13/02/2014

The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass on Tour (by Adrian Plass)

Adrian Plass wrote a diary-style column for a Christian magazine that became so popular that it was turned into a book, whose title was a clear satire for another popular series of the time. 'The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass aged 37 3/4' was a top-seller in the Christian world, one of the few books at which I laughed aloud while reading, not only on my first perusal, but on subsequent re-readings as well. It looked at the foibles of the church, from the perspective of a good-natured but rather bumbling protagonist who, somewhat confusingly, had the same name as the author.

There were a couple of sequels in a different format, and then a break of a few years before 'The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass, Christian Speaker, aged 45 3/4' was published. And while it didn't have quite the hilarious - or surprising - anecdotes of the original, it was certainly a worthy successor. I rather assumed that would be the end, until another sequel was published in 2004. I read 'The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass on tour [age far too much to be put on the front cover of a book]' aloud to my sons early in 2005. We liked it very much; our overview was that there was less humour than in the others, but more to think about.

Nine years later, and I was delighted to receive yet another sequel in the 'Sacred Diary' series for Christmas. But, rather than delving right in, I thought I would first re-read the two sequels to remind myself of the significant characters.

This particular one follows Adrian and his fictional family (wife Anne and newly ordained son Gerald) as they set out on a speaking tour sponsored by Barry Ingstone, one of the people in their church. Barry is very enthusiastic and somewhat traditionally evangelical, quoting Scripture every other sentence, so it's a bit of a shock when they learn that Barry plans to come on the tour with them. There's room for two more people, so they invite the hapless but good-hearted Leonard Thynn, who featured in earlier books, and also his new and rather fluffy girlfriend with the unusual name of Angels Twitten.

The account is, of course, far from straightforward. Adrian reminisces about experiences from his past as he introduces the topic of the tour, and while he summarises the events of each day, they are punctuated with anecdotes, Gerald's cleverly re-written Scripture passages that make excellent points, a series of bad jokes about people wanting accommodation, and a whole lot more.

It's very readable, and there were a few places where I did find myself laughing aloud, although nowhere near as much as in the earlier books. On the other hand, there was a lot to think about. Not so much as there was nine years ago: there have been many books written for post-modern readers, looking in more serious ways at the problems with the evangelical church. But Plass's humour manages to get to the root of some of the foibles and meaningless jargon in a much more memorable way.

Probably not of much relevance to those outside the church - in the broadest sense of the word - as there is a great deal of satire; I think it's also best to have read at least one of the earlier books prior to this, although it stands alone plot-wise.

But for fans of Adrian Plass, or for anyone wanting a light-hearted look at the triumphs and pitfalls of an ordinary Christian speaker, this is definitely recommended. Unfortunately not currently in print, but sometimes possible to find second-hand.

Oddly enough, though, after reading two of the books in succession over four days, I feel slightly Plassed-out, and will leave the new one for at least a few days.

Review by copyright 2014 Sue's Book Reviews

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