The Good Vicar


Challenging assumptions

Reimagining Christmas in modern Australia

What an incredible interpretation of the seasonal nativity scene.
I was intrigued to discover it’s set in Australia – my natural assumption was that it was somewhere in Africa. It just goes to show, don’t assume!
What attracts me to the image is how it turns so many stereotypes upside down, inside out and back to front. Another interesting point is the clearly recognisable shell logo without the company name mentioned. I turned to thoughts of oysters giving rise to beautiful creations from a horrid niggle/poke in the flesh or the South African perlemoen or mother of pearl shell. There are so many stories to tell from this reinterpretation of the nativity scene.

But that’s not all. In searching for the image online – I had only seen a photocopied version of it – I discovered this one:

Click on image for source location

Having conjured up a story or more around the first image, the second forces a rethink – perhaps a radical one, again challenging assumptions.

And I couldn’t help but think of The Shack by William P Young which has now been made into a film. I read this book ages ago and am thankful I did. I’m not sure I would read it now based on the blurb and the trailer which clearly places the focus on what the director or marketeers think will get people in to watch the film and make money. For those interested, the book is now classified as a crime novel whereas it was previously religious/Christian fiction. Today, looking at the blurb on my 2007 copy of The Shack, I can’t say I would have read the book based on this – I very definitely read fiction based on word of mouth, which places me in an interesting position as a publisher… (and it’s word of mouth which has brought this book to the ‘big’ stage ten years down the line). I’m not even going to attempt to tell you more about The Shack as I think it’s best read with no or few preconceived ideas, and definitely before you see the film.

Another self-confronting novel challenging assumptions of a religious nature is RJ Whitfield’s The Good Vicar. As I’ve said before, touching on themes I wouldn’t generally read but definitely worth a read or three for the depth of writing and thought-provoking content.

An author has the power to reveal or conceal creating a written image of the message they want to convey. Fiction writers have more freedom in this regard whilst non-fiction writers by limiting their descriptions and being selective open themselves up to accusations of bias. It’s your choice how much you let your reader assume, but it’s also worth being reminded that it’s not always good to judge a book by its cover or by its publishing platform.

First published 14 April 2017, updated 2024



A few books in the TSL collection give me horripilations:
The Good Vicar by RJ Whitfield, and especially
the Lucifer’s Child trilogy by Gideon Masters
And I really didn’t expect to find the word on a medical page!

If you’ve resisted following the links until now, horripilation is what goosebumps are called.

Amna Agib in The roots that gave birth to magical blossoms could have used horripilations when reference is made to the pleasant sensations felt in some of the stories. However, I don’t think the word would have flowed off the tongue or the stories carried the same weight had horripilation been used in place of her descriptions.

And it turns out the word is used in music too – a music genre.

One lives and learns.

first published 4 March 2018, updated 2024



If one wanted to identify a theme in the books I enjoy, it will most likely be Reconciliation. People finding ways to put aside their differences and come to a closer understanding of each other. It’s a theme dominant in TSL author John Samson’s work: Powerless and Shaka Are Dead (don’t forget The Good Vicar).

Some other books I’ve enjoyed and others I will look to read include:

Harper Lee – To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman

Antonia Hayes – Relativity

Various other books by TSL authors have elements of reconciliation: Death on the Vine by Linda Kane and Gestation by Gideon Masters.

first published 14 May 2017, updated 2024