Cabbages for the King (by Adrian Plass)

I like to re-read books by Adrian Plass reasonably regularly; they’re sometimes deceptively simple, and easy to read, yet thought-provoking in ways that stay with me for some time after reading. I had a quick browse through my non-fiction Plass books a few days ago and picked this one up, convinced I had not read it for many years.

I discovered that I had, in fact, re-read ‘Cabbages for the King’ as recently as 2012, but that didn’t matter in the slightest. It’s a book that I could read every year, and still probably find something new. The overall idea of the book is a question that’s been covered by several writers over the years - that of what makes writing ‘Christian’, specifically.

The point is made that when buying cabbages we look for quality, and the size we want, even when buying from a Christian greengrocer. Writers, then, should not necessarily have to make a ‘Christian’ point, but should aim for good writing in general…

The book then consists of loosely categorised topics with various random thoughts. Some are poems, some are dialogues. There’s humour in places; not hilarious roll-on-the-floor laughter, or even anything that makes me chuckle aloud, but I smiled a few times, and found myself reading for much longer periods than I intended.

What Adrian Plass brings to the Christian world, above all else, is his vulnerability. He was one of the first writers to admit to being deeply flawed, often struggling, and far from perfect. In this book he outlines the experience that first showed him how important this is, in helping him to connect with his audience and make his points in ways that are memorable. Perhaps this is hard for some cultures to understand, but we Brits admire and appreciate those who are honest enough to admit to their failings.

Perhaps some of the anecdotes are exaggerated; but it doesn’t matter. When someone’s willing to be open about his failings, it’s so much easier to relate, and to admit to one’s own. Only when we acknowledge our weaknesses can we hope to move beyond them.

There are sections about rituals, about family life, about honesty, and more. It’s a hodge-podge of writing, in a sense; it can be dipped into, or, as I did, read from start to finish. There’s nothing spectacular or mind-blowingly deep - but, nonetheless, it’s well worth having one one’s shelves and re-reading regularly.

Recommended. Not currently in print, but 'Cabbages for the King' can often be found lurking in second-hand bookstalls, particularly at church fetes.

Review copyright 2015 Sue's Book Reviews

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