Head Over Heels in the Dales by Gervase Phinn

Head Over Heels in the Dales is a book in Gervase Phinn’s autobiographical Dales series. It is the third book in the series after The Other Side of the Dale  and  Over Hill and Dale.

Gervase Phinn is a school inspector. He works in the idyllic Yorkshire Dales. His life as an inspector with his motley crew of colleagues, the love of his life Christine Bentley and of course the children of the schools he visits makes up the story of the Dales series of books.

In Head Over Heels in the Dales, Mr. Phinn has started his third year as an inspector. Life is good as he is getting married to Christine. Finding a place to live and starting a new family takes up much time and resources. The trials and tribulations at work continue as there is talk of a new chief being appointed much to everyone’s discomfort. And of course amid all this the school inspections continue with mostly humorous results.

I found Mr. Phinn’s school visits very funny. I laughed out loud several times. Precocious little children and their often apt observations about life entertained me. Reading about the teachers was also enjoyable.

I did have one serious problem while reading this book. If it were fiction based on real life experiences I would have really liked this book. But the book is supposedly non-fictional. “Could real life be this dramatic or humorous?”– the thought often crossed my mind as I read the book. I have got a feeling that large chunks of the book maybe a tad embellished.

The personal side of the narrative I didn’t like all that much. Dr. Geraldine Mullarkey’s mysterious personal life, Mr. Phinn’s gushing musings on his stunning fiancée Christine with her big blue eyes and golden hair, Sidney Clamp’s mood swings, it was all so ‘fiction like’ and some of it was, frankly, irritating. 

As the book is supposed to be autobiographical and is tagged non-fiction, I do have some reservations about criticizing any of the book’s characters. These are supposed to be real people. Criticizing them without knowing anything about them feels inappropriate. But the truth is I found several of them to be quite insufferable.

Head Over Heels in the Dales is more or less enjoyable, especially the parts about the school visits. Most reader’s I think will not have my whole ‘feels almost totally unreal for a non-fiction’ problem. Others may enjoy this far more than I did.

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