“ Author: Jack Sheffield / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 02 September 2010 / Genre: Modern & Contemporary Fiction / Publisher: Transworld Publishers Ltd / Title: Village Teacher / ISBN 13: 9780552157889 / ISBN 10: 0552157889 „
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==Synopsis of the book:==
The year is 1980 and in the Northern village of Ragley-on-the-Forest the new school term is about to start. The Primary School Headmaster Jack Sheffield is in his fourth year in charge and looking forward to a bright and happy future now that he has found his true love Beth. With the support of his staff the school are embracing a changing world.
However there are clouds on the horizon and small village schools are now under threat of closure, as the government looks to have fewer but larger education establishments. This book follows Jack in the Academic year as he writes of his logbook of events that effect him, the school and all those associated with it.
==My thought on the novel:==
I was given this book by a friend who was interested in my opinion of it as she knew I love reading. It was certain very different piece of fiction to the usual crime or Detective novels I usually read. That said I did enjoy this light hearted and heart-warming story that was easy to read and at times very amusing and very entertaining.
Jack Sheffield is not an author I have heard of before I tried this book. He originates from the North East and spent many years at a Headteacher at two Primary Schools, before becoming a successful author. This is the third book in a series that so far number five of life as a Headteacher at a small village school. It was written in 2010.
When I first looked at this novel, I was expecting something different. I read the quite short summary of the book and from that I got the immediate impression this was going to be a very funny book with lots of funny/weird characters in humorous situations. And while it was at times funny and I enjoyed the different levels of humour the author employed it was more a heart warming story of a Primary School at the heart of the local Community.
It was in truth a story I took a good while to warm to. I would attribute this to two factors. Firstly, it was a new author and I do find I take a while to get used to a new style of writing. Secondly, I usually read crime fiction, in those you usually have a fast paced story with lots of action involved. And while in this story there was action, it was usually more down to earth, slow and well thought out. That said I did enjoy it and really want to try another in the series so that I can grow to learn more about the lead character Jack Sheffield and his school.
A further feature certainly I found difficult being a Southerner was getting to grips with the Yorkshire accent. I know others will not have this issue and will probably enjoy it but I found it hard to read and understand some of the words especially the children were saying. As a result I probably missed a bit of the humour and it slowed me down trying to understand what was being said.
The book started in an unusual way. With a map to show where the key places of interest in the village. I actually did not find this of any interest, but I thought it would be important for the story so I studied it so I could try to remember what was where. However having read the novel I do not think it was important, but it certainly added to the feeling that the author knew and what to share everything about the village in his writings.
It was a story that was easy to get into although I kept expecting to be enthralled by it but that never really happened. It was always interesting and I was keen to know what was going to happen to the school and its inhabitants. Without ever having me hooked so that I could not put it down and felt I must read more. Although that said it was well written so that you could feel you where with Jack experiencing some of the funny things the Children said or did.
What particularly appealed to me was the fact it was set in 1980. And being set then it was a time I remember and the author was excellent at displaying what was happening in Britain at the time. He did this by reminding us of what was happening such as Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer's wedding, the music that was popular then and the new technology that people where trying to get to grips with, with varying levels of success. I really enjoyed this and liked learning what the various characters in the story thought of this.
In many ways this was a charming and often satisfying read. I think this was because while there was the threat of the school closing, most of the themes within the story where quite happy and told in a gentle way. As a result for me it had the feel of a feel good novel and certainly one that was a pleasure to read and escape from today's world for a while.
The story pace was steady and it built towards an interesting conclusion. I particularly enjoyed the way we got a snap shot of life in this Northern village. The only thing that bothered me was Jack's relationship with Beth that for me always seemed doomed as they both seemed to what different things out of life.
The author was excellently at signposting the story so that you always knew exactly where you where. For example when a new chapter started you would get the date and detail about exactly what was due to happen that day. The author would then share some detail about the various characters important in the event about to be described so you could imagine them in the scene and you felt you knew them and their different ways.
Jack was the leading character for this book and it was written from his perspective. He was a character I struggled to really know and understand. For me I would have preferred a bit more depth on him so I could have felt I understood him a bit better. As it was I felt particularly for a Head teacher he was a bit weak and I expected a stronger maybe more unusual character would have added to the story. That said I did not dislike him I just found him a little dull. Although I did think the author redeemed himself to some extent with some of the clever characters especially the children.
Overall I think I would recommend this gentle and often sweet tale. It certainly had it's humour and a few times it had me chuckling away as I pictured the scene being played out. Although I did find following the Yorkshire accent of some of the children tough and I needed to really concentrate on what was being said, so it slowed everything down. I really think I need to read another of this series as I do like the way the author reminds us of the most important events of the year and takes us back to how people felt about them.
More about the author: www.jacksheffield.com
Thanks for reading my review.
This review is published on both Ciao and Dooyoo under my user name.
© CPTDANIELS June 2012.