Have you watched the Grantchester mysteries on PBS? I have and I have very much enjoyed them. Would you like to go back to the origin of the stories? I decided that I wanted to. I had read this book, Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death a number of years ago. I was curious to reread it now that I have watched the TV show.
First off, the books and the TV show differ at times. I have found this to be true of other TV adaptations as well. One that comes to mind is the series of novels by Peter Robinson about Detective Banks. Knowing this means that the read is different but not one bit worse for that.
For those who don’t know Sidney is a Canon who is assigned to the village of Grantchester. He runs a parish church and also teaches classes at nearby Cambridge University. Oh, and he begins to solve mysteries.
This book contains six stories. All are set in the 1950s. In the first story, Sidney investigates the death of a lawyer. In the next, he tries to find out how and why an engagement ring was stolen. And so it goes through a series of long, short stories. (I know that is a funny juxtaposition of words).
Every story shows Sidney to be a good man. He is able to question, is not in any way stuffy, and is someone with whom readers will enjoy spending time.
For those who watched the shows, in this book be introduced to series favorites like Sidney’s housekeeper and Amanda. I was especially delighted to meet Leonard for the first time here.
I highly recommend all of the books in the series. There are six. They take place across decades in Sidney’s life.
Below find my review of The Road to Granchester. This was published AFTER the six other books but it tells Sidney’s origin story.
As soon as I saw this title on NetGalley, I desperately wanted to read it. Many thanks to Bloomsbury and NetGalley for granting my request. The opinions below are my own.
I read the first Sidney Chambers novel, Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death, when it was first published. I was captivated by the character of Sidney and wanted to know more about him. I have continued to read the stories and have adored the Grantchester series on TV. For me, James Norton has personified Sidney in a most satisfactory way.
The Road to Grantchester tells the story of Sidney before he was the TV character or the man in SC and the Shadow of Death. I was so pleased at the prospect of learning how he became himself.
The beginning of the book was not easy. After a brief prelude, Sidney is immersed in the horrors (and I mean horrors) of WWII in Italy where he serves with Robert Kendall. Robert is the brother of Amanda, a key character in the series.
What Sidney and his fellow soldiers witness and participate in is truly unspeakable. James Runcie has written about war in a way that will make the reader long for peace. Survival in his circumstances is kind of a miracle for Sidney. However, not everyone important to him makes it home safely.
As a reader, because of how awful it was, I was relieved to move to the part of the novel that was post war. Sidney comes home to a world that has changed and yet he has changed even more. He tries to understand what he is meant to do with the gift of his life. After much reflection, he decides to join the church. The reader follows Sidney on his on-going faith journey.
This book is about those important to Sidney. There is Robert his best friend and war compatriot…no spoilers here so I will not say more. As in the TV series, there is prickly Amanda whose relationship with Chambers (as she calls him) is complex but important.
I left this book wanting to reread all of James Runcie’s books. This is an excellent read if you are a fan of Sidney, want to remember why war is a mess or if you want to understand a protagonist’s wish to live a meaningful life.
This novel may not be for everyone but for me it was a five star read.