PETER MORRELL’s third novel about the same fictional Midlands village, The Honourable Member for Pepynbridge (i2i Publishing, £8.95 (£8.05); 978-09954805-4-4), examines the controversy surrounding gay marriage.
Ralph Waters, successful, and wealthy Queen’s Counsel and Tory MP for Pepynbridge Forest, spends most weekends in in the village with his much younger partner, Pascal, a retired black African French rugby-union player. Not everyone in this intensely conservative village is entirely happy about this.
When Ralph promotes a Private Member’s Bill in Parliament to force the Church of England to permit same-gender marriage in church and requests the Rector, Herbert Onions, to conduct their marriage in St Aidan’s Abbey, Alfred Wicken, local farmer and bigot, decides to take matters into his own hands, and Ralph’s life is suddenly in great danger.
Morrell is a retired judge, and is able to make the minutiae of parliamentary and church process clear, and even interesting. He has also obviously sat on a parish council, and has an ear for the way people interact.
The book itself is an interesting phenomenon, published on a shared-risk basis, where the author makes a contribution and the publisher takes care of marketing. This ensures that books like this, which deserve to be read, reach the shops, and the swift production time enables the author to use a Brexit backdrop. One character even publishes her own novel in this way, though the sample of her consciously archaic prose suggests that her publisher’s standards are lower than i2i’s.
The author displays considerable erudition in examining the biblical arguments against same-sex marriage and handles his characters’ honestly held beliefs with sensitivity and compassion. I was particularly touched by his depiction of bright, 24-year-old Edgar coming out to his loving but staunchly traditionalist family, and dealing with the hostile questioning when he stands for Parliament. Another success to add to the series.
Fiona Hook is a writer and EFL teacher.