Book review: The Little Village School by Gervase Phinn

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A woman who wears red shoes with silver heels and black lacy stockings for an interview as a head teacher can’t be the right person for the job... can she?

Barton-in-the-Dale Primary School has never seen anything like Elisabeth Devine but, against all the odds, she gets the nod – red shoes, short skirt, bright blonde hair and all.

The times they are a-changing at the little village school, and not everybody is happy about it...

Author of a fleet of non-fiction Yorkshire Dales books based on his experiences as a teacher and school inspector, the much-loved Gervase Phinn has come up with a novel idea – writing novels!

The Little Village School is everything you would expect from the pen of this enterprising Yorkshireman... funny, warm, perceptive and full of hard-earned wisdom gained from a lifetime of working in schools.

From village gossips and forthright children to eccentric locals and a bored vicar’s wife, the bluff Dales folk are the mainstays of Phinn’s memorable cast.

Understandably, Elisabeth Devine’s arrival is causing quite a stir in Barton-in-the-Dale. The big mystery, of course, is why the successful head of a large inner city primary should want to move to a village in the middle of the countryside.

There were few applicants for the job, not surprising as the school was recently given a dreadful inspection report, parents are sending their children elsewhere and there’s the little matter of cockroaches under the skirting boards.

And that’s not even counting the other challenges like a bitter former head teacher, a grumpy caretaker and a duplicitous chairman of governors.

Barton-in-the-Dale proves to be a village where little has changed for hundreds of years and anything new is regarded with suspicion.

Elisabeth will have to use all her energetic magic to get the school back on track and stop the gossip about her mysterious past taking off like an express train...

The Little Village School is a charming and poignant tale, full of life’s ups and downs and joys and tragedies, and featuring real-life events and situations that we can all recognise.

But the true stars are its very Yorkshire characters ... earthy, awkward, outspoken, impatient, occasionally intolerant but always entertaining.

(Hodder, paperback, £7.99)