The Horizontal Epistles of Andromeda Veal (by Adrian Plass)

I have been reading and thoroughly enjoying books by Adrian Plass for almost thirty years now, since his book ‘The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass age 37 ¾’ became a major success in the Christian world. Based on a diary that originated as a magazine column, it’s both thought-provoking and extremely funny. I re-read it last year, so it was time to re-read the first sequel, which I last read in 2002 as part of a trilogy when I owned at the time.

‘The Horizontal Epistles of Andromeda Veal’ is in a different format, and revolves around letters supposedly written and received by eight-year-old Andromeda, in traction in a hospital with a broken femur. The first time I read it, I recall skimming somewhat to find more ‘diary’ sections, and being disappointed that there were only a handful of them, amongst the correspondence.

However, this time, knowing what to expect, I read more carefully. Andromeda’s spelling is erratic, as might be expected of a child her age, and she makes amusing mistakes in words. Some of them feel a little overdone after three or four instances (she talks about being ‘an attraction’ with a broken ‘lemur’ in several letters, for instance) but that’s not a major issue.

There’s an underlying story: Andromeda’s parents have separated, after her mother, who has strongly socialist principles, became involved in demonstrations on Greenham Common with a rather pushy friend. Neither of them is visiting their daughter, so she writes a note to her friends Adrian and Anne Plass, and they rally round and encourage members of their church to write letters and visit Andromeda.

Not content with replying to the various - and diverse - letters she receives, Andromeda also writes letters to world leaders, both political and religious, which display both her grasp of some politics and her confusion about a great deal else. As the book progresses Andromeda herself grows up a little, and begins to understand the idea of God and faith, although this is quite low key.

It could be read as a standalone book, although the number of correspondents is quite high, and a lot of the humour might be lost if a reader had not already met Leonard Thynn and the Flushpools in the first book. More of a problem for modern readers under the age of about fifty is that many of the politicians and issues were contemporary to the UK in the late 1980s, and some of the points could be lost entirely.

Still, as one who can remember most of the names and issues, and who in any case enjoys everything Adrian Plass has written, I am very glad to have re-read it and hope it won’t be another fifteen years before my next re-read.

Definitely recommended. Not always in print, and sometimes only available as part of a trilogy, but fairly widely available second-hand.

Review copyright 2017 Sue's Book Reviews

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