The Growing Up Pains of Adrian Plass (by Adrian Plass)

I have thoroughly enjoyed many of Adrian Plass's books over the past fifteen years or so. The best-known is probably his 'Sacred Diary', and its sequels, all of which can cause me, even on re-reading, to erupt into chuckles. Plass has also written some more serious books, fiction and non-fiction, and I have found them, without exception, well-written, often moving, and with that vein of light-heartedness that can bring a smile to my face unexpectedly.

Of all his books, the one I remember with least enthusiasm is his autobiography, which was originally entitled 'Join the Company', but then reprinted as 'The growing-up pains of Adrian Plass'. Possibly I first read it shortly after the first 'Sacred Diary' trilogy, expecting more laugh-aloud humour, and was disappointed. Whenever it was that I first read it, it was more than ten years ago so I knew it was more than time for a re-read.

I was pleasantly surprised. Perhaps my tastes have changed; perhaps it's just that I've read more autobiographies in recent years, and knew what to expect. Perhaps I simply wasn't expecting so much. Whatever the reasons for my change of heart, I thought it an excellent book: well-written, sometimes moving, full of relevant anecdotes and fascinating people, building up a vivid picture of this talented writer.

Adrian Plass writes in what might be considered classic British understatement, frequently using the excellent and oft-recommended method of showing scenes rather than telling in monologue. Unlike many contemporary biographies, he doesn't name-drop; he doesn't list his achievements or give any claims to greatness. Even when he became a household name in his region as part of a late-night TV chat show, he seems surprised - even a little embarrassed - when recognised in shops or other public places.

His childhood was not, by comparison to many current autobiographies, particularly dreadful. His father was strict and unpredictable, but young Adrian knew the strong and devoted love of his mother from a young age. He also knew how to escape into the world of books. He was able to develop an 'image' in his teens and early twenties, and he fell in love with a wonderful girl who became his wife.

It was only later on in his adult years, now father of three boys whom he loved with a passion, that his past caught up with him and his personality temporarily fragmented. He describes the dark days of his breakdown without self-pity, and gives much credit to those who helped him in various ways, most of all his wife Bridget.

I read this in a little under two weeks, just one chapter per day. I could have sat down and read it straight through, but preferred to enjoy it over a longer period.

I have no hesitation in recommending this little book to anyone - whether or not you have heard of Adrian Plass, whether or not you are interested in Christianity, or God. There's no preaching; indeed he's quite negative at times about the established church, and 'religious' people who spout clich├ęs and refuse to admit to negativity.

I look forward to reading this again in a few years. Unfortunately it's now out of print, although it can fairly often be found second-hand, and is sometimes available in a volume with some of the author's other books.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 8th December 2009

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