Village School by Miss Read

Village School by Miss Read

You do know I love a good preamble right? Despite being Yorkshire born, I did end up growing up in a county called Lincolnshire, a county so flat you could stick a load of lemon and sugar on it and call it a pancake. The only exception to this is a road running through Lincoln Town Centre called (imaginatively) Steep Hill where, halfway up the hill, and welcome relief to people with screaming calves, used to reside a second hand bookshop called 'The Readers Rest'. I say used to because sadly it has closed and the owner retired. The shop used to house roughly 30,000 second hand titles covering every genre you could imagine. It was here on one of the many happy afternoons I spent there that I discovered Miss Read, the novelist (I mean she wasn't sat in a corner or anything).

Miss Read writes about the villages of Fairacre and Thrush Green and Village School is the first novel in the Fairacre set. Published in 1955, it provides quite an insight into post war British rural life and schooling and is narrated by Miss Read.

I adore these books. At the time of writing the country is currently in the grip of Storm Francis and Miss Read was the perfect accompaniment (with a cuppa of course) to the lashing rain and howling winds. The novels are gentle, extremely funny and provide a wonderful comment on living in a rural village in the 1950s. Miss Read paints wonderful portraits of the villagers; the indomitable school cleaner Mrs Pringle, member of the local village choir who suddenly develops a bad leg whenever the huge tortoise stoves need lighting. The vicar, who has a pair of much beloved cheetah fur gloves and in moments of animation flurries his hands about so much, cheetah fur can be found all over the classroom following one fo his visits. And Joseph Coggs, one of the new starters at the school.

Miss Read comments on village politics are basically never criticise and always assume that everyone is somehow related to everyone else for fear of causing offence. This is demonstrated beautifully when the Vicar's wife questions a donation of a broken, hideous, 3 legged table to the local village jumble sale and which turns out to have been donated by Mrs Pringle. The table was her Grandmother's and was given to her by her first employer and for many years housed her bible (she was a god fearing woman!), glasses and false teeth.

The novel has many wonderful observations on village life in general and is just, well, cosy. Miss Read has a fantastically dry sense of humour. This was the perfect read for a stormy day.

As a postscript, despite The Readers Rest closing, there is the wonderful Lindum Books based in the Bail, at the top of Steep Hill in Lincoln. It was here I discovered Elly Griffiths and is a little bookish gem.