Jack Sheffield’s books have a formula and for me that is what makes them great easy reads and the newest book Educating Jack was just the same. It follows the same structure as previous novels, each chapter covering a time period through the school year, starting September through to the summer holidays covering scholastic tales. The most wonderful things about school life to teachers, pupils and parents are covered, the wonder Christmas parties, school trips and the lovely rhymes that I remember singing whilst skipping. I remember the words, but it is years since I did any skipping!
It is six years now since Jack came as headteacher to the Ragley School and now those who were new when he was are off on their new adventures to senior school. So it is somewhat a poignant novel more so by the inclusion of lots more details about the personal lives and loves of the characters that make up the wonderful village of Ragley on the Forest where the school is based.
With the cliff hanger ending from his previous book life is certainly fragile and this book shows it all, and opportunities must be taken no matter what the future hold, especially when the world is changing around the characters. The country was still basking in the glory of the war in the Falklands but there was a more pressing problem on home ground with the possibility of striking miners, Mrs Thatcher has a new war to fight. Choice for television entertainment went mad with a fourth channel to watch. A future king had been born, everyone could now watch their weight when coke went ‘diet’ and “police in Gwent announced they were to cease their campaign of stopping drivers and giving them pens for good driving”.
Vera decides that she must seize the opportunity of happiness away from the vicarage and her brother and brings her marriage forward to Christmas, and what a lovely setting that it is. Jack and Beth now married are celebrating their first Christmas together with an extra special present for them both. The other teachers, Ann, Sally and Jo are looking forward and back with significant age birthdays, DIY disaster husbands and a new career which will during new challenges.
Educating Jack has everything you want for a good read; the familiar characters are back you feel like you are standing in The Royal Oak with everyone else. I felt this book was more emotional than the others, it feels like Jack has settled into his life both personally and professionally but with the advent of cutbacks, new curriculum changes, standards and tests to meet perhaps the education world is something which is going to change beyond all recognition. How will the delightful little school at Ragley-on-the-Forest manage?
Thank you to the lovely Lynsey Dalladay of Transworld for sending me this review copy. I had the feeling that perhaps this book was going to be the end of this series, but I am reliably informed it is not. To catch up on the previous novels please see my last post about Jack Sheffield.
I love the social history elements of the book which I have mentioned in the past as history is my thing, but also is the added bonus that what is being talked about I can remember because of my age. It seems such a long time ago on the one hand, the other I cannot believe in some cases how things have changed but still we are griping in the collective sense of ‘we’ about such similar things.
My memory was jogged with this book as well. Some of the books I have to use at work are rather old and antiquated, especially the old account ledger books, and go back to the days before £2 coins and some of them pre date 20 pence pieces. Upon showing a new member of staff how to fill the book in, I explained that she would have to write the value of 20ps in the other currency column. Explaining that we have not always had 20ps, her reply
“what do you mean we have not always had 20ps?”
“No, they have only been around since about the early Eighties”,
“But we have always had 20ps in my life”,
(rather annoyed) “Well my life has been longer than yours and I can assure you that we have not always had 20ps, in fact I remember halfpennies and pound notes”
“What do you mean, halfpennies what good were they. And pounds come in coins, what good was a pound note?” (I chose not to respond any further……and thought why did I not tell her to order the more up to date books!)
That is why I have loved this book, it has brought back some great memories even if it did make me feel slightly old!