The search for Backwatersthwaite
I was recently introduced to a rather popular series of books by Gervase Phinn, and although I’m typically a few years later than the rest of the world, I’ve found reading them enjoyable enough to warrant a new category on the ol’ blog. So much so that it’s taken me 3 weeks to finish writing this post, it seems that reading the books is more fun than writing about them.
Of course one advantage of having waited so long, is that the author had a chance to write the first 5 books in theseries, and I do so like big series.
The Dales series of books is written as a collection of anonymised autobiographical anecedotes, with each book covering Phinn’s life as a Yorkshire county school inspector over an academic year. The written language is very accessible and quick to read (yes, even faster than I normally read), with the characters and their conversations really springing off the page with clever use of spelling and punctuation. The chapters are reasonably short, covering perhaps an incident or a scene or two, which really lends the books to casual reading, such as on a train or a lunch break. The punchlines are well delivered, totally deadpan and often unexpected, leading to all manner of involuntary outbursts, the grounding in reality just makes it funnier.
The fictional locations and characters major and minor recur throughout the books, and are memorable enough that you don’t spend too much time trying to match up the name to the character or place. It is clear that the author really took a shine to the landscape and the population of the Yorkshire Moors and Dales, he always takes care to describe scenes when he pauses to look out of the window at the view. Which is something that I can totally relate to, having spent most of my Sundays at university out walking in Yorkshire with the Outdoor Society. One downside is that I’ve found myself trolling the Ordnance Survey maps of the Dales and Moors trying to see if I can spot some of the locations alluded to in the books. After all, there can’t be many Yorkshire dales with roads going along both sides of the valley.
Some of the major plot elements that span the different books are often in the form of cliffhangers, which are easily spoilt by reading the back covers trying to work out which book is where in the series. To help avoid unnecessary disappointments, here are the books in order: