Book review: The School Inspector Calls by Gervase Phinn
Author of a raft of non-fiction Yorkshire Dales books based on his experiences as a teacher and school inspector, the much-loved Gervase Phinn returns with the third book in his enchanting fictional, but very much fact-based, foray into school and village life.
The nostalgic Little Village School series 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 plain-speaking children to eccentric locals and hard-pressed teachers, the bluff Dales folk are the mainstays of Phinn’s memorable cast.
As the new term gets underway at Barton-in-the-Dale, it’s not just the warm weather that is getting people hot under the collar. Headteacher Elisabeth Devine is contemplating the difficulties that lie ahead over the forthcoming merger with neighbouring Urebank Primary School.
Now the newly appointed head of the integrated schools, Elisabeth must face the displeasure and condescension of Urebank’s former head Robin Richardson, soon to be her deputy. She will have to use all her diplomatic skills to make him work with her rather than against her.
She also faces a visit from the Inspector of Schools later in the term and the challenge of organising a big school production of The Wizard of Oz. A new pupil with behavioural problems (and the unfortunate name of Robin Banks) is testing everyone’s patience, and a surprising staff love affair is set to be exposed.
It seems the only bright spots are the wonderful children who attend Barton-in-the-Dale school and her impending marriage to the local GP Michael Stirling.
But there’s no escaping the drama of the new term… with a sprinkling of secrets, old flames, new liaisons, psychics and misfortune, there’s plenty to gossip about this summer.
The School Inspector Calls sees Phinn at his best as he transports us back to the 1980s for an affectionate, witty and poignant tale full of life’s joys and tragedies, and featuring real-life events and situations that we can all recognise.
But the true stars are his Yorkshire characters ... earthy, awkward, outspoken, impatient, occasionally intolerant but always entertaining.
This is everyday life with all its humour, pathos and drama – but distinctively, delightfully and doggedly Dales style!
(Hodder, paperback, £7.99)