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on 21 March 2014
Archbishop is a 'big' book in several senses. It is long, it goes deep, and it is not afraid to tackle some very significant themes. Michelle Guinness takes her intriguing central premise - the appointment of our first female Archbishop of Canterbury - and sets it in the context of a church engaged with its culture and rocked by political currents within and without. Not for her the tedious cycle of mumbled liturgies read from dusty prayer books. This is very definitely a contemporary portrait.

The strength of 'Archbishop' is that Guinness knows her stuff. She has lived the vicarage experience from the inside, and has been both a champion and an observer of the empowerment of women over several decades. As a history of that process, exploring the inner machinations of the Anglican Communion, the book is unparalleled. These are the soundings of an authentic and reliable witness.

The weaknesses of the book are in the writing. The technique of building the plot through back-story is sustained throughout, with a constant switching between present events and remembered episodes. If this approach works for you, you'll be sustained in your reading: for me it became quite quickly wearing, and I lost track of the timeline more than once. In the always difficult balance of show vs tell, there is more tell than show, and this slows what could have been a rivetting read.

In a market flooded with plot-driven page-turners that care little for authenticity and will do anything to keep you reading, it is refreshing to find a novel so evidently determined to tell the truth. For readers who need a strong plot to keep their attention alive, though, Archbishop may just be too slow and meandering a journey.

Gerard Kelly, author of 'The Whole Sky'
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on 5 March 2014
Michelle knows the Church and the NHS very well and paints a very believable picture of what might well happen in the next few years. As a woman curate (trainee vicar) I found this hugely encouraging: yes it is necessary to keep being rebellious in order to have integrity! Her vision of what the church is and will continue to need to be to address poverty is also inspiring. A very engrossing read, too.
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on 13 April 2014
I really enjoyed this book (Kindle version). It follows a very human, fallible woman as she makes her way through the issues currently facing the church in the UK as well as some projected a few years hence. She seeks to remain true to her faith, calling and family despite significant pressures on all three. Best read in long sittings as it is easy to lose sight of characters through the retrospective building up of the whole story of her journey to Canterbury -- and beyond!
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on 16 May 2014
This is a big read, but I never felt that it was too long or that the plot began to flag. It is a cautionary tale of the not-too-distant future of Christianity in Britain and a compelling account of one woman's personal spiritual growth. It is successful on both counts and for anyone with a Christian faith it is also a heart-warming and inspiring book. Best book of the year so far ...
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on 28 February 2014
The Church of England in glory but also in stark reality. As a Christian, and a priest, usually known as a 'woman priest', I found this novel unputdownable. I laughed but also wept as the story unfolded.
As we are at a liminal moment in the story of women being admitted to the episcopate, it is fascinating to realise how they may, sadly, be seen by so many. This is a novel, but Michele has painted a very believable picture of how events might unfold, as well as all the stresses and strains of office-holders in the church.
In the end, it is a liberating story for all Christian women.
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on 22 July 2016
Really enjoyed this book - the ups and downs and intrigue. The pressures of the role and church politics all added - it did unfortunately feel far too much like it could be fact rather than fiction. I pray that the 1st woman Archbishop doesn't have to go through all of this and that the Church of England is not at the mercy of power & politics.
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on 24 August 2016
Michelle Guiness has crafted a novel that has the intriguing and possibly unique quality of keeping both my wife and myself reading it to the last page. Maybe because I share a lot of the theology and passions of the protagonist, the book had a head start but I found it enjoyable, moving in parts, thought provoking and for the most part very credible. Whatever your views on Christianity you will find something or a character in the plot to identify with. I am pleased to let you know that sex is a theme that runs throughout the book but not in a greasy, slimy way but as an authentic and challenging part of Christian and secular living in the modern age. Overall there may be one or two more twists in the plot than real life but this is a novel and that is to be expected. They will also be essential for the blockbuster film when it comes along.....
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on 24 January 2016
There are some ways in which this is a good book. I found the overall plot to be engaging and as it moved towards the climax, I couldn't put it down. I liked the portrayal of the politicians - of both parties - and many of the church elders as self-serving and manipulative; many of the incidents were recognisable from today, let alone a decade hence. I loved the final outcome. Some people have commented adversely about the continual switches in time-line, but I enjoyed this mix of 'present day' and flashback.

However, I was disappointed by the writing style; there were huge chunks of theology which I didn't feel fitted in a fiction book and could be off-putting for non-Christian readers. I was less than convinced by Vicky's ability to always find the appropriate quote at exactly the right time. There was quite a bit of 'head hopping' as we saw incidents from different character's points of view at the same time. But for me, the worst part about the book were the number of glaring inconsistencies in the timeline, including confusion about the date of Vicky and Tom's wedding, and when Alice was born. This is a highly complex book, covering many years in great detail, and it is easy for an author to get some of the details wrong, but this is the sort of error that should be picked up in the editing process. It should not have been published in this state.
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on 18 February 2014
I had such high hopes for this book. The premise is great - first female archbishop in the future. But sadly the book was a great disappointment. The characters were caricatures and two-dimensional. And as a priest myself, and a woman too, I cringed at some of the anti-feminist rhetoric. I've always believed that an author should 'show' rather then tell what a character is like and Guinness has not managed that, and hence the size of the book at over 500 pages.

There were one or two points in the book which I found believable, eg the way the church of the future has to pick up all of the social care for the Government. But then there was her relationship with the Queen which just seemed so far fetched that it was a joke. It was also difficult to accept that the only way an Archbishop could be a woman would be if she was ultra-conservative, anti-gay and pro appeasing the African clergy by promising not to show authority over them. There were also several moments in the book when her bible fell open and a verse was highlighted, or she'd look for a verse for guidance. I just don't EVER use the bible in that way and kind of hope that an Archbishop doesn't either. Shall I have an affair with this gorgeous man? Oh, and the bible fell open at such and such a verse so no, I won't.

Perhaps readers in the Church of England will find more to like about it but this priest in Scotland was sadly disappointed. But it is still a great idea if Susan Howatch, Catherine Fox or Joanna Trollope would like to write it.
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on 13 July 2014
A book packed with issues facing the church in England today - such as women priest, homosexuality, relationship with the State and political restritions on freedom of religion. Through the story many personal issues are touched on as well; marriage, work-home balance and fidelity. It kept me up late at night to finish it....
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