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A curate’s ups and downs

08 August 2014

Peggy Woodford finds a novel of parish life good entertainment

Casting the Net (The Dunbridge Chronicles)
Pam Rhodes
Lion Fiction £7.99
Church Times Bookshop £7.20 (Use code CT217 )

"IT'S no use going to a small town if you want a quiet life," says the bishop to 27 year-old Neil Fisher, in his second busy year as curate of St Stephen's, Dunbridge. His Rector is Margaret (freed from housewifely duties by her practical husband Frank), a strong force in the parish, but also a good delegator.

Life certainly isn't quiet, but Neil's main problems emanate not from his work as curate but from his being young, single, appealing to women, fond of the pub, and hopeless in the kitchen, and having a mother, Iris, who was dead against her only son's entering the ministry, and suddenly announces that she is coming to stay. . .

Naturally, there are young women about who are attractive and attracted, particularly Wendy, who seems to be the ideal wife for him in every way. But . . . he can't make a commitment, and then Claire, an unmarried mother and not a Christian, enters his life. Far from ideal, but the heart does what it wants. Then the Rector's husband suddenly dies, and the grieving widow finds that she has also lost her faith and refuses to return to her parish duties. Neil is now in sole charge. . .

Rhodes (who presented the BBC's Songs of Praise for many years) describes the ups and downs of parish life with humour and a good ear for dialogue, but without digging far enough, perhaps, into the dark side: depression, deception, or the deeper reasons for loss of faith. But Casting the Net is a good read, and anyone who enjoyed the TV series Rev will enjoy it, too.

Peggy Woodford is a novelist.

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