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Book Review

Piers McGrandle

Trevor Huddleston -  Turbulent Priest

ISBN 0 864 7123 4

Continuum, London, 2004, 16.99

(price at publication of review)


Reviewed September 2005; © Copyright, The Society of Saint Francis, 2005

Trevor was one of the great figures of the second half of the twentieth century.  It is strange to think he only lived in South Africa for 13 years, his impact both on Church and country was so enormous.  More than any other single person he made the evil of apartheid public to the world.  His impact on England in the four years after he returned in 1956 was equally great and to this day you meet people who were at school or university at that time and whose lives were changed by an encounter with Trevor.  Trevor made Christianity relevant to a generation who (like all younger generations) were thinking it had lost its relevance.  He made all of us aware that Christianity and politics could not and must not be separated, that racism and active collusion with unjust governments were sinful.

Trevor was hated in South Africa because he made this connection.  He was also loved greatly by thousands of black people, and some whites, because he made public what so many others were trying to keep private.  It was his priesthood and his prayer that gave power and infinite resource to do what he was doing.  Why then was he recalled in 1956?  McGrandle handles this well, showing that there were a wide range of reasons contributing to Trevor's recall, not one of which would have been sufficient.  It was probably the single most devastating thing that ever happened to Trevor.  It broke him, but also made him into a new kind of person.  For forty years after that he lived on a world stage, as the author of Naught for your Comfort, as Bishop of Masasi, Stepney and Mauritius, as President of the Anti-Apartheid Society.

McGrandle tells the story well.  His book is readable and the Trevor who appears in it is one it is easy to recognize.  It is not exhaustive but he tells the tale of Trevor's childhood and student time well with good anecdotal evidence.  He shows how typical Trevor was of a class and generation which England produced and how he broke out from its constraints.  It would have been nice if more of the delightful character of Trevor's company could have been portrayed.  Trevor's friends loved him, even though he treated them badly on occasion when he was tired or ill.  He was a most amusing companion and enjoyed talking about books, music, life, history and the wickedness of the English establishment, of which he was so much a part.

McGrandle has not been well served by his editors.  The book contains many mistakes and at some points the usually good writing lapses into confusion.  I trust any reprint will be well corrected.

Nicolas Stebbing CR

(Edited and reprinted with permission from Quarterly Review of the Community of the Resurrection).


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