|The Rev Diaries by Reverend Adam Smallbone|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: Rev Adam Smallbone makes the transition from TV to book in the form of fictional diaries. All the loved telly characters and the comedic and poignant moments that are so riveting on the telly are here. Add new insights and thoughts, and it becomes a series companion as well as a good newbies' starting point.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 320||Date: March 2014|
|Publisher: Michael Joseph|
Adam Smallbone wasn’t always a vicar. He used to work for the Bristol Housing Department, enabling his father-in-law to tell everyone he worked 'in property'. From there, his initial calling was to a rural church in Suffolk which did nothing to prepare him for this, his current London inner city parish. Indeed, he's not prepared for Adoha (the Nigerian parishioner with 19 grandchildren and 'the bottom of God') or Colin, the homeless alcoholic who has adopted Adam and his wife Alex (Mrs Vicarage to Colin). But then Alex also has a lot to get used to; after all, she didn't actually marry a vicar.
The funny TV vicar has always been with us in some form although on the whole side stepped by real-life clergy. The profession categorised the genre as either entertaining tosh or a load of tosh, but tosh seemed to be the defining feature. Then writer James Wood and character actor extraordinaire Tom Hollander came up with Rev. and everything changed.
After the first episode clergy started asking who was taping their meetings and services as the TV episodes mirrored their lives. Everyone with white stiff collars inserted into specially tailored shirts claimed to know who the brilliant Archdeacon Robert was based on. (Then Robert revealed he was gay so everyone shut up smartish!) In short, it's a programme that every member of clergy watches slavishly and I know a few, for I am a Mrs Vicarage.
So how does it migrate from screen to page? Very well and no previous knowledge is required ensuring that new readers are as welcome to start here as we fans.
The diaries may claim to be written by Adam himself but in real life James and Tom collaborate with comedy writer Jon Canter for the novel, which is interesting as not all the material is new. The main thrust of the diaries is taken from the first two TV series providing a great way in for newbies to become acquainted with the C of E school place whores (not as offensive and a lot more innocent than it sounds), Roland the media hungry vicar (we all know at least one!), the tensions with Ellie the school head teacher and the amazingly honest inner monologue showing us the real Adam. (Which reminds me, there is frank language but all in context.)
There are some wonderful guffaw moments and we also smile at the blunt instrument which is Colin but he also stops us in our tracks causing us to think or even shed the odd tear.
We may recognise the TV plots but this isn't a wholesale reproduction of the scripts. There are some wonderfully observed added nuances and back stories that augment the programmes. In fact they make more sense of the visuals. For instance it hadn't dawned on me till the book mentioned it that the wonderfully arch Robert's hair is like an arrow pointing accusingly at whomever he's talking to or that the key to Colin is that he's a man-child. We also see more of the depth of Adam's love for Alex as well as Alex's authentic struggles with the expectations heaped on her because of Adam's vocation. (I believe I may even have whooped 'Right on Sister!' at one point.)
The Rev Diaries should be required reading for anyone wondering what's going on in the Church of England at the moment as well as those considering entering it professionally or through marriage. From Adam's impossible struggle to please both parishioners and management to Alex trying to wrest her sense of self, not to mention the Midnight Mass hecklers, beneath the heart-warming entertainment, this is how it is.
Perhaps some of the moments are heightened more for laughs, but the writers have fingers on ecclesiastical pulses when it comes to the job, the pressures and, indeed, the rewards. In this way, this is a book that confirms Adam Smallbone as one of the C-of-E's best media ambassadors, even for atheists if The New Statesman is correct. The Rev may be fictional, but he's also Everyvicar, in thought, temptation and, in some cases, deed.
A big thank you to Michael Joseph for providing us with a copy for review.
Further Reading: If you'd like to sample more of Jon Canter's work, we recommend A Short Gentleman.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Rev Diaries by Reverend Adam Smallbone at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Rev Diaries by Reverend Adam Smallbone at Amazon.com.
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