Village Centenary by Miss Read

villageI’ve seen Miss Read books on library shelves for years, but never really thought about reading them or even knew what they were about. Judging by cover and author “Miss Read” they seemed terribly old fashioned, and possibly not in a good way.  For I-don’t-know-what reason I picked one of the shelf a few weeks ago and checked it out.  I assumed it didn’t matter if I read them in any particular order and indeed, although this is apparently “Fairacre #15” it was completely fine as a standalone novel.

Miss Read is the author, but also the main character of these books.  The setting is a tiny rural English village where Miss Read is the spinster schoolteacher.  This school is fascinating to me.  Although a year is not given this book was published in 1980 and it seems to be contemporary for the time, but feels like it’s taking place in 1950 (maybe it is?)  The village school goes up to age 10 and there are two classes. Miss Read teaches the older children and another teacher has the “infants.” Literally they are referred to as infants and babies.  But presumably they are 5 and 6 year olds? And during school the kids are just sent out to play, or they all go on walks across the moor, and the vicar visits them, and Miss Read chooses morning hymns for them to sing. So fascinating and foreign to me.

The structure of the book is a chapter per month of the year, going from January through December.  The central idea as we go through the year is that the school is celebrating its centenary and Miss Read must plan an appropriate celebration.  She also must deal with an ancient leaking skylight.  There is not a lot of excitement going on from month to month.  It’s a gentle slow book, but I did enjoy when she talked to the elderly residents about their memories of the schoolhouse and the bits about her daily life.

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