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4.5 out of 5 stars
The Little Village School: A Little Village School Novel
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 28 September 2011
Change is on the way for the sleepy village of Barton-on-the-Dale when the new head teacher arrives at the primary school. Elisabeth Devine is a breath of fresh air: energetic, vivacious (she scandalises the school board by wearing red shoes and lacy stockings to the interview) and full of ideas to improve the school. Villages are small communities, though, and not all the villagers are happy with the changes to their settled lives that Elisabeth's arrival brings. As she makes new friends Elisabeth also has to fight for what she believes in, as she realises just how much her new life means to her.

This debut novel for adults from Gervase Phinn is an entertaining tale peopled with believable characters and full of funny and touching incidents, written with all the humour and warmth one has come to expect from this master storyteller.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
A Yorkshire village, everyone knows what goes on in their own lives (obviously) but also that of the other residents and even those in neighbouring villages. When a newcomer arrives they are always going to cause a stir.

In this case the newcomer Elisabeth Devine, with her red shoes with silver heels of all things is going to really cause a stir. Elisabeth is the new headteacher at The Little Village School. She is something a mysterious character, in fact she has some secrets of her own and coming from an inner city school, she assumes that no one is that interested in her or her life.

All she wants to do is the best for the pupils that are in her care. The trouble is the school that she has become head of is facing many problems. The previous headmistress was something of a tartar, who rarely left her office and left the school as soon as the bell went. The deputy head cannot simply control the children in her care and they are not learning anything. There has been a failing inspection report to deal with, the other teachers are on temporary contracts and the parents are taking the pupils out of the school. It seems that Elisabeth has made the wrong move when she came to the school.

However, slowly things start to change, Elisabeth has a determination that none of the other villagers have ever seen before. It has a marked effect on her fellow teachers, especially when she splits up the groups and actually teaches herself. The pupils seem to be gaining in confidence and she knows who needs help, when and how. After school clubs are growing and even the Deputy Head seems to have found a new lease of life and has finally stepped out of the shadow of the previous head teacher and even her own mother.

There are some though who are suspicious and Elisabeth has to deal with some parents who feel that their child is being victimised. A board of governors who are split about the school and a local council and education department who are determined that this little village school will be affected by the cutbacks. The strength of feeling in the village is strong and suddenly the lady who swept in with her red shoes is making an impact that ripples out to many.

This is a wonderful story if you like school tales, it is a wonderful story if you like village tales. It combines the most innocent things that children say, the tragedies that many encounter in life and give it a good dose of true Britishness. Yes it might seem all rose-tinted to many but the humour is so very British and the characters although seem parodies of themselves are no doubt spot on. You have the lady that runs the village store and post office, who of course knows everything that is going on and is not one to gossip. She is trying to palm off the Viennese biscuit selection she has. The caretaker with the perpetual bad back who suddenly has a miraculous recovery when the local doctor says it is time for the operation. The vicar and his wife, two very different people. The local farmer and his rights of way for his herd. And so it goes on.
Gervase Phinn captures the innocence of everything and weaves a really good old fashioned tale, which has tragedy and heartache and made me weep a couple of times, with sheer will and determination that can show you how much one person can improve something and how it can inspire and please so many. Even the characters names reflect the characters themselves. You can imagine what Miss Sowerbutts is like from her name, the images that is conjures up is wonderful.

I look forward to reading the next instalment.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
I read the start, and was hooked! The pictures it presented in my mind of a small, country primary school, struggling to achieve the results that were expected was just too much. I HAD to buy it! I couldn't wait for it to come out in paperback, bringing the Kindle price down.

Typical of Gervase Phinn's writing, the characters are alive and vibrant. ypu can hear them speaking - you can even see them in your minds eye. This is an amazing book, drwing from his real experiences as a dreaded Schools Inspector in North Yorkshore

There is just one problem with this book, and that's to do with the price listing, not the book. I think it's very unfair to set a price comparison with an edition that isn't even published yet; and I rather wish that Amazon wouldn't state the paperback price until the book is actually available in paperback; it makes us all feel as though we are being diddled, and sets off a lot of unfair reviews.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 16 July 2011
I have always enjoyed Gervaise Phinn's writng. He brings humour and thought provoking stories to the reader, without preaching and patronising text. The latest book 'The Village School' is no exception I couldn't put it down despite the tears in some chapters, (mine not the books) but the laughter in others.A must for anyone who enjoys a good book without sex violence and other nasties. Please continue with this new series it is just a gem
Bumble.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 24 August 2011
I think that it is unfair of the other reviewers to award this book only one star because of the cost. Surely you actually have to read a book before you review it!
I have read it and it was as I expected it to be, a fun, light read.
Despite being a novel the book contains many of the same ingredients as Gervase Phinn's previous books. It is a warm, comforting mainly lighthearted book, although there was one section where I had a little sob!
The story relates the arrival of a new headteacher at a school which has had a very poor OFSTED report. She is so completely different from the previous inadequate and rather nasty headteacher, that she initially makes some enemies. However, when her ideas prove successful she gains some surprising allies.
Although there are the stock comic characters such as the shopkeeper who knows the business of the entire village, there are also characters who have a greater depth. As usual for Gervase Phinn the children are the most intriguing characters - I particularly liked the precocious pupil who could probably have run the school unaided!
As a teacher I do have a few quibbles about the accuracy of the portrayal of current education. At times I felt that some of the actions and ideas were rather outdated. I do not know of any teacher who would apply for a post without looking at the latest OFSTED report. Neither, would a headteacher consider complaining to their union or the education authority because they had enrolled a difficult child. Also in more than twenty years of teaching I have never heard a teacher use the word 'expelled', it is always 'excluded'.
These small moans did not detract from my enjoyment of the story and if this book proves to be the beginnintg of a series I would certainly read the next episode.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 28 November 2012
I am a retired headteacher and this is why I decided to try one of Gervase Phinn's stories. As a teacher it really made me smile, there were so many wonderfully funny truths in it. I also enjoy country life/village stories a lot and this book delivers on that level too. Yes.....an enjoyable read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 1 September 2011
Very "unputdownable" I hope Gervaise writes more "Barton in the Dale" novels. It was different - I was used to looking for the students (childrens) "views' in his novels but this book gave an insight into the adult(teachers) "views". Loved the charactors especially the shop owner.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Exactly as you'd expect; gentle and humorous with no real baddie. A new head teacher for Barton-in-the-Dale's village school has been offered a job, and from the day of interview, starts to affect the lives of the whole community, from the previous incumbent and deputy to the local vicar, all the way to her future charges.

Predictable all through but a warm read for it. I did feel that it was a rehash of Phinn's autobiographies just in a fictional setting, though I did laugh a few times at what the kids say; you can't help it.

Too much repetition: Almost an anti-thesis to The Casual Vacancy, where one event (the arrival of a new Head in this case) changes the lives of everyone in the village, but in this case for the better.

Warm and fuzzy reading, light and gentle, good for a cold Christmas evening on the sofa.
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on 22 June 2015
Having read and enjoyed the Dales series, I was keen to read more of Gervase Phinn's books, and have not been disappointed with this one. It has a more serious tone than the Dales series, although he does draw on some of the same themes, character models and events. Whilst this repetition is quite obvious at times, it does really upset the stories centred around the school and its affect on the village and community. It makes a good read and I have already downloaded the next book in this series .

One point, the title and cover can be misleading - it looks like it is aimed at children, but this is in fact an adult book.

Like the author, I was also born and raised in Rotherham during the 1950's and it was my interest in local history that first drew me to his autobiographical work, "Out of the Woods But Not Over the Hill", reflecting on his upbringing and schooling in the town. I enjoyed this so much that I turned to his more fictional Dales series, simply for the pleasure of reading.

I was a bit more apprehensive about approaching his other works. Being an engineer, I tend to mainly to read technical books and journals on science and engineering, so the author has done well to get me to read something different - perhaps it is a combination of his background in teaching and his Irish story telling ability that has got me hooked. Whatever it is, I enjoy his style of writing and the stories he tells.

If you like his other books, I am sure you will find this just as good.
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on 12 January 2014
In the past I have read & very much enjoyed the autobiographical works by Gervase Phinn. Consequently I was very much looking forward to reading this book. I was expecting it to be light & amusing with some wonderful characters and great storytelling. I was not disappointed.
Barton in the Dale school has had a dreadful school inspection resulting in the resignation of the current head. The book opens with the interviews for the new head & the appointment of a smartly dressed woman who is wearing (horror of horrors) shoes with silver heels! The book follows Elisabeth Devine as she settles in to the village and changes the village school.
Gervase Phinn is wonderful at creating characters. No doubt many of the them are based on people he encountered as a schools inspector. I also imagine that many of the events and wonderfully amusing things that the children come out with are from real life.
This is a story that ambles along following the day to day life of the village and it's occupants. It is reminiscent of the Village School stories of Miss Read. There is a certain "feel good" factor about this book. You know from the beginning that all will turn out ok in the end but it is the journey which is entertaining.
I very much enjoyed this book and struggled to put it down. I got entwined with the people in the story, especially Elisabeth Devine and some of the children. I very much doubt it is an accurate portrayal of a village and its school but it made for an entertaining read & I shall look forward to the next one.
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