The Road to Grantchester

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 03 May 2019

Member Reviews

Before this book my only experience of the Grantchester stories was the bucolic (yet sometimes oddly dark) TV series with the eye pleasing James Norton. I always enjoyed the mixture of Sunday evening fare with added elements of human frailty and weakness, even in a Vicar.

So it was intriguing to get this glimpse of the young Sidney, to better understand his motivations and personal demons. In this novel we see how WWII shaped his adult self, as it no doubt did for so many of the brave young men who served. It was also enlightening to see the genesis of his relationship with Amanda, in later life their interactions can seem a little confusing but this book sheds a lot of light on their behavior.

I liked the style of writing and found it apt for the period and subject matter. It was light and deft but tender when necessary. Not only will I have a deeper enjoyment of the TV series now but will also be seeking out the rest of the books.
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A great read for fans of Grantchester. This is the first novel I've actually "read" - I've listened to the other on audio books. A useful addition to the series.

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for an advance ARC copy of this book.
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this book is a brilliant prequel into the grantchester series. as a fan of the series this gave me a better view into Sidney. i think that for people that are new to the series it would be a great starter to introduce the character we all love and understand him on a more personal level.

really enjoyed this , thanks to author and netgalley for privilege to read
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Amazing book. A really good read giving a background to the Grantchester novels and describing Sidney’s path to the Clergy and the reasons for his need to devote himself to the service of God.  I read  He whole book in one sitting
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This is very much a book of two halves. The first half, set in WW2 was brilliant. Moving, believable, simply stunning, you really felt like you were there.
The second half was good, but not at the same standard, although it was interesting reading about my birthplace at around the time of that event. 
The way it describes the finding of a vocation was excellent though.
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I have to confess that I was a little disappointed with this novel but I think that my expectations were unrealistic, this being a prequel. It tells the story of Sidney Chambers as he fights in the Second World War and the struggles he encounters upon his return to London. I think it is very important to realise that this is not a mystery novel (which is what I was expecting). It is instead an interesting exploration of one man's path to faith and the road it takes him upon. Unfortunately for me, I didn't really like the writing style and found the dialogue a little stilted at times. I also struggled with some of the character motivations and behaviours that didn't really jibe with the character as written, in my opinion. There is a simple linear plot, which was fine and there were some high points, but overall, I just felt that the narrative was a little bit lacklustre.
I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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I thought with Sidney Chambers and the Persistence of Love did the series end, However, James Runcie decided to go back in time and write about Sidney Chambers life before the stories in the first Grantchester book. And, what a treat this book was. To get to know a young Sidney, his experiences in the war, his call to be a priest, how he discovered his love for jazz. And, of course, his friendship with Amanda. I quite enjoyed this part of the story, Amanda being the little sister of his best friend and how she become such an important person in his life. 

It's such a fabulous novel. I listened to the audio version of this book and I enjoyed the book immensely. This is not in any way a crime novel, like how Sidney helps Geordie Keating in the rest of the books. There is death in this book, but it's not a mystery novel. It's a novel about how Sidney Chambers become the man we met in the Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death. If you are a fan of this series, or the TV series is this a must read book!
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A brilliant book
Being a fan of Grantchester it was really interesting to learn of Sidney’s past and the life expectancies that lead him to become a vicar and his relationship and history with Amanda
Part of the book in relation to his war experiences was harrowing but integral to understanding the man that he became
A necessary read for all lovers of Grantchester
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I found this a really interesting read - but it is completely different in tone from the series that it is a prequel to.  There is no mystery here - it's a character development piece - as you watch Sidney go through the things that you have seen referenced in the book.  I enjoyed it - although I wanted a bit more actual action - but then I guess that's what I'm used to in the series proper.
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Structured in four parts – War, Peace, Faith and Love – The Road to Grantchester allows the author to explore and illuminate the back story of the Sidney Chambers readers will meet in the first book of the series, Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death.  Although I’d heard of The Granchester Mysteries TV series,  I’d never actually watched any of the episodes (which having read The Road to Grantchester I’m now rather regretting).  Neither had I read any of the books on which the series is based but thankfully this prequel makes that unnecessary (although it’s now pretty likely I will read them in future). However, readers familiar with the books and/or the TV series will still find lots to enjoy about The Road to Granchester, such as the first sight of characters who will appear in later books or spotting references to future events that I will have missed.

In the first part of the book, Sidney is exposed to the harsh realities of war as he is caught up in the brutal Battle of Monte Cassino.  Described in gritty and authentic detail, this part of the book will particularly appeal to fans of historical fiction set in World War 2. The death of his best friend, and the circumstances of that event, have a profound effect on Sidney and leave him struggling with his faith and with feelings of guilt.  Only the wise advice of army chaplain, Rev Nev, and Catherine, a nurse, persuade Sidney that, having survived the war against all expectations, he has a duty to use ‘the reward of peace’ wisely.

Back in London, Sidney still struggles to believe that he has a right to happiness or that he deserves the accolade of hero.  Gradually, the conviction grows that his vocation lies in the Church although this decision brings unexpected reactions from family and friends.  His father greets the news with surprise and bewilderment and Amanda, the sister of his best friend, Robert, regards it as a personal betrayal.  Only Sidney’s friend, Freddie responds with any degree of positivity.  As it transpires, Freddie will soon be grateful for Sidney’s support (and Sidney’s nascent deductive instincts) when Freddie is involved in a tragic event.

As Sidney commences his theological training, the reader gets lots of factual information about the process of ordination.  Assigned to the position of curate in war-damaged Coventry, Sidney gains experience of the pastoral duties of a priest, encountering social and moral issues in the manner of  Call the Midwife…but without the need to deliver babies.

The final section of the book explores the slightly spiky, quirky relationship between Sidney and Amanda.  Only readers of the later books or viewers of the series may know why Sidney puts up with Amanda’s at times hurtful, dismissive or downright accusatory comments but to me it just proved he clearly has the patience of a saint!  However, in a neat role reversal, she does finally become the recipient of his confession about the thing that has weighed on his conscience since the death of his best friend.

A spiritual element runs throughout the book.  Sidney’s sincere belief in God is conveyed clearly but the author manages to keep it just the right side of being ‘preachy’.  Rather than the reader feeling like they are on the receiving end of a sermon, it comes across as an authentic insight into Sidney’s character, values and principles.

The Road to Grantchester is the perfect example of a prequel to my mind.  For fans of the series, it provides more background on a character they have grown to love and an insight into the life experiences that have formed him.  For readers coming new to the series, it’s a useful sampler and, I suspect, the enticement they need to add the other books in the series to their wishlist.  I know I have.   It’s a terrific read and one which works equally well as a character study of a young man affected by his wartime experiences or as an introduction to a historical crime series.
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To lay my cards on the table, I am Grantchester (novels) fan and when I heard that this ‘prequel’ novel was to be published I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.

This is certainly a suitable jumping off point for what has been previously known as the Sidney Chambers series.  Should you wish to start from here, this novel gives a good overview of Sidney’s life through important events from his experience in the war in his early twenties through life decisions which ultimately tell the story of his progression to the parish of Grantchester and the stories that follow.  However, this really is a book for Grantchester fans and it is they who will get the most from this novel.  Through this novel Sidney’s backstory is fleshed out and we are given a greater insight into the forming of his character and his life choices that led to his vocation.  

We know from the previous novels that Sidney has lived and has a past but what was previously alluded to has now been made more tangible in the form of this prequel novel.  It is always interesting when an author reveals the past that has affected a character that you have come to know and love but it can also be worrying as we may not like what we find there or we may be simply disappointed.  Neither is the case with this novel.  In a format similar to the previously published Grantchester novels, we are guided through a number of short stories which together form a central narrative.  In this case the four sections which make up the book are very different in tone and are titled and relate to the subjects of War, Peace, Faith, and Love.  This allows for the development of the main characters but (particularly in this book) keeping distinct sections of the protagonist’s life distinct.  I was particularly impressed with the writing of the ‘War’ section of the book.  It was told in a serious and fitting manner and in a simple, laconic and almost poetic style which felt profound and important and quite different from the normal ‘Grantchester’ style.  The whole novel is written with genuine compassion love and touches on many important themes but always with a lightness that allows the story to continue without becoming maudlin.

In the end, what I love  most about the Grantchester novels and what still feels refreshing is that Sidney (the main protagonist) is presented as having a faith and a moral code by which he lives, but he is certainly not a ‘wet’ or sanctimonious Christian vicar.  Instead Sidney is presented as a normal, balanced, humane individual trying to make the best of his life and the lives of those he cares about.
I am yet again charmed by these stories and by the characters in the stories.  And while this may be the last opportunity we have to share in Sidney Chamber’s life, once again we are uplifted by his company.
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Having read most of the Grantchester Mystery series this was a must read book, the one that tells how it all began. The year is 1938 and Sidney Chambers at 18 years old has his whole life to look forward to. Amanda Kendall, a character that is constant in future novels is as majestic and captivating as ever, that together seem even then to sit on a delicate balance as to where their special relationship should go.
Only a year after Sidney and his best friend Robert, who is Amanda’s brother, set off to war with a group of friends that have been ill prepared for the reality that they are thrown into. James Runcie pulls no punches with his descriptions of the trenches and the maiming and ultimate death of so many of these young men, including Robert. Now Sidney on his return has to face Amanda and her parents with the details of how he died.
This is such a hard-hitting chapter to read as Roberts’s mother needs to know that her son didn’t suffer. Each question Sidney answers truthfully in his own mind before giving Robert’s mother a much altered version because if he didn’t he knows she would be a broken woman. There is one thing that he doesn’t reveal, a secret only he has been shouldering since it happened.
Amanda is a confident woman who gives Sidney so many opportunities to declare his love for her but he has found a new love, one of the church. A shocking choice for his family and friends at first. Sidney Chambers is a superb character that has a sort of little boy innocence about him but at the same time he connects with people at all levels no matter who they are. Before his final commitment to the church he has to tell someone his secret, one that could have huge personal costs to him and his future.
It doesn’t really matter which way round you read this book, be it before or after this already very established Grantchester series. Either way this is a truly splendid addition that is a must read for any current and future readers.
I wish to thank NetGalley and the publisher for an e-copy of this book which I have reviewed honestly.
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Sidney, from a privileged background, finds himself taking part in the Allied invasion of Italy in 1943, and most of the first half of this novel is taken up with what is one of the best fictional descriptions of the horror of war, and its frequent chaos, that I have read. There are no detailed descriptions of gore and dying, and I think the book is more effective for that. There is full recognition of the suffering of civilians. References to Jesus’s crucifixion made me think of one of the greatest works about the First World War, “In Parenthesis” by David Jones, with its allusions to the suffering of Jesus.

Returned home, Sidney cannot settle and wrestles with a call to priesthood. His life is blighted by memories of what he has gone through, and a secret he carries with him. As he seeks to convey the love of Christ to others, he misses out on love himself.

I understand that this is a prequel to a series of mystery stories which I have not read: but it is a good stand-alone novel in its own right, and one which makes the reader think.
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I haven't read any of the Grantchester novels, but have enjoyed the TV series and the exploits of the Reverend Sidney Chambers.
This prequel sees Sidney and his best friend, Robert, fighting in the Second World War,being sent to Italy in 1938. I found the hardships and privations of military life to be brilliantly observed, being moving and giving full reign to the horrors of war. Robert, who encouraged, cajoled and showed great love and affection to his oldest friend, is killed. Later on in the book, we find out about Sidney's guilty secret, that may have influenced his decision to go into the Church.
When Sidney returns to civilian life, he cannot settle. Roberts sister, Amanda, is despairing of the fact that Sidney returned and her brother didn't. Sidney is curiously unfulfilled with his life and job prospects, and service to God and a religious path beckons. 
This is a book of two halves, Sidney is haunted by the War and the death of Robert. He feels guilty of being a survivor and has a secret, that is disclosed in this book. The second half deals with Sidney and his relationship with Geordie Keating, the village Policeman, and the way they solve murder cases together. 
I like Sidney, he is troubled, questioning and a flawed character, and has a wide circle of unusual friends and confidants. I am tempted to read the rest of this series in the near future.
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I requested this book from NetGalley having never read or watched any of the Grantchester series. As it was a prequel I thought it might introduce me to a new series that sounded like it was worth reading. It is a perfect standalone novel starting in 1938, proceeding through WW2 service in Italy, and on to England in peacetime. Sidney is a wonderful character and has a new fan in me - and I have some catching up to do. I thought the various parts of the book were all well conceived and well written. War fiction is my preferred genre and the part dealing with Sidney's war service in Italy was particularly fine. I am not religious but a Christian upbringing enabled me to relate to the various biblical references. However, I do not think a lack of Christian knowledge would prevent a reader enjoying these parts of the story, as Sidney relates them to his life and struggles. I can only hope that the readers who already know Sidney are happy with this prequel to an obviously well loved series and character although as it is categorised as 'Crime', which it is not, some may be disappointed.  With thanks to Netgalley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
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I requested this book because I thought it would provide context about Sidney Chambers prior to reading/watching the Grantchester series. The book did certainly do this, however I feel it's intended audience is those that are already familiar with the Grantchester characters and sequels as this book provided a background and not much more. There wasn't much of a plot and I read it more like a memoir than a fictional story. 

The book begins in 1938, right before Sidney heads off to war with fellow friends and comrades. He is then followed throughout the battles and harrowing conditions, watching too many soldiers die and waking up every day believing it will be his last. 7 years later he returns to London and struggles to slot himself back into society after everything he has been subjected to. When trying to figure out where he is meant to go next, something niggles at the back of his mind and grows steadily stronger every day - the call from God. Sidney can't see himself being worthy of any other career and embarks on a journey to priesthood. 

I do find myself drawn to books set in the war and this was no exception. The visuals were strong and the camaraderie amongst the men kept me involved in the reading. However, in the post-war story, I found myself a little bored and didn't think there was much plot, apart from the scene with Freddie, Henry and Frank. I'm not particularly religious so wasn't overly interested in the parts dedicated to Sidney's calling. I do think I would have enjoyed the book more if I had more knowledge in the series and therefore do recommend to fans of Grantchester.
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I haven't read any of the books before but have seen all episodes of the tv series. Interesting to get more of Sidney's early life before arriving in Grantchester.
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This follows Sidney from 1938 through the war and to deciding how to spend the rest of his life. His best friend has been killed and Sidney is carrying a guilty secret. He has been hearing Gods calling and to the amazement of family and friends decides to take that path, What about the lovely Amanda - what will he do about her?
This book takes us into the Grantchester series of books and the television series.
I have never read any other book in the series but love the television series and i live only a couple of miles away from Grantchester
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This novel is advertised as ‘The captivating prequel to the treasured Grantchester series follows the life, loves, and losses of young Sidney Chambers in postwar London.’

I hadn’t read any of the Grantchester books or seen the TV series so came to the book without any preconceptions and it seemed to me a fine standalone novel.  

This is a sensitively written portrayal of how a young man’s life is changed by his experience fighting in World War II in Italy, his relationships with former friends and new ones in the army, and, after much soul-searching back in England after the war, how he eventually makes the decision to become an Anglican priest.  Along the way we get to know some of his closest friends and family and get to know them a little and fall in love with them a little too!

Those expecting a definite plot might be disappointed, particularly if used to the later mystery plots I understand are the norm for Sidney Chambers, but I would imagine most will find this insight into his formation as a person very interesting … and even for those not particularly interested in the later books, this stands alone as an engaging account of young man living through the Second World War and its immediate aftermath.

This is a gentle read.  I did not feel particularly deeply moved by this as with some other wartime novels and it’s not a book I would avidly urge others is a ‘must-read’, but I'd certainly recommend it as an enjoyable read and I do think it will be appreciated particularly by those familiar with the Grantchester series.
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For those of you who love the Sidney Chambers books, be warned, this book is not like them. It's the backstory of Sidney as we meet him as an 18 year old man, and then follow as goes to war with his best friend Robert Kendall. It chronicles his war times and then, back home, as a troubled man as he tries to work out what to do with the rest of his life, having been much changed by what he saw and experienced in his war days. Yes there's a fragment of what is to come eventually for Sidney as he does get involved in a death, well, more than one, but no more speak of that here for fear of spoilers!
Obviously we know what path he eventually takes but it this book tells of how and why he made the difficult, for him, decision to give his life to God and His service.
Being a big fan of both the books and the TV series, which diverge quite early on, I absolutely loved this book. It was great going back and seeing Sidney pre-church and follow what he did in the war and how that experience influenced him. Especially when we hear of one rather shocking revelation. 
I was held captive throughout my reading, never wanting to put the book down but, at the same time, not wanting my time with Sidney to come to an end, as it has with the TV series. Reading about what made him tick really did enhance my overview of Sidney, especially his relationship with Robert's sister Amanda and her family. Lots of things do seem much clearer now that I am privy to this part of Sidney's journey and I now feel I have the full picture of him and just admire him all the more. He is, like the books/TV portrays, a troubled soul at times but always with his heart in the right place, even if sometimes he falls from grace, as we all do. He's wonderfully flawed but a lovable character and one that I am really going to miss. 
What I really loved about this book especially is the way that it is written with great sensitivity and Sidney's angst and frustration spills off the page. It all feels very real; more biographical than fiction at times. There's also a lot of humour interspersed amongst all the sadness and frustration. Rev Nev is an amazing character and the sentence about his fictionally imagined future family had me in stitches! And there is also tenderness, especially around Sidney's friend Freddie. 
All in all, the perfect introduction to Sidney for those who haven't met him before, or the perfect background to his fans. My thanks go to the Publisher and Netgalley for the chance to read this book.
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