Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Storm in the Village by Miss Read
12. Storm in the Village - third in the Fairacre series
by Miss Read
paperback, 238 pages
The "storm" in the title is the rumor that a farm in nearby Beech Green is going to be turned into a housing estate for new workers coming to the atomic plant. The United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority may take the 100+ acres by what we call "eminent domain," though there will be meetings so various groups may have the opportunity to express their opinions. As always, Miss Read shows the reader both sides of the problem. It would be horrible to turn a lovely field and view into houses; yet there would be more people attending the school, whose population is diminishing from families leaving for larger towns and employment possibilities. But then there is talk that the village school would be closed, and a new big school built right on the land. And not only that, but the housing estate might have its own church and shops. So where does that leave this little village of Fairacre? Sounds so familiar doesn't it. The 1950s is about when all these changes began happening in rural landscapes from England to New England.
And then there is a mini storm involving the teacher of the younger children. She is infatuated with an older widower, whom many in the village call a ne'er-do-well. Though she is in her twenties, she hasn't had any experiences with men, and there is a lot of worrying gossip about her situation.
By the end of the book, the air is clear and bright again, of course, and the reader has learned more about Fairacre and its inhabitants.
There are two passages I really enjoyed which show how our moods, the weather, or the events of a day may color our view of the world around us.
At the start of her school holidays, Miss Read strolls around Fairacre seeing sights she usually misses when she is "cooped up in a dark school." She rhapsodizes about a plant in a window and a woman in her garden, as she smells the wonderful aromas of coffee grinding and bread baking.
Nothing can beat a village, I thought, for living in! A small village, a remote village, a village basking, as smug and snug as a cat, in morning sunlight! I continued my lover's progress, besotted with my village's charms. Just look at that weeping willow, plumed like a fountain, that lime tree murmurous with bees, that scarlet pimpernel blazing in a dusty verge, the curve of that hooded porch, the jasmine - in fact, look at every petal, twig, brick, beam, thatch, wall, pond, man, woman and child that make up this enchanting place! My blessing showered upon it all. It was the first day of the holidays!
And then just a few days later, "after clouds gathered with alarming speed:"
This was the halcyon village I had mooned over so sentimentally early in the holidays, I thought grimly. Where now was the tranquil sunshine, the serenity, the innocent-hearted populace going about its honest business?
I thought of the misplaced passion of Hilary Jackson, the cupidity of John Franklyn, the evil gossiping of neighbours, the sad injustice of Miss Clare's ill-health, the misery of the Coggs family at the mercy of their drunken father under the broken dripping thatch of Tylers' Row, of the chained unhappy dogs in back gardens, bedraggled hens cooped all too closely in bare rank runs, and, over all, the tension engendered by the housing scheme and the ugly passions it aroused.
Sick at heart, with the noise of the storm still raging round me, I sought in vain for the comfort of sleep.
It isn't long before this feeling goes, and life is more on an even keel for Miss Read and all the Fairacre inhabitants. One of the villagers, Mr Willet, tells Miss Read what he wants on his gravestone:
Wise words, in a book full of wisdom and kindness and truth.
This is the last of the Fairacre books on my shelf so it'll be next year before I'll be going back to visit. But I will certainly do so. I love this place, as I do Thrush Green, Miss Read's other village series. I own the first two, Thrush Green and Winter in Thrush Green, and I'll probably venture there before this year is out.