thought this was a good and enjoyable piece of fiction. What I particularly like is the fact it centres around events in 1978 and 1979 academic year. The reason I like this is because it is really good to be reminded of what was happening in Britain during this time and the author is excellent at recounting the important events of that time. It is an interesting and very well thought out dairy of what it is like to be a Headmaster in a small village school during this changing period.
This is the second book written by Jack Sheffield and what I particularly like about this series is the author writes from his experiences. As he was a Headmaster in various schools in Yorkshire in the late 1970's and early 1980's. To me this really shows in the quality of the various stories within the book and makes it seem like you are back at school during this time. This is the second in a series of stories that currently number six within this Teacher series. It was first published in 2007.
When I read the first novel by this author, I was not sure if I enjoyed it or not. I knew I needed to read another to make my mind up and really get used to the main characters within it. However having enjoyed this story I can now say I think this is a well written and well thought out series. In this book Jack is in his second year as Headmaster a year that for him and his fellow teachers is full on new challenges.
What particularly appeals to me about these stories is the humour and wit the author shares within them. This can be due to a situation the characters find themselves in or it could be the children using the wrong word within a sentence and making it hilarious. Although I must admit while I often laughed at what I read I would have preferred a longer scene in many cases building up to the killer line. As the writer was excellently at describing a scene so that it was easy to picture it so that you felt you where there witnessing it.
The story begins appropriately with the first day of term and this interesting letter from this amazing little boy. I liked the fact in basically a light hearted book a serious issue was addressed. Although I must admit I was disappointed that it was not discussed or involved in the story more than a few times. I thought because it was the title of the novel and it was brought up so early within it, it was going to be the key part of the story. I would have liked that and I think the author could have used this letter to introduce the little boy and chart his up and downs while he and his family dealt with the illness.
That said it was not the only letter that arrived on Jack's desk the first day of term and the other two that featured in the prologue where also themes within the story that would re-occur within it. The story follows the key events of the year almost like a diary but it focuses on key days rather than every day. I like the style as you feel because the chapters are not too long and the dates are moving forward that you are making good progress through the academic year as the Children and teachers are.
The pace of the story was good and I really like the way the story does not just focus on Jack and the school. It also incorporates all the main characters within a close nit and small local community. So that while Jack is the main character and in every book, you also have a number of characters with big personalities within various scenes within the story. These can be in all the books such as the Shop assistants in the various shops or the Teaching Staff or as in the case of the pupils in Jacks class just in this book.
That said Jack is a good lead character who it is easy to identify with and like. Although for my money he often appears a little bit weak especially when dealing with women and I would like to see a little more steel in is personality. As my memory of Headmasters is they where always strong characters you didn't necessarily like but respected and I don't see Jack like this. For me he is more of a kind, thoughtful man who always considers others feelings. That said I still think he is a good character and I really liked the idea of him being confused by the appearance of the lively younger sister of Beth.
It is the support characters that for me make the story more enjoyable. I think because again they are believable and we all know character like the ones the author describes within our own lives. These tend to always been well thought out characters and I love learning more about their histories and personalities. For example Dorothy the 22 year old assistant in the coffee shop who wears clothes like her hero wonder woman. As because of excellent descriptions it is easy to picture this peroxide blonde who is five feet eleven inches tall trying to look like Lynda Carter and failing.
I love the fact that the story is basically fun and it is wonderful at taking you to days you either remember of have heard about. The author is excellent at bringing the key events of the time into the story so that you have an all-round feel of what it was like to be the Headteacher in 1978/9. The majority of it is light hearted and funny but it is good to have the odd serious issue brought up as to make it realistic.
I think the length of the story was just right to tell an amusing but absorbing story. The only thing I would like to see is an analogue as I feel the author leaves us at the end of each book on tender hooks on one issue and while this may encourage you to read the next in the series, it is also good to feel you have closure on the story and it is complete. I certainly will be looking to try another in this charming series in the near future.
I thought this was a very good and enjoyable piece of fiction. It is one I would recommend as it is not only an interesting way to look back at this period it is also funny whilst being entertaining. For me this is a feel good read and one while always well thought out that is not too deep and in some respects is an escapism from the real world in which we live now.
Price: 4.79 New at Amazon
Year first Published: 2007
More about the author: www.jacksheffield.com
Thanks for reading my review.
This review is published under my user name on both Ciao and Dooyoo.
© CPTDANIELS July 2012