The Vernham Chronicles by John Saunders

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The Vernham Chronicles by John Saunders

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Category: Humour
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Take a walk in the beautiful countryside of Vernbury Vale and meet the villagers of Vernham. They're distinctly odd but I promise that you'll like them. John Saunders was kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 192 Date: October 2010
Publisher: Pen Press
ISBN: 978-1907499593

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Set amidst the rolling British countryside around Vernbury Vale is the little village of Vernham. Anyone who lives in a village will recognise it immediately, with its cobbled streets and Tudor buildings. There was some damage during the war (which might, or might not have been down to a lighthouse folly constructed by a local landowner on his lake) but the gaps have been filled with some beautiful, er, mock Tudor buildings. Almost unique and nearly beautiful as the village is, it's not the star of The Vernham Chronicles. The stars are the people who live in Vernham.

For the sake of the people who live in Vernham I want to make it clear that they are just like the rest of us, only more so. They have their foibles, but then, which of us doesn't? They're steeped in the past (and occasionally in alcohol) and have nothing to do with technology. I'm sure that we've all longed to be free of mobile phones and computers at some point – but the Vernhamites take it several steps further. They won't have anything to do with one pound coins – or outsiders if they can get away with it.

The Chronicles are a series of loosely interlinked stories which don't really go anywhere except possibly round again to see if what you read the first time really was true. There's the policeman who's also a flasher – complete with artfully designed clothing to make the act simple to perform. Such exhibitionism is the norm in Vernham, but no one takes offence, not least because of the possible repercussions. There are regular cultural events in the village including the annual mystery tour, which is more of a mystery because the coach driver could get lost on a straight road.

I looked at The Vernham Chronicles for the first time last night and I really had no intention of reading it, but the book had other ideas. Well, just one chapter, then quickly expanded and before I knew it I'd turned the final pages in the early hours of this morning. It's not the plot that keeps you going, because there really isn't one. It would be superfluous. The humour is gentle – from the reason for the villagers having Norman Wisdom to the raunchy page nine glamour model Corrie Nation. She used to be Corrie Nation-Street but her agent told her that it made her sound like a soap opera.

It's said that in times of war people turn to Jane Austen for her gentle humour and a reassurance that all will be well in the world. The Vernham Chronicles had a similar effect on me. The humour tickles you relentlessly and won't let go even when you scream for mercy. It's kindly humour though: you laugh with people rather than at them and you're left with a feeling that you could live in Vernham and know that you might not be accepted, but it would be because you were an outsider and not because you're in any way different. That's their kind of logic.

I'd like to thank the author for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

If this book appeals to you then you might also enjoy Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Stars by Gervase Phinn.

Bookinterviews.jpg John Saunders was kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag.

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Buy The Vernham Chronicles by John Saunders at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Vernham Chronicles by John Saunders at


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