In this novel the reader who is familiar with her earlier work will find familiar characters and locations as well as ones. Johnny Whittaker and Mara make a reappearance for instance and the theme of course involves ecclesiastical life.
The central character Annie is an ordinand, (trainee vicar), at the fictional college of Coverdale. This location, as in Angels and Men, is a barely disguised location being clearly based upon Cramner Hall in Durham. One certainly doesn’t have to be acquainted with the North East to appreciate the book as the location detail is well written, but more than a passing acquaintance does bring this book to life in a way which is quite wonderful.
I find it interesting this novel includes one story within another as besides being a seminary student Annie is also a secret writer of a type of fiction not too dissimilar to Fox herself. That said, it is written in a way which seeks to make clear that the fictional character is newer to her craft than the author herself. This technique is well used and at times one wants the “real life” of Annie, Dr. Will and the others to subside so that you can get back to what is happening between Isabel and Barney, the fictional characters.
Whilst published by Marylebone House which is an imprint of SPCK if you are expecting a nice inoffensive Christian novel you will be sorely disappointed. If however, you are interested in reading a book which does not fall into the trap of so much Christian literature and music of being a bit crap because it tries too hard to be Christian you will enjoy this.
As with so much of what Fox writes it is rooted in the notion that clergy and others in the church are real people too complete with sex lives and family problems. She is also not afraid to identify and address some of the reasons why many people including and sometimes especially Christians end up messed up and the ways in which their dysfunction can manifest itself.
What I think makes her writing so good is that as part of the establishment she is not afraid of offending it and so she goes that step further than many secular writers would because she doesn’t have their fear.