The Heart of the Dales - the fifth instalment in the Dales series - reached the same quality as the first three, after the slightly slow-going fourth book. It had a gossipy quality to it, as though sitting down to talk with some friends. It was extremely easy reading.
The biggest positive for me was the high quality of the prose by Phinn, both of the beautiful Yorkshire landscapes and the people that he meets in the course of his school inspecting. Here is a good example: "...a cheerful little cleric with a round red face and white bushy eyebrows which curled like question marks below a shiny pate..." It perfectly captures the essence of the person described and helps lend a very visual characteristic to the book.
I also deeply loved the wonderful Yorkshire dialect that Phinn employs to lend character to the people, especially the children. For instance, here is a snippet of Joseph's conversation in one of the Nativity performances that Phinn attends: "That's a rum do. We've been on t'rooad all day and both on us are fair fit to drop. We're fair fagged out! I've got t'wife out 'ere an' she's 'havin' a babby, tha knaas."
My only real complaint about the book was the way that Phinn constantly referred back to tales from previous books - they tickled me the first time round, but by the second or third time I've read it it simply feels like padding.
This is a small negative, though, and didn't greatly hamper my enjoyment of the book.
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