Thursday, 2 October 2014

Read in 2014 - 37: School's Out!

No. 7 in Jack Sheffield’s „Teacher”-series remains true to the style, form and atmosphere of its predecessors: Once again, the book starts with Jack making the first entry of a new school year in the school’s log book; once again, the reader accompanies Ragley-on-the-Forest and its inhabitants through an entire year, and once again, what happens during that year is a mixture of the dramatic and the funny, of ups and downs in the lives of Jack, his colleagues at the school, the children and everybody else in the village.

Although this well-known outer frame provides stability to the reader (making the book very recognizably part of a series) just like a time table and special events at set intervals provide stability for the children at the school, it is not boring. No two days, let alone weeks, months or years, are ever the same. It is all very much like real life, and from what I know about the author, he uses a lot of his own experience as a (head)teacher in village schools, often describing events that have actually taken place, only making slight changes so as not to offend any of the people involved.

Descriptions of the beautiful countryside, changing along with the seasons, are as beautiful as in the other six books. The characters are as familiar as they should be, but of course there are some new introductions, last but not least a new teacher who makes for some interesting developments that leave plenty of room for book 8 and beyond.

In his first book, Jack Sheffield started as Head Teacher in the year 1977. By now, we have reached 1983/84, and there have been considerable changes in the lives of many characters, while some others have remained pretty much as they were. Some changes are good, some less so, but it is characteristic for Ragley that in difficult times, the community rallies round to support the person or family in need.

As in his previous books, the author has done a lot of research and manages to convey very well what 1984 would have been like in a place like Ragley. Political events, celebrities, TV programs, fashion and music are mentioned; the prices for articles of daily use are given, but all as part of the story and never in the manner of a history lesson. 
One such event featuring in the book was the York Minster Fire on the 9th of July, 1984. I had not know about this until reading it in this book, but of course there is plenty about it on the internet, for instance this article on the BBC homepage. 
Speaking of history – does 1984 feel to you like 30 (THIRTY!) years ago?! I was 16 then, puberty in full swing, and I must say that I would not want to go back – unless it were equipped with the way I feel about life and myself now.

I enjoyed this seventh book in the series as much as the others, and have already put # 8 ("Silent Night") on my Amazon wish list.

(If you are interested in my reviews for the first six books in the series, simply type "Jack Sheffield" into the search box on the upper left corner of my blog, and you should find them all.)


  1. I once read "Teacher" but I didn't like it. Didn't like the style of writing or the pompous tones. I was glad when I turned the last page. As a teacher myself, I found that that book had very little to say to me.

    1. It is bound to be different for someone who is/has been a teacher, too; I couldn't do the job and admire everyone who does the job well and finds joy and satisfaction in it. My lack of patience would make me a very bad teacher.
      The tone of these books does not strike me as pompous. You were brave, then, to stick to it until the last page and not give up after the first few pages!

  2. I enjoyed the two books I read in this series (or 3?) but now have so many books in my tbr pile that I won't add any more for a bit! But I enjoy reading about them for the future.

    1. My TBR pile is somehow not getting any smaller, either, Kristi :-)

  3. I'm still on his early books but I suspect this winter will see a few more read. They are excellent.