Top positive review
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A nice enough way to spend an afternoon
on 3 June 2004
Gervase Phinn has been called the James Herriot of schools, or words to that effect. The similarity between their work goes beyond the simple fact that they both write about their lives working in the Yorkshire Dales. Like Herriot, Phinn's books are full of amusing, feel-good stories, larger-than-life characters and the occasional tear-jerking moment. You can be sure that everything generally turns out all right in the end, though, and the bad teacher or errant schoolchild sees the error of their ways and becomes a better person. Phinn even meets his wife during the course of his work and, like Herriot, they have a suitably chaste courtship until he finally proposes at the end of the second book.
The events in Phinn's books take place around 16 years ago, not during the 1940s. Yet the Dales life that Phinn writes about is not greatly different from Herriot's. Remove the odd reference to television and skiing holidays and you're left with a book that could have been written at any time in the last 50 years. Whilst this gives the books a timeless, escapist feel, it also means that they miss the opportunity to provide a real insight into the job of a schools inspector in the late 1980s.
But despite their faults, the books are a good read. They are well-written and the stories are amusing, if predictable. I would suggest that the publishers re-think the cover design for the next book in the series, though, as I nearly didn't buy this one. The title and cover of the book were so similar to the previous three, I thought that I already owned it!