06/03/2007

An Alien at St Wilfred's (by Adrian Plass)

It was eight years since I'd read 'An Alien at St Wilfred's', a short novel by Adrian Plass, and I remembered finding it enjoyable and thought-provoking.

It's the story of a little alien called Nunc. Not that it's science fiction - not at all. It's a light but thought-provoking story about David Persimmon, the likeable (if bumbling) Vicar of a traditional Anglican church. Nunc appears one day in his church, and asks David to gather together three or four people who will meet with him regularly. And far from being bewildered or scared by this unlikely command from a glowing small white alien, it seems the most reasonable thing to do - as do all of Nunc's requests.

The people David chooses are quite a muddle: there's Hartley, an unusual person who thinks fairly literally, cares deeply about the church (which he cleans) and cannot easily look after himself. There's Dick Craven, a hardened cynic who's also David's best mate in the parish. And there's Dot, a lovely elderly lady who loves Jesus and other people, but is not gifted with diplomacy, preferring always to speak the truth.

During the half-dozen meetings this group has, they get to know each other better and also discover various hangups and unfinished emotional business in their lives. It sounds heavy, but it's written in Adrian Plass's usual light-hearted style, so that the serious points are hidden until they leap up and strike you. All the characters are slightly caricatured, but that's not a problem in a book like this; probably everyone can recognise types of people they know within the pages of this book.

I smiled, I had tears in my eyes a couple of times, and I thoroughly enjoyed re-reading this book - most of which I had forgotten. Mainly of interest to those in churches, particularly those feeling a bit fed up with life - but the situations are so ordinary that I would think anyone could read and enjoy this. Highly recommended.

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