When season 5 of "Downton Abbey" was airing on PBS here in the States, it was followed by the British series "Grantchester". We were quite intrigued by the preview and decided to watch the first episode, only to get hooked on the series. In case you don't know it - it's about a young, unmarried Anglican vicar named Sidney Chambers in the parish of Grantchester near Cambridge in the early 1950s. However, every now and then he gets involved in solving crimes, working together with Inspector Geordie Keating. The two of them make a great team - heart and head. As a rather important sideline, Sidney is torn between two women, his friend Amanda Kendall who is engaged to someone else, and Hildegard Staunton, a German widow (keep in mind that this is shortly after the war).
We enjoyed the series, the English humor, the pub scenes - and the housekeeper of the vicarage, Mrs Maguire, who always lets out the expression "What the Dickens!". When the first season ended we were sad to see it go and not knowing which of the two women Sidney will eventually marry (it has to be one of the two).
So when I went into our local bookstore I was delighted to find a copy of "Grantchester" on the shelves, written by James Runcie, the head of literature at the Southbank Centre in London. It is not a big surprise that the book is a bit - a big bit - different from the TV series.
It is even better.
The writing is extremely well and a pure joy. The characters are very well worked out, and while reading the stories - every case is a story - I could hear the voices of the actors and picture them which I liked. However, the cases themselves are different from the film, Hildegard only appears in the first story (but don't worry, she will turn up again in book 2 - yes, there are more books to come and I've heard that season 2 is already in the making) and the entire plots are deeper and more satisfying. The reader wrestles with Sidney in his question why God allows so much suffering, feels his desperation and exhaustion - in short, sympathizes and identifies with him. He is not a perfect man of God, he has his doubts, his mistakes, his questions, and exactly that makes him so human and well loved. Keating, the inspector, has his own battles to fight and does not believe in God, and Mrs Maguire (the housekeeper) is rather amusing - what the Dickens!
A wonderful read. My Friday Find for this week.