The Top of the Dales by Gervase Phinn
Tom Dwyer – the ex-professional footballer, whom we got to know during his teacher training in The Little Village School series and is now newly qualified – turns out to be an immensely likeable, too-good-to-be-true addition to the tiny, old-fashioned school at the top of the Dales.
In these three books, we meet some other well-known characters, such as MrsSloughthwaite and Tom’s Irish aunt, Mrs O’Conner. But the children are all new and all very special. And the other members of staff, in the headmaster’s words, are ‘a pretty odd bunch. Perhaps a better word might be “idiosyncratic”. They do what is asked of them without complaint, work hard and the children like them’; each has his or her unique character.
These books are about relationships – some larger than life, some illicit, some strained, some romantic. But, above all, they are about personalities. Among many others, we meet the dazzlingly beautiful artist Amanda Stanhope, who turns every man’s gaze; the forever complaining, lazy old farmer Toby Croft; the unfortunate unmarried mother Leanne; and the scandalously rich but warm-hearted Sir Hedley Maladroit – baronet, squire, landowner, Lord of the Manor, owner of half the properties in village and most of the land surrounding, controller of many of the residents’ destinies, Justice of the Peace, Deputy Lord Lieutenant and Chairman of Governors of Risingdale School.
As ever, Gervase Phinn’s tales are delightful, well-written and rather innocent reads.