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Friday, 27 December 2013

Silent Night by Jack Sheffield

Silent Night

1984 - and it's an important time for the children of Ragley-on-the Forest school...Their school choir is to sing a carol in a church in York, and is actually going to be on television! Helping to keep his excited children, not to mention their parents, under control during these momentous events taxes jack and his staff to the limit. And at the same time, Jack has his own problems to deal with...

This is the eighth book in the popular series written by Jack Sheffield. Set in a village school in Ragley on the Forest, the head teacher, Mr Sheffield, is set for a new school year at Ragley School while his wife, Beth sets her sights on a new challenge for either herself or Jack at a larger school.

I usually look forward to the next installment at Ragley school each January, however this year it came out a month earlier, and I eagerly devoured it. As usual, Sheffield's writing is fantastic, as he writes his 'alternative school logbook'.  Although the logbook is for the school, villagers are always popping in and out of storylines and I enjoy past characters popping in, catching up on gossip and going about their daily lives. And as ever, although this book is fiction, it is a great account of social history as Sheffield ensures the villagers of Ragley celebrate current trends and react to news stories from 1984.

There is a double wedding this year - the two binmen; Big Dave Robinson and Little Malcolm Robinson both marry and Ruby, the school's caretaker, has a bench to remember her husband, Ron Smith, installed on the village green. There is an Elvis competition in the village hall and a Belly Dancing for Beginners class is held in the Coffee Shop for Ragley's Ladies. 

As ever there is a busy life within Ragley and I love revisiting the village each year. The books can easily be read as standalone stories however I really enjoy it as a series. They are easy to loose yourself in one Sunday afternoon, where characters become old friends. Sheffield has done lots of research for these books, each one a record of a life not only in Ragley, but the highlights of British history, social trends and news stories of the time.  This one is set in the back drop of Thatcher's Britain and the miner's strikes.

In this book, there is a shift in the power dynamics of Jack and Beth's marriage. Beth wants more from life, a bigger house etc, but to get this, one of them needs a promotion - however village headteachers can not progress higher in their own schools or villages but must look to towns or cities for a new school. Jack does not want to make this promotion, settled as he is in Ragley and therefore it is Beth who steps up for promotion, which in itself is history in the making with females not being offered such promotions in 1984.

As ever, village life within Ragley is full on highs and lows, but throughout it all, the children are the heart of the village and their little outbursts and words of wisdom litter the story, which will leave the reader laughing out loud at a moments notice. 

In summary, Jack Sheffield has written another fantastic installment in Ragley School's alternative logbook and I am already looking forward to the next installment already!

Thank you to the publishers, Bantam Press, for sending me the book to review.

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