The academic year 1982-1983 provides the framework for all the various strands of stories; there is, once again, a lot of humour in the book and a lot to trigger the memory:
"Fame" was in the cinemas and caused a general trend for legwarmers, the pound note was replaced by the pound coin, the first mobile phones were introduced, compact discs started to appear on the scene, and a jar of Nescafé was 96p.
Of course, at the beginning of the book, it is revealed who was victim of the accident that so dramatically ended the previous book. And at the end of this one, a life-changing event takes place in Jack's life.
I enjoyed this one for its familiarity - the same characters plus some new ones, in the same surroundings; people get older, take on new jobs, move house, fall in love and have anniversaries, children grow, make new friends and learn a lot, both in the classroom and out.
This time, there were a few more of the small errors/inaccuracies that should have been eliminated by good editing. Did I just not notice them in the previous books, or has the editing become sloppier for want of faster publishing?
Here are some examples:
Friday, 17 September 1982 starts with Vera (the school secretary) taking out her baking dish and recipe book in her kitchen to make an apple cake. She writes a list of ingredients needed from the village store... and leaves. The baking is never done, and next time we see Vera, she's already at the school office.
Vera is also involved in the next error: Chapter Eight starts with her and her brother setting off on Friday, 17 December "...in their little white Austin A40 for the last day of term...". And how does Chapter Nine start? "It was Tuesday, 21 December, the last day of the autumn term...". Now, which one was the last day of term? Friday or Tuesday?
Then there's the issue of a few less-than-well formulated sentences. Once again, I am probably just being overly picky, but I think Jack Sheffield can do better than this:
"... Petula Dudley-Palmer, complete with a green leotard and matching headband, had just completed her morning workout...", and later on in the book, a herd of Friesian cattle are "contentedly chewing grass to their hearts' content".
The humour in the book made up for those, though, and although some of the jokes are probably considered rather "old", they still made me laugh:
Henry Fodder, recently retired Canon Emeritus from York Minster [...] had come to live in the village. [...] he had not been blessed with a sense of humour, which would have been useful, particularly when you were addressed as Canon Fodder.So, all things considered, I am looking forward to reading the first three books in the series once my mother-in-law swaps with me. And as far as I know, book # 7 will be out some time this year.
Deke Ramsbottom [...] had just completed the repair of the weather cock [...]. Emily Cade was passing by, pushing her elderly mother, Ada, in her wheelchair. In a loud voice Ada shouted, "Isn't it nice to see the cock upright again, vicar?" and Emily, red-faced, hurried on.
In the window of her hair salon, Diane Wigglesworth was putting up a photograph of Joan Collins next to one of Kevin Keegan, as both were sporting the same hairstyle.