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This lady

Dora Saint wrote novels about English life under the pen name Miss Read. Most of her books are about one of two fictional villages, Fairacre or Thrush Green. There are a bunch of them, too — twenty about Fairacre, fourteen about Thrush Green and a smattering on other subjects. None was a bestseller, but she had a loyal readership and put out about a book a year well into her eighties. She died in April last year, ten days short of her 99th birthday.

I read her first book, Village School, over the weekend. It’s one of the Fairacre ones. It was slow, gentle, subtly funny and only a very tiny bit sharp. I liked it. I’m not sure whether to tackle the whole series — I’m at the point in life where I’m painfully aware I won’t live long enough to read all the good books, and twenty is a big ask — but then I catch myself wondering what happened next.

It was her publisher’s idea to release the books under the name of her main character and narrator, the head teacher Miss Read. The village school is what we would call a one-room schoolhouse, with all the local children between the ages of five and ten, taught in two groups by two teachers. Thirty or so at a time. The school has no running water and buckets for latrines. Coke stoves for heat.

Thing is, it was set in 1955. And I gather, little village schools like this persisted into…well, I guess in more remote places, into today. I would like to think they all have toilets now.

Oh, what the heck. I’ve just bought the second one. I would like her publisher to note (I’m looking at you, Orion Book Group) that if they’d offered the Kindle edition for a sensible price (say 99p) they’d have gotten my money like a shot. I prefer reading off my Kindle. As it is, the used trade got my pittance and the publisher can go jump. I’m not paying £5 for a download when I can get something nice in the mail for under £2.

August 12, 2013 — 10:12 pm
Comments: 17