I bought another book in February – The Shadow Doctor by Adrian Plass.
The day it arrived (hand-delivered by the lady, who manages a local bookshop) I was struggling with my health. I needed a book to read, while I rested. This book seemed to be just “what the doctor ordered” if you will excuse the pun. In other words the act of losing myself in a story and considering the way that the characters in the book interacted with one another for the greater good, was just what I needed.
It is not a comfortable read in some ways. Adrian Plass has a knack of making people look at things from a different angle. While he has a reputation for writing humorous books, this perhaps does not come into that category. Some of the early reviews of this newly published book give the impression that it was not what the readers expected.
One of my favourite books by Adrian Plass is An Alien at St Wilfred’s. There we learn that Hartley (whom some might describe as inadequate) is the most important person in the Church of England. The Shadow Doctor helps us to understand, who the most important person in the world is.
Not all the background to the Shadow Doctor’s modus operandi is explained. That is not a problem to me. It allows me to fill in details from my own imagination or to take on trust that only the important elements of the story need to be told.
It is a book I shall almost certainly read again one day.
In my earlier post I mentioned that I had two library books. I managed to finish reading both of them before the end of the month. I did not find another book to borrow from the library. Instead I decided to reread some books I have at home. I read An Alien at St Wilfred’s by Adrian Plass from cover to cover on the last day of October.
The two library books I borrowed are A Walk along the Wall by Hunter Davies and The Making of Swallows and Amazons by Sophie Neville. Both are non-fiction and relate to the 1970s.
Hunter Davies’ book has been republished several times. The issue I read had a new introduction and the appendix listing publications about Hadrian’s Wall had been brought up-to-date (about 10 years ago). I chose the book because I have visited a few locations along the wall and Lanercost Priory, which was built from stones originally used for the wall. Reading it gave me lots of background information. I hope to be able to explore more of the wall in future. The book is written in a conversational style by an author with an enquiring mind. While it deals with history, archaeology and geography, it is a story of a series of meetings with people who live(d) or worked along the wall. There is information about the landowning families of the counties of Northumberland and Cumbria. I found it fascinating.
Sophie Neville played the part of Titty Walker in the film of Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons in the early 1970s. The Making of Swallows and Amazons is a very readable book compiled from her diary, that of the actress, who played Susan Walker, photos from the time and the memories of others involved. An appendix includes information about what those involved in the film did subsequently. There are many black and white photos and some in colour. I am not sure whether I have watched the film of Swallows and Amazons on TV, but (as a child) I enjoyed the book and others by Arthur Ransome. I also enjoyed The Painted Garden most of Noel Streatfield’s books. It is the one about children making a film in Hollywood. Technology has advanced, so that all sorts of special effects can be achieved nowadays. In the 1970s there were many practical problems to be solved to achieve the desired effects. I could go on, but I recommend that you read this book for yourself!
An Alien at St Wilfred’s is fiction. I have read it before, probably more than once. I think it is my favourite of those books by Adrian Plass, which I have read. Superficially it is about a vicar and organist, who do not get on well together. But it is much more than that. It is very funny in a gentle way. Above all it is a hopeful book.
Book review: The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass: Adrian Plass and the Church Weekend
I first encountered the writing of Adrian Plass a long time ago. He has been a contributor to the Bible Reading Fellowship’s New Daylight, which I use, and I have read a number of his books.
My favourites include An Alien at St Wilfred’s (1992), The Horizontal Epistles of Andromeda Veal and The Unlocking (1994). I may have read The Growing Up Pains of Adrian Plass or perhaps, The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass aged 37¾.
I think it was the latter as I was aware that he is not much older than I am! I have not read the other books in the series, but I have also read Cabbages for the King. When Hodder Faith offered a free copy of The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass: Adrian Plass and the Church Weekend to a few lucky people on Twitter I sent an email, thinking that was the last I’d hear of it.
To my surprise I was a winner! I was even more amazed, when the book arrived – it is a hardback, with a wonderful cartoon on the cover. I had forgotten the pleasure of reading a hardback book. (It is also available as a paperback and an e-book.)
Having missed the adventures of the fictional version of Adrian over the intervening years was not a problem in picking up the thread. The blurb indicates that Adrian agreed on behalf of himself and his wife to organise the Church weekend away. The format of a diary allows the author to experiment with various styles of writing. One thing I liked was that he did not always spell out, for example, the name of a TV show, leaving the reader to work it out. I know I scored at least three out of four for recognising the names of Christian Centres combined to make the fictional setting of the story – Scarleeswanvale.
As Adrian says in the diary about how jokes are likely to be received, “You never know with Christians.” The jokes push the boundaries, but they did not offend me. One, which deals with mental illness, managed to be funny by being ridiculous and using wordplay. Having had a stress-related illness qualifies the author to include this sort of joke. (I was brought up not to “mock the afflicted”!)
Although this is a humorous book, there are many serious ideas served up in it. I hope that many of those involved in the prayer ministry of churches will read it.
I like loose ends to be tied up in the books I read. This story leaves at least one, but ends on a hopeful note with the possibility of a sequel.