Posted by: billpurdue | April 3, 2010

93 Gervase Phinn and Book of the Week

Gervase Phinn is a man of many talents – not only has he produced the very popular “Dales”series ( which began with The other side of the Dale), but he has also written plays, children’s books and he’s a freelance lecturer, broadcaster and writer, has three doctorates (if I counted correctly) and is a visiting professor of Education at The University of Teesside. And that’s just a shortlist – for the complete list of accolades and qualifications, have a look at his website.

I had already heard quite a bit about Gervase Phinn before I ever read any of his books, but in recent weeks I’ve read three of them. I’ve mentioned All these Lonely People in blog 89, and after that I picked up one of his novels for younger people A Load of Old Tripe [Michael Joseph £10 978-0718155513] about the eleven year old Jimmy Johnson who lives near the steel works in South Yorkshire in the late 1940s and his many school friends including the talented Ignatius Plunkett. Jimmy and his friends get up to a few tricks during their last year at junior school before the 11 plus exams. Who will get to the grammar school and who will have to make do at the secondary modern? A great read.

Now, I’ve just finished The Heart of the Dales [Penguin £8.99 9780141027678] and thoroughly enjoyed it. In it we meet some of the characters in the four previous books in the “Dales”series and new ones besides. Gervase and his wife Christine are just settling down in the village of Hawksrill with their new baby boy. The book takes us through one Autumn term when Gervase has to recommend the amalgamation of two schools, comes up against county councillors who think they know best and finds a way of working with the formidable Mrs Savage, personal assistant to Dr Gore. There’s also the much more amenable and Yorkshire’s answer to Mrs Malaprop, Connie, of the catering staff, she of the bright pink overall (until someone nicks it). But the main focus of attention is on the school pupils he meets along the way and the things they come out with.

Whilst reading this book I was longing for the know-it-alls to get their come-uppance and  to have their weaknesses exposed. By and large, by the end of the term, this does happen, so it’s a really satisfying read.

Radio 4 and Book of the Week

Normally I never seem to be near a radio when the Book of the Week on Radio 4 is on air, but this last week I caught an episode of the latest book to be featured. It was Burying the Bones: Pearl Buck in China [ Profile Books £15 978-1861978288] by Hilary Spurling. She was someone I had heard of, but knew nothing about. Pearl Buck was the bestselling Nobel Prize winning author who is largely now forgotten, but doesn’t deserve to be so. Certainly her life, both in China and in the USA was a remarkable one.

Next week’s Book of the Week is called Parisians; An Adventure History of Paris by Graham Robb [Picador £18.99 978-0330452441], a history of Paris from 1750 in which we are introduced to some of its more learned, notable and sometimes notorious inhabitants.

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