Cover detail of Over the Gate by Miss Read

Over the Gate by Miss Read

Today, I have a lovely story I want to tell you. In early September a lovely lady called Lynn reached out to me with a story that she had been wanting to share for a long time. After checking with Lynn I was ok to do this, I'm going to share Lynn's words with you.

'This story is about my mother. She loved all of Miss Read's books, read and reread them. The Miss Read books I have were hers. My mother was a voracious reader. She particularly loved any books about England. Agatha Christie and Miss Read, the Bronte’s were about all that our town library in Maryland had. She dreamt about going to England and was particularly in love with the idea of the small English village (Sadly she suffered from heart and health problems and never got to realize her dream).

'Anyway, we were going through a difficult time my father was older and his company laid everyone over 50 off. My mother had to leave a part time job in the local college bookstore ( beautiful campus) and take a full time job in a department store that she hated. Reading and The Miss Read books became even more important to her as a way to cope and as an escape.

So she wrote to Miss Read ( Doris Jessie Saint) in care of her publisher to thank her and tell her how much her books meant to her. My mother received a letter back (from Miss Read). I still have that letter, but after that, Miss Read would occasionally write my mother a letter, maybe once or twice a year and she would always send her a Christmas card, she continued this for many years. Sadly I could only find one letter but I treasure it. It made such a difference in my mothers life at such a difficult time. Things got better. She never returned to the job that she loved. She kept reading those books. Amazing what the power reading can do isn’t it? And an incredibly kind person'

Lynn kindly shared a picture of the letter received by her Mum.

Miss Read Letter 1
Miss Read Letter 2

'I would like other people to know about Mrs Saint's, kindness. Sometimes we forget that our favorite authors are people going about their days and lives, taking a few minutes to connect with a fan across the ocean made a difference in my mother's life. So feel free to share it. The story was a gift to you and others who love her books.'

Thank you to Lynn for sharing this. I feel honoured to be bringing the story of her mother and Miss Read to you today and it feels fitting that we review a Miss Read book.

The Plot

A weight-losing recipe sends a portly Victorian housemaid literally sky high.
Mrs Next-Door, the Queen of copycats, drives her patient neighbour mad with rage; the tragic tale of the ghost of Fairacre; the touch-and -go romance of Elsie Parker...
In Over the Gate Miss Read, the village schoolmistress continues to attract odd incidents and excellent stories....and to retell them with characteristic grace, astringency and compassion.

My Thoughts

One of the dangers for many authors who write a well-loved series, is the prospect of same-old, same-old. But I am very glad to report that this is NOT the case in Over the Gate, the 5th book in the Fairacre series. For the series, you are absolutely fine to read these as stand alone novels.

I have also enjoyed reading them in order as there is a real sense of social history at work as village life changes. The village gets bigger, more affordable housing is required and supermarkets are the places where shopping is done, as oppose to the village shop. But there is something wistful about these changes. Old ways start to be lost, and a way of life transformed sometimes not for the better.

Through Miss Read's novels, we get a glimpse of these old ways. The prediction of weather, the old remedies for illnesses, the farming year and it is wonderfully nostalgic.

Miss Read makes each of the Fairacre novels feel fresh instead of writing about that 'same-old, same-old'. In this instance the novel centres on tales told to Miss Read over the gate of village legends, stories about falling-outs, a woman who could fly and complicated love stories. These tales speak of a village gone by, and how we, as humans, love our story-telling. How each story is passed from generation to generation, shared over a cup of tea or round a fire.

I adore the works of Miss Read, and the reading was made even warmer by the story relayed at the start of my review. Thank you once again to Lynn for sharing your lovely story of Miss Read and your mum.