Book review: Trouble at the Little Village School by Gervase Phinn

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If the glitter on the cover of Gervase Phinn’s latest outing with the bluff residents of Barton-in-the-Dale is anything to go by, Christmas must be on its way!

This is the second and – and suitably sparkling – instalment in the enterprising and perceptive Yorkshireman’s Little Village School series and it’s packed with his trademark fun, warmth and wit.

The children are settling into their classes, the teachers are adapting to a fresh set of rules and the new headmistress is finding her feet... but losing her heart.

Yes, romance is high on the curriculum as Phinn – teacher, author, poet, education consultant and man of many parts – moves up another gear in this enchanting fictional but very much fact-based foray into school and village life.

Elisabeth Devine certainly rocked the boat when she arrived in Barton to take over as head teacher of the little primary school but the establishment has flourished under her leadership, transforming from a dark, neglected and rather uncomfortable seat of learning into a bright, cheerful and welcoming centre.

Now the winter term is here and, after winning over the wary locals and defeating a plan to shut the school, she can finally get stuck into her role.

Things are looking up in her personal life too. Her relationship with local GP Michael Stirling has blossomed since they shared a kiss under the mistletoe after the school’s Christmas concert.

But the course of true love never did run entirely straight and the school is facing yet another bombshell. Plans are afoot to merge it with its arch rival school in neighbouring Urebank, and Elisabeth will have to fight for the headship with the ruthless and calculating headmaster Robin Richardson.

And then there’s the problem of Danny Stainthorpe, an orphan boy of the Yorkshire countryside who is due to be adopted by Dr Stirling... until his long-lost grandmother who ran off with a carpet fitter turns up to take him away.

Add an attractive new female curate, some gossip and a helping of scandal, and there’s plenty of trouble brewing in Barton-in-the-Dale.

Trouble at the Little Village School sees Phinn on top form; his easy, affable charm is ensuring his popularity as a novelist whose endless inspiration comes from his experiences in schools, and in the landscape and people of Yorkshire.

A down-to-earth cast of awkward, outspoken, impatient, irreverent but lovable Dales folk bring us life’s ups and downs, triumphs and tragedies in their own inimitable and entertaining way.

This is everyday life with all its humour, pathos and drama – but distinctively and delightfully Yorkshire style!

(Hodder & Stoughton, hardback, £16.99)