Realms of Glory by Catherine Fox is the third of the Lindchester Chronicles (after Acts and Omissions and Unseen Things Above). It again looks at life in this fictional Anglican diocese over the course of a year. As the third book it of course provides continuity but this one felt different, less catty – certainly from June and the middle of the book onward and desperate to give us some hope.
The books were written in weekly blog installments, but I have preferred to wait for the complete books. Thus, I didn’t know what to expect – although I did know this is the one where some of the loose ends or perhaps loose characters were likely to be sorted out. This tying up of loose ends was arguably too neat, but one knows that just because the end of one stage of life ends with apparent tidiness and just the odd frayed end that it can all unravel again and this is a mere snapshot of one point in time.
As I say this book somehow differed in tone but was perhaps my favourite as it was less pantomime in places. There was no moral commentary on what we should think of people and perhaps most importantly no highly characterised villain - (just as well because after the last one I spent two years as a university chaplain wearing a navy hoody with the word chaplain on the back being mocked by my husband). There were ordinary people struggling the difficult aspects of ordinary life.
This book contains no sensational affairs or falls from grace, although the ones from the first book is touched upon at one point. It does contain compassionate, sensible safeguarding and pastoral care – perhaps reflecting on how the world and the church has moved on from when the first book was written. In fact, there is only one point when it moves into the realm of possible, but really? And that is when one of our heroes delivers a baby – but really? I mean he’s good but delivering a child that quickly as well as keeping the other kids occupied with cookies? Still it did raise yet another smile in relation to this character who the reader has been rooting for through all three books.
The author lets herself slip through slightly more in this book I think. She is a lecturer who teaches creative writing and there are writing tips peppered through this one. Whilst all fictional it was interesting to see how life has mirrored art. The lecturer married to the archdeacon finds herself married to a bishop when he gets promotion. In real life Fox wrote this in blog form whilst married to a cathedral dean and by the time it was published in book form her husband had been promoted to bishop. The angst she, like many, felt about both Brexit and Trump also comes through.
But what of the CofE politics you might ask? Those things so prominent in the first two books. Well they’re here in this one…..the Green Report and the ongoing debate about same sex marriage. Yet they are less of a focus, certainly after Brexit. They move, rightly, into the background with points (such as the reliance of many diocese on LGBT+ staff) being implicitly rather than explicitly made.
Did I enjoy this book as much as the other two? Yes, and in some ways more. It wasn’t the happy endings it was the fact surprising things happened but in a more gentle way.
As I end this review I want to say thank you to the author for the trilogy, which I have very much enjoyed.