Acts and Omissions
Church Times Bookshop £9 (Use code CT292
ONLY someone wholly versed in the Church of England can
accurately use the phrase "herding cats" to describe a cathedral's
canon precentor endeavouring to seat "readers, chaplains, college
of canons, chapter clerk, diocesan registrar, chancellor of the
diocese, archdeacon . . . the dean, the suffragan bishop . . .
until right at the end we find the bishop of Lindchester".
Catherine Fox (married to a dean) is evoking the farewell
service of her hero, Paul Henderson, the said bishop, who has
seriously blotted his copybook, lost his chance of elevation to
archbishop, and is off with his wife, Susannah (who has spent the
entire novel obsessively baking cakes and biscuits), to South
Africa, to make a new life.
The cause of his downfall is Freddie May, the ravishingly
attractive golden-haired member of the choir with a tenor voice to
die for. He is also accident-prone, unreliable, and gay. Freddie is
in many ways the wobbly axle on which much of this enjoyable
novel's action turns as it unfolds month by month, January to
December, through the rituals of the Christian year in the
fictional diocese of Lindchester.
And if you expect restrained, dignified dialogue, think again:
most of the characters swear continually with vivid and colourful
abandon. Fox's ear for dialogue is delightfully acute, from the
mumbling teenager Freddie to the irascible senior clergy.
SPCK's new venture into fiction is full of surprises, a
refreshing lack of asterisks, and an admirable absence of typos.
The only two books so far on its fiction list are both by Catherine
Fox: first came Angels and Men; and Acts and
Omissions will be followed in June 2015 by a sequel,
Unseen Things Above. It's a very good start, but I wish
the editor had stopped Fox using rhetorical statements such as "it
is not the intention of this narrative to visit evil upon its
characters." She uses her authorial voice too often in this way,
and, in my opinion, never to advantage.
Peggy Woodford is a novelist.
SPCK's new paperback edition of Angels and Men is
priced at £9.99 (£9); 978-0-281-07230-9.