30/06/2008

A Summer's Diary (by David Wilbourne)

I don't know anything about David Wilbourne. I first heard of him when I came across his book 'A Vicar's Diary' at a jumble sale a few years ago, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I knew there was a sequel, which alas is long out of print, and was delighted to be able to order it inexpensively from Abebooks.

'A Summer's Diary' charts the summer of 1966, written - like its predecessor - in fictional diary form by David, a young minister in Beckwith. During the course of the summer he speaks at the local primary school, visits elderly ladies, tries to raise money for various projects, and courts the delightful Rebecca.

Perhaps that all sounds potentially very dull, but that's because I'm not David Wilbourne. This book is written with humour and wry attention to detail that makes it thoroughly enjoyable. I assume that the stories are based on real experiences, but many of the people are slightly caricatured and I assume that events have been altered somewhat for artistic license, and so as not to upset people.

There is a Granny who drops candle wax into her cooking, although she expects people to eat it; there's a school cook who uses frequent (and often risqué) malapropisms; there's a wonderfully pompous lay reader who thinks he may be called to the ministry; and there are children with only the faintest idea of what Christianity is about.

There are several incidents that made me smile, along with a few very moving sections that almost brought tears to my eyes. The moving and serious blend in perfectly with the amusing, almost slapstick moments that make up everyday life in this parish, and I thought the style worked extremely well.

A picture is painted (notwithstanding the caricatures) of a rural farming community in the UK in the mid-sixties, and the style is almost like a Vicar's version of James Herriot. It's a gentle read that manages to portray something of the love of God, and the practical, honest reality of Jesus amidst the very human characters of this book.

David himself comes across as a likeable young man who cares for his parishioners, helps them out in whatever way is needed, and is prepared to get his hands dirty amongst them.

I suppose this kind of book doesn't appeal much to today's fast-moving generation, but it's a pity it's so hard to come by. Recommended to anyone who likes this kind of book.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 30th June 2008

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