IT’S 2016. The lives of the good folk of Lindchester carry on while momentous decisions in the country and world are made, most notably Brexit and Donald Trump.
Big decisions, too, are being made in the Church: a new suffragan bishop to be appointed, Renewal and Reform to be implemented, the relationship between cathedral and diocese to be addressed, and the ongoing underlying discussions about the place of gay relationships to be resolved.
In the midst of these happenings on the greater stage, the lives of the good folk themselves are viewed. There’s dear old Freddie May, seeking love while not quite allowing himself to believe that he is worthy of it; Miss Blatherwick, who has tried over the years to keep Freddie on the straight and narrow, with mixed success, but who is now facing her own difficulties. And there is Bishop Steve, also known as Stevangelical, who is hoping to bring his Church into the 21st century with an EA (executive assistant, the previous PA having left) and an agenda for growth, and who presents a stronger façade than his interior conflict would suggest.
There are nearly 40 other named characters (including hamsters, three dogs, and a cat) of whose lives we get a glimpse — their joys and fears, hopes and disasters. There’s an unplanned pregnancy (I won’t divulge more about that ), a knitting archdeacon, and a dying apple tree.
Life happens, but this book is more character-driven than story-based. As she looks into Lindchester from outside, Catherine Fox has the ability to describe her people in such a way that their flaws are obvious, but that we love them none the less. We perhaps see something of ourselves in the well-intentioned Christians who live less than perfect lives, but who do so knowing that ultimately all is in God’s hands.
With wit and humour, she offers a satirical look at the Church with the type of affection that only an insider can manage.
Read this and laugh, weep, and empathise with Freddie the others. Realms of Glory is my favourite of the Lindchester Chronicles trilogy, but do read the others first (Acts and Omissions and Unseen Things Above) to enjoy it at its best. (And, no, I haven’t been paid by author or publisher to say that.)
The Revd Sarah Hillman is the Vicar of Puddletown, Tolpuddle, and Milborne with Dewlish, in Dorset.
Realms of Glory
Marylebone House £9.99
Church Times Bookshop £9