Village School, Village Diary and Storm In The Village by Miss Read
These are the first three books in the Fairacre series by Miss Read, pen name for English novelist and school teacher Dora Jessie (Shafe) Saint, 1913 – 2012. They were published in 1955, 1957 and 1958 as individual novels, then later together in one volume.
Village School is narrated by Miss Read, school mistress of a two-room school in the small English village of Fairacre. The book is separated into sections, one for each school term, and introduces us to the village and it's inhabitants with a focus on school activities throughout the course of one school year. The villagers are a lively and opinionated bunch. There is the the grumpy school cleaning lady, the wise school caretaker, the kindly Vicar, the blacksmith, the town drunk, and of course the children of the school. There is no real plot but rather the day to day happenings of ordinary people told with wit and insight. It could have been corny but thankfully it was not. It was gentle and fun and made me glad there was a whole series of books to follow it.
Village Diary is Miss Read's month by month journal of village life through the changing seasons for one year. I enjoyed it even more than the first one. Miss Read was more fleshed out as a character and the focus changed from the school to the village. The village people - that just sounds weird - are wonderful characters, with all the faults and flaws common to all of us, but full of heart. And funny. When the Vicar asks Miss Read if she has met the new bachelor in the neighborhood, with whom the entire village has been obviously scheming to set her up...: "An almost irresistible urge to push the dear vicar headlong over the low school wall, against which he was leaning, was controlled with difficulty, and I was surprised to hear myself replying politely that I had not had that pleasure yet. Truly, civilization is a wonderful thing."
Storm In The Village finds all the villagers upset over the threat of a new housing development that could potentially change the landscape, close the school and ruin the way of life that has been theirs for as long as they can remember. At the same time Miss Read must deal with an assistant teacher whose behaviour has the gossip's tongues wagging, the failing health of one of her dearest friends and a runaway little boy.
I am very grateful to have found these books, which are everything I look for in a light, easy read. I like the writing, the characters, the setting and the humour - there's nothing I don't like. I'd love to chain-read them but I should to try to space them out and make them last longer. If you like quiet stories about country life you really must check these out.