A recently widowed teacher comes to enliven the children of a rural Scottish community.
Popular in the UK, Dewar is an accessible storyteller with a wry sense of the comic. She possesses affection for her characters and has some of the rooted, unpretentious charm of Maeve Binchy. Her domestic drama is set mainly in a remote and lonely Highland glen where a “lop-sided and shy” bunch of children, whose previous schoolmistress was sacked for hitting them, is brought to life by the creative, irreverent teaching style of Iris Chisholm. Iris has relocated to Green Cairns, with her two teenaged children, Scott and Sophy, after the death of her husband, Harry, in a car crash, which precipitated the revelation that he had been deceiving her for years, systematically gambling away all their money, leaving her heavily in debt and more heavily humiliated. The tiny village community she joins is gossipy and conservative, despite its two eligible men and some incoming hippies and homesteaders. Iris’s unconventional style sets tongues wagging. She focuses so hard on her pupils, especially a silent boy named Colin, that she leaves herself open to accusations of neglecting her own two, who smoke, drink, sulk and play truant. Part village saga, part redemption fable, this episodic story is satisfying, if somewhat monotonously structured and perfunctorily concluded.
Comfortable and sweet: Despite the story’s one real tragedy, a fairytale sense of happy outcomes hangs over the tale, rendering everyone benign and no event, not even death, too traumatic.