It is some months since I stayed in with Fran Hill to chat all about Miss, What Does Incomprehensible Mean? in a post you can read here. After our conversation I knew I’d enjoy reading the book and was delighted when Fran sent me a copy, but as ever, my TBR got the better of me. With fewer blog tours accepted and a short lull in books I need to read for them, I finally got round to Miss, What Does Incomprehensible Mean? and I’m so glad I did.
Miss, What Does Incomprehensible Mean?
A funny, life-affirming memoir, in diary form. Set in the manic world of a busy teacher, and based on real experiences, Fran Hill’s account of one typical year shows it’s not just the pupils who misbehave.
English teacher ‘Miss’ starts the Autumn term beleaguered by self-doubts. She’s mid-menopause, insomniac, and Mirror and Bathroom Scales are blisteringly unsympathetic. Her pupils make her laugh, weep, fume and despair, often in the same lesson. Her unremitting workload blights family time and she feels guilty for missing church events to catch up on marking. After all, God-lady is watching.
Meanwhile, the new Head of Department seems unreachable, an Ofsted inspection looms, her sixth formers (against school policy) insist on sitting in rows, and there’s a school magazine to produce …
When childhood secrets demand attention Miss doesn’t want to give them, life gets complicated.
My Review of Miss, What Does Incomprehensible Mean?
A year in the life of a secondary school English teacher.
Miss, What Does Incomprehensible Mean? is an absolute cracker of a book written in the form of a term time diary. I loved every moment of being immersed in its pages and I was so entertained by Fran Hill’s writing that I simply gave up my plans for the day and read it in one sitting, right through my meals – rather like the author does with her marking in the book.
Reading Miss, What Does Incomprehensible Mean? like having Victoria Wood, Miranda Hart and Dawn French in my sitting room for a private stand-up gig. It’s a long time since I have laughed so hard and so long and reading this book was exactly the tonic I needed in these trying times. I genuinely felt as if Fran Hill had somehow inhabited my body and it was me returning to the classroom to teach Wilfred Owen’s poetry or Shakespeare. The author’s self-deprecating style, her wrangles with Mirror and Bathroom Scales, her love of Bailey’s, the never ending plie of marking, the threat of OfSTED, all resonated so completely that I felt as if I’d made a new best friend through my reading.
Fran Hill’s writing style makes for an effortless read. Her ability to convey meaning in the briefest of sentences, balanced against longer passages is just wonderful. Direct speech is natural and engaging and I genuinely cried with laughter at some of Mirror’s comments. If I say that I kept my husband awake the night after reading Miss, What Does Incomprehensible Mean? because I kept giggling over some of the phrases I’d read I hope it will convey how brilliant this book is.
But Miss, What Does Incomprehensible Mean? is more than just hilarious. It’s a realistic and tender insight into the narrator’s life, her difficult past and her humane, sensitive understanding of those in her care. I confess to a lump in my throat when Zak read his Christmas story and the faces of vulnerable youngsters from my own teaching career came flooding back. Fran Hill explores challenging themes of over ambition, long term guilt, excessive diffidence, stress, and others that will reveal themselves should you read the book with subtlety so that they only really hit home when reflecting on the back after reading. The skill in writing this way is astonishing.
Utterly joyous, sensitive, witty, hugely funny and the perfect tonic for anyone needing a boost but with a serious undertow, Miss, What Does Incomprehensible Mean? is glorious. I absolutely adored it, and could not have enjoyed it more. Miss, What Does Incomprehensible Mean? has gone straight on my Books of the Year list.
About Fran Hill
Fran Hill is a writer, blogger and English tutor from Warwickshire, England. She has written and published many stories, poems and articles over the past 20 years and was selected for the 2016-17 prestigious Writing West Midlands emerging writers’ development programme. She sometimes performs her work on stage and, more recently, since public stages became not so popular, on Facebook Live.