Books I Adore..And The Author Who Wrote Them
I promised in my last post that I would be writing a three part series about my three top favorite authors. Well, here we go with the first post in the series. I am so excited to share about this author with you because her books have been a huge part of my life for many years now. So, without further ado, I want to introduce you to Dora Jessie Saint AKA "Miss Read."
(Image from NY Times)
I discovered my first "Miss Read" book about 32 years ago, soon after I married and moved from West Virginia to our present home state. The library I went to at that time was a tiny branch library located in a corner of a strip mall. There was barely room to turn around between book shelves but I found the space unique and cozy, and while browsing one day a colorful book cover caught my eye. It was a book that described the life of a school teacher living and working in a rural village in England. Being a teacher myself, I've always enjoyed reading any books that feature teachers and I also love anything about England. So you know this book was right up my alley! I checked it out and took it home and immediately fell in love with Miss Read and all of the quirky villagers of Fairacre! How could I not love the long suffering Miss Read (we never learn her first name) who put up with the antics of village children who attend the two room village school, the nosy and difficult school cleaner with a "combustible leg" Mrs. Pringle, the kindly Vicar and the handy man and general fixer of all things in the village, Mr. Willet. Miss Read also has a good friend, Amy, who regularly tries in vain to play matchmaker for Miss Read even though her own marriage to James has its rocky moments.
(Image used in "Summer at Fairacre" by Miss Read. Illustrations done by J.S. Goodall)
Dora Saint, who chose the pseudonym of Miss Read because it was her mother's maiden name, actually wrote two separate series with a few other miscellaneous books in the mix as well. One series focused on Miss Read and life in the fictional village of Fairacre and the other series focused on life in the fictional village of Thrush Green. I have read and own books from both series, but I have to admit that the Fairacre series is my overall favorite. Dora Saint was a teacher herself in rural villages of England and was also married to a teacher. So, many of the story lines in her book are, I believe, actually based on her knowledge of what those villages and schools in rural England were actually like. Her books were published over a long period of years starting in 1955 and progressing to the mid 1990's. However, Miss Read and her students age very little in the books although the final two books in the Fairacre Series chronicle her decision to retire (Farewell to Fairacre) and her post retirement life (A Peaceful Retirement).
The Thrush Green series has similar quirky characters that interact, gossip and share life together in Thrush Green. This series has two school teachers, Agnes Fogerty and Dorothy Watson, Charles and Dimity Henstock who are the vicar and his wife, and Dimity's best friend Ella Bembridge. Then there are the humorous characters of Dotty Harmer and Albert Piggot. Dotty is known for making strange health concoctions which villagers warn each other to avoid or they may get a case of "Dotty's Collywobles." Albert Piggot is the lazy church sexton who would rather drink pints at the local pub than attend to his work duties. Both series have numerous other colorful characters that add humor, warmth and empathy to the books.
(Image used in "At Home in Thrush Green" by Miss Read. Illustrations by J.S. Goodall)
I have always been a fan of books that are part of a series. I enjoy being able to "visit" with familiar characters that reappear in book after book. There is a comfort to knowing the personality of characters and experiencing the familiar settings of places mentioned in books that are part of a series. The Fairacre and Thrush Green books fit these requirements perfectly and that is why they are my top pick to share with you.
I was saddened to learn that Dora Saint had passed away back in 2012. She was just shy of her 99th birthday when she died! You can read the New York Times article about her life here. I'm so grateful, though, that she wrote these series which I return to time and time again to experience life in these lovely villages where most problems can be solved over a soothing cup of tea.
(Public Domain Image of Cup of Tea)
I hope you have enjoyed reading about my number one pick for favorite author as much as I have enjoyed writing about it. If you would like to try a Miss Read book you can find them at your local library or at the usual big name bookstores and online book sellers. In my next post, I will be featuring another favorite author who, by the way, also loves reading Miss Read! Until then, I hope you find joy in the small moments and as Miss Read's dear friend, Dolly Clare, would say..."Love to Fairacre."
(Public Domain Image of heart)