I began to write a review of this book after the first (and somewhat confusing) read. I had written a few paragraphs before I decided to read the book again—just to see if I would understand it better. I had done some research on the author and that made the context clearer. I was unaware of the Christian life and things like prayer/worship study groups, witnessing, giving testimonies in Church, street evangelism and connecting everyday problems with passages in the Bible and using it to analyze the situation at hand. Once I familiarized myself with the background, the real genius of the author began to shine through.
All at once, the satire on the Christian life and way of thought and the wholesome family humor became apparent to me. I began to laugh along with Anne and Gerald at Adrian’s buffoonery. I despaired when Adrian behaved with an intellect that seemed to be as thick as molasses. I enjoyed the pranks played by Gerald on his father. What I could not appreciate was Gerald’s obsession with anagrams. Possibly, they are references to popular British culture that I didn’t understand. I need to look them up on Google!
Another thing that I didn’t understand was the concept of different churches and how the people of one church were enthusiastic about bringing others to “the family fold.” There is a passage where Adrian hears about the arrival of a neighbor and among the first few things that he thinks about is whether he will be a Christian. I didn’t quite understand the significance of “Christian” here. Are there more types of Christians than I am aware of?
Plass’s brilliant satire shows its full force in passages where William, the lead vocalist of a teenage band called “Bad News for the Devil,” feels led to do the Lord’s work when he is called to record and become a Christian rockstar.
Some universal husband habits have been humorously described. Adrian neglects to cut the hedge that is growing on to the pavement despite Anne reminding him for the past one year. He finally cuts it one evening after a neighbor snaps at him about it. The washing machine is not fixed even after repeated appeals until the son (Gerald) steps in and makes a mess of the job. Funnily, Adrian takes just a few minutes to fix the machine. Will husbands never cease to procrastinate?
The relationship between a husband and a wife who have been married for many years is so accurately depicted in Anne’s pithy or sarcastic replies to Adrian’s questions. Sample this:
“Said to Anne jokingly, “Why don’t you ever call me a honey-pot, Anne?
She said, “Because you’re not one, darling.”
“Adrian: We’ll take quiche, shall we?
Anne: Cake would probably be better.
Gently reminded Anne that scripture tells us the man is the head of the woman. We took quiche.
Anne: What now, oh Lord and Master?”
There are also hilarious scenes between Mrs Flushpool, a lady described as “a collection of black plastic bags half-filled with water” and the Plass family. The showdown between Frank Braddock and Mrs Flushpool is definitely something.
Characters like the opportunistic Gloria Marsh, the seven-year-old Andromeda who takes offence at everything and seems to hate the male species, and the vacillating Kitty who can’t decide between William and Gerald are both funny and a reality check. The vulgar jokes of Uncle Ralph and Everett Glander put Adrian in a dilemma because he finds them funny, but feels guilty as a Christian to laugh at them.
Anne, the wife of Adrian, is my favorite character because of the way she juggles Adrian’s idiocy, Mrs Flushpool’s insults, the eccentricity of the various Uncles and Aunts, and the goof ups of the coarse Everett and the alcohol-loving Leonard. Through it all, she remains supportive of her husband and encourages him in his endeavor to lead a good, Christian life.
You should absolutely pick this book up for some subtle British humor that will compel you to return to it again and again.