The Rev Diaries by Adam Smallbone
(Michael Joseph, 2014, 400 pages)
Rev., the BBC2 sitcom starring Tom Hollander, is one of my favorite shows on TV. I’ve been looking forward to reading this tie-in novel for a while, and it did not disappoint. It chronicles the ministry of Reverend Adam Smallbone, a Church of England priest who has recently moved from a quiet country parish to an inner-city church in London. Adam’s tiny congregation consists of hilarious characters who are constant sources of frustration. The pressures of fundraising, maintaining a crumbling building, dealing with duplicitous parishioners and meddling church bureaucrats, and the strain that all these things place on his marriage cause Adam to question his vocation. The book runs the course of the church calendar, starting with Adam’s meltdown at his first midnight mass, chronicling his humiliation on national television during Lent, and ending in the doldrums of ordinary time.
While Adam Smallbone is listed as the book’s author, it is in fact written by the novelist Jon Canter. More accurately, Canter has adapted the television screenplays written by Tom Hollander and James Woods – so the layers of authorship are several deep. Canter does an excellent job shaping the material from the show to form a coherent and hilarious novel. I’ve read a couple of his novels in the past, and this one displays the same dry sense of humor that I’ve enjoyed in his previous work. Much of the dialogue is taken directly from the show, but Cantor summarizes situations and conversations after the fact in Adam’s voice. This approach enhances the humor of the show and makes it a truly comedic novel in its own right, rather than a simple promotional tie-in to the TV show.