Thursday, 13 August 2009

"Wonderful, Ravishing Starbridge!"

I've just finished re-reading the double-trilogy of the Starbridge Chronicles by Susan Howatch. It's hard to know how to describe these books. Perhaps 'Theology meets Mills and Boon' comes close, but in no way does them justice. They follow the goings-on in and around Starbridge (for which read 'Salisbury') Cathedral from 1937 to 1967. The books are each themed around the writings of a particular theologian, and and the stories all represent a narrative outworking of the theology behind each book. They are also an easy read, with quite a lot of sex to keep the interest going. I'm a huge fan of fiction - and read a lot of it - not just religious fiction, but sci-fi, thrillers, etc etc etc... It greatly worries me that ministers so often don't read unless it's 'for work'. Well, these books bridge the gap - they're both 'for fun' and 'for work'. I think everyone going into ministry should read these books (along with Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible!)

In order (because it can be hard to work it out) they are:
  1. Glittering Images
  2. Glamorous Powers
  3. Ultimate Prizes
  4. Scandalous Risks
  5. Mystical Paths
  6. Absolute Truths
At the risk of spoiling things, here's a paragraph from near the end of the sixth book:

[His instructions for his funeral included] 'let's raise the Cathedral roof with Zadok the Priest!' . . .

The note exploded in our midst, and at that moment I knew our creator had touched not only me but all of us. . . and in that touch I sensed the indestructible fidelity, the indescribable devotion and the inexhaustible energy of the creator as he shaped his creation, bringing life out of dead matter, wresting form continually from chaos. Nothing was ever lost... and nothing was ever wasted because always, when the work was finally completed, every particle of the created process, seen or unseen, kept or discarded, broken or mended - everything was justified, glorified and redeemed. Then I thought, as I looked around the Cathedral, of the pattern our creator had made of us as he had toiled to shape the dark with the light in such a way that our suffering was given meaning, the meaning which gave value to our lives. . .

'and we know that ALL THINGS INTERMINGLE FOR GOOD . . .'


Julie said...

Finally - some else who loves these book (have you read the next books set in London?) I have read these several times and lent them to people who have universally rejected them!

helen said...

I like them too, and the London trilogy (although the last one got rather too much for me in places).

Can I recommend The Hawk and The Dove trilogy by Penelope Wilcock?
The last book in particular (The Long Fall) is a beautiful story with alot of theological stuff. It can be read on its own, but makes more sense if you've read the other 2 first.