Allan Massie admires AN Wilson’s unfashionable preoccupation with theology


by AN Wilson, Atlantic Books, 273pp, £16.99

AN Wilson’s first novel, The Sweets of Pimlico, was published a few weeks before my own debut. Yet, though we began together, he is younger by 10 years, and, while I have been fairly prolific, he has been wonderfully so. There have been more than 20 novels and at least as many biographical and historical works.

Wilson has been willing to tackle almost any subject, usually successfully. He would surely be regarded as England’s premier man of letters, but for two things, both unfashionable. The first is his prodigality – how do readers keep up with him?

The second, and more important, is his preoccupation with Christianity and the problems of theology. He worries at these like a Victorian clergyman trying to reconcile the Bible with German textual criticism, the discoveries of geologists and the theory of evolution – though, characteristically, Wilson is also aware of the comedy of this predicament.

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