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The Siege by John Sutherland

25 November 2022

Grief, courage, and community explored in a gripping narrative impress Richard Lamey

THE SIEGE is hard to forget. It is not perfect, but it is exceptional. Sutherland sometimes signposts more than necessary, and the marketing is misleading — the cover and precis suggest something high-octane and bloody, whereas the reality is a nuanced, thoughtful, and theological book. Instead of something dry and mechanistic, John Sutherland has crafted a book which wears his Christian values of courage and services on its sleeve.

He has previously written two memoirs of his police career; this is his first novel. Nothing in this book is cheap or shallow. Nobody is expendable. He handles violence particularly well — when it comes, it has shocking force, because it changes lives, and we sit with that, helpless, like the other witnesses, to its impact and cost. His ability to explore community, grief, and courage in a gripping narrative is hugely impressive.

The book centres on three main characters.

Lee Connor is the right-wing extremist who wants to make Britain great again. He takes an immigrant support group hostage in a believable church hall.

Alex Lewis is the credible and haunted police negotiator called to the scene. Both of them are caught within the confining positions they have chosen: Connor as terrorist, Lewis as part of a team.

The third lead, Grace Wheatley, is the moral core of the story. She is well named, a normal person caught up in unimaginable events. She is the still point at the storm’s centre, embodying “love to the loveless shown that they might lovely be”. Her courage and kindness bring a lump to the throat of the reader. She lives long in the memory, teaching us what it is to be a disciple in the world today, and what it means to be a friend, proving the power of story and the redemptive force of kindness.

The Revd Richard Lamey is the Rector of St Paul’s, Wokingham, and Area Dean of Sonning, in the diocese of Oxford.


The Siege
John Sutherland
Orion £16.99
Church Times Bookshop £15.29

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