James Runcie’s Grantchester Novels

I would guess many of you have seen the television series Grantchester. It follows the daily life – and occasional sleuthing – of local vicar Sidney Chambers. Set in the 1950’s, the characters lives are set against the aftermath of World War II. Grantchester is a real-life picturesque village just a tiny bit southwest of Cambridge, England. Chambers, with his growing friendship with Detective Inspector Geordie Keating, takes on matters of life, love, death, and God in good style.

The television series is based on the Grantchester novels by James Runcie. Runcie is the son of Robert Runcie who was the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1980-1991, so he is well-acquainted with the strengths and vicissitudes of the Church of England and its local representatives. He does an excellent job of setting out the daily routine of the parish priest while at the same time letting us in on Sidney’s struggles and joys. Here’s the list:
Sidney Chambers and The Shadow of Death (2012), Sidney Chambers and The Perils of the Night (2013), Sidney Chambers and The Problem of Evil (2014), Sidney Chambers and The Forgiveness of Sins (2015), Sidney Chambers and The Dangers of Temptation (2016), Sidney Chambers and The Persistence of Love (2017)

The newest is The Road to Grantchester, which is a prequel to the others. It just came out recently in England and I was happy to purchase a copy when I was in Cambridge at the end of March. This is a powerful story about the effects of war on individuals and relationships. From this we learn a lot about why Sidney’s memories from the war are so troubling (as presented in the other books) and also about his intense relationship with Amanda Kendall. I found Runcie’s descriptions of the soldiers in World War II to be particularly powerful. It will be available in the US on May 7.

I’m torn about recommending reading the prequel first. I don’t think you should. Dive into the others first – in order, of course! – and then pick up this book so you can pick up the pieces Sidney Chambers left behind in the other stories. These are very good reads!

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