Meet Miss Read: Author of the English Countryside

Slip away to rural England with Miss Read, author of cozy books set in the English countryside. Her Fairacre and Thrush Green novels explore English village life in the years after World War II. If you love reading about the British countryside, Miss Read’s gentle books will be just your cup of tea!

Paperback copy of Village School by Miss Read, on a blanket with bird feathers and ceramic blue bird figurine.

Guest post by Kaitlyn Beck

As a lifelong lover of books, I jump between genres depending on season and mood. As I have gotten older (currently 30, flirty, and thriving!), I have found myself drawn to books about slow living in the countryside, particularly in England. These books have become a balm for my soul in the stress of life. No matter what is happening in my life or our world, books in the English countryside whisk me away and settle on me like a warm, weighted blanket.

I first heard of the author Miss Read in a random book recommendation list online. I took a screenshot and saved it for later. While in a charity book shop in Scotland, I found the book Village School by Miss Read and was immediately drawn to it. When I made it home, I opened its aging pages and found myself in the village life of Fairacre. Soon I was invested in the lives of both the adults and children of this 1950s village, all from the perspective of the spinster schoolteacher Miss Read herself. As I finished the last page, I knew I had to read more and learn just who “Miss Read” was.

Black and white photograph of Miss Read, pen name for Dora Saint.

Miss Read: The Woman Behind the Works

Miss Read, whose real name was Dora Saint (maiden name Shafe), was born April 18, 1913 in London. In March 1921, she moved from London to Chelsfield and was enrolled in the village school until 1924. This was to become a huge influence in her later writings. She wanted to be a journalist but, since her father disapproved, she trained to become a school teacher. She taught in both London and West Berskhire villages, was married to Douglas Saint, and had a daughter named Jill Saint.

After World War II, she began to write for journals and screenplays for the BBC. Later on, she put pen to paper writing novels under the pen name “Miss Read.” One of her most popular series, the Fairacre series, she began in 1955 with Village School and continued to write about this fictional village and Thrush Green (her other famous series) until her retirement in 1996. In total, Dora Saint wrote 53 books before passing away on April 7, 2012, at age 98.

Books By Miss Read

Miss Read’s most famous works were her two series, Fairace and Thrush Green. Both were fictitious villages based on the countryside villages Dora Saint lived and worked in. The first series was Fairace; this followed the life of the Fairacre village, told from the first person point of view of schoolteacher Miss Read. The cast of characters includes various students she teaches, Miss Pringle–the nosy and cranky school cleaner–the kind vicar and his wife, and so many more. Each book takes place over a year (these years are post World War II) and looks at the struggles of various villagers, as well as exploring local festivals, local legends, and the changes of nature.

Cozy English village with thatched-roof cottage and roses climbing the wall

The Thrush Green series follows a similar vein but with a few small differences. First, it is told in the third person and not the first person of Miss Read. The setting is still an English village but it takes place in the neighboring village of Fairacre. This allows for both old and new characters to mingle in daily life. Also the first book of the series, Thrush Green, takes place over a single day (May Day) and the following books do not always follow the one-year track of Fairacre.

In truth, there is not much plot in either series but that is not where the magic of these books lie. The magic of both series lies in the description of the village and the thoughts and feelings of its characters.

Gorgeous Quotes From the Miss Read Books:

“This was the first time, in a long life, that he had savoured to the full the pleasures of his senses. He remembered the extraordinary sensations he had felt, when bedbound, on his sudden awareness of the inanimate objects in the bedroom. That had been the beginning of his new response to his surroundings, although weakness then had blurred some of the pleasure.

Now, with ever-growing strength, he gave thanks for the miracles around him, and his ability to recognise them.”

Return to Thrush Green

“She stood there for a moment, looking at the well-loved view towards Lulling Woods in the blue distance.

“In this brief pause between activities, she suddenly became conscious of living completely in the present. It came but rarely. One was either looking back anxiously wondering which duties had been left undone, or forward to those duties which lay before one.

“Now, in temporary limbo, she felt the sun on her arms, heard a frenzied bee tapping on the window for escape, smelt the dark red roses which stood on the desk, and saw, with unusual clarity, the iridescent feathers of the wood pigeon pecking in the playground. All her senses seemed sharpened. It was a moment of great intensity, never to be forgotten.”

The School at Thrush Green

“Oh lovely, lovely life that can toss us from horror to hilarity, without giving us time to take breath! No mater how dark it may be, yet, unfailingly, ‘Cheerfulness breaks in.'”

Village Diary

“How lucky country children are in these natural delights that lie ready to their hand! Every season and every plant offers changing joys. As they meander along the lane that leads to our school all kinds of natural toys present themselves for their diversion. The seedpods of stitchwort hang ready for delightful popping between thumb and finger, and later the bladder campion offers a larger, if less crisp, globe to burst. In the autumn, acorns, beechnuts, and conkers bedizen their path, with all their manifold possibilities of fun. In the summer, there is an assortment of honeys to be sucked from bindweed flowers, held fragile and fragrant to hungry lips, and the tiny funnels of honeysuckle and clover blossoms to taste.”

Village Diary

In addition to these popular series, she wrote her memoirs Time Remembered and A Fortunate Grandchild. She also wrote some children books and non-fiction, none which I have read personally but they are on my to read list! I find it difficult, and frankly impossible, to rush through any of Miss Read’s books; they are meant to be savored like a good meal. 

Who is Miss Read for?

I would highly recommend any of Miss Read’s books if you like:

  • beautiful descriptions of the British countryside
  • funny characters with a lot of heart
  • slower-paced books that let you “live” in them
  • education in rural England post World War II
  • village life and festivals

You can find a list of all of Miss Read’s books here.

The world can be a fast, scary, and even difficult place. But with Miss Read’s books, you can let your cares drift away with the wind and fall slowly into a slower time gone by. So, my recommendation would be to find a cozy corner, wrap yourself in a blanket, grab a cup of tea, and let these books transport and comfort you.

About the author

Kaitlyn Beck has been a lover of books for as long as she can remember. Her favorite novel is Little Women by Louisa May Alcott but she also loves classics, literary fiction, historical fiction, and memoirs. Besides reading, Kaitlyn loves research (especially history), knitting, musical theatre, cuddling with a blanket, and education. She is a military wife who currently lives in Virginia with her husband and little girl.

Other posts by Kaitlyn on Tea and Ink Society:

More English Countryside Books and Authors:

Meet Miss Read: Author of the English Countryside

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  1. Thankyou for your review of the Thrush Green and Fairacre books. I have read and enjoyed them for many years, finding them in little bookshops around Australia. I grew up in a little Berkshire village, and can attest to the authenticity of the books and the people.

  2. This is a delightful post, thank you! I first discovered Miss Read through her Thrush Green series and have been slowly reading through the Fairacre books in the last year or so. They are so soothing and funny and poignant.

    1. They are indeed! I love how there’s a good number of books in each series, so the discoveries aren’t over too fast (and you can always reread, of course)!

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