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The Road to Grantchester

(The Grantchester Mysteries 0)

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  139 ratings  ·  58 reviews
The captivating prequel to the treasured Grantchester series follows the life, loves, and losses of young Sidney Chambers in postwar London.

It is 1938, and eighteen-year-old Sidney Chambers is dancing the quickstep with Amanda Kendall at her brother Robert's birthday party at the Caledonian Club. No one can believe, on this golden evening, that there could ever be another
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published May 7th 2019 by Bloomsbury Publishing
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4.06  · 
Rating details
 ·  139 ratings  ·  58 reviews

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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 bu ...more
Magdalena aka A Bookaholic Swede
Apr 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2019
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 fri ...more
Karen Kay
I received this from for a review.

This book is a prequel to The Grantchester Mysteries Series books. I was first introduced to Sidney on the TV series 'Grantchester'. On one hand, it was good to understand how Sidney came to be who he is in the series, but having known the characters in a 3 dimensional world, this book was a bit of a let down.

Nov 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
I haven’t read any of the Grantchester mystery books or seen the TV series so came to this story completely fresh. In fact, if I didn’t know this was a prequel to those books I wouldn’t have guessed that solving mysteries was the way Sidney’s career would progress. This one stands alone perfectly.

This is a thoughtful and moving portrayal of a young man’s experience of war, loss and guilt, and the struggle he has to find a purpose to his life afterwards. I’d read one of James Runcie’s books befor
What the Dickens?!

I adore the TV show Grantchester. I love the characters, the dialogue, the mysteries, etc. Sadly, the actor of the main character, Sidney Chambers, has left the show recently and so they've had to replace him with a new main character, who I don't dislike, but I do miss Sidney so I'd been considering reading the books to get my Sidney-fix.

This book is actually a prequel to when the show (and the first book) began, so I thought it'd be a good introduction to the books. Although
People have feelings. Real feelings. You have to live your life by taking account of other people.

On my blog.

Actual rating 2.5

Rep: gay side character

Galley provided by publisher

The Road to Grantchester is a prequel. So it at least aims to give some background to Sidney Chambers, before he became the vicar of Grantchester. And before he began working cases with Geordie Keating.

And that’s probably why I didn’t like this book as much as I might have. It’s more of a character study of Sidney Cha
Sidney Chambers unveiled!

This is the prequel to the wonderful series that is Grantchester. But here's the thing of art and form, of image and words. I love the tv series. Because I'm addicted to the visual presentation of Grantchester, I adore Sidney and all the other characters. I ask myself a question. How to divorce that exploration of the visual senses from the literary imaginative senses? Need I?
Bother! I can't! I keep seeing the actors doing their thing. I hear their voices in the prose. S
Susan Hampson
Mar 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
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 o
Feb 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
I love the PBS series Grantchester. The main character, Sidney Chambers, is portrayed as a flawed man struggling with his faith and vocation. His becoming a priest has alienated him from his worldly friends who don't understand his choice. He must cope with the strictures of the organized church. He is flawed and understands human frailty in others.

I have wanted to read the novels by James Runcie, and even bought the first in the series, but reviewing new books keeps me busy and it has languishe
Jan 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
I’ve never seen the Grantchester TV show nor read the previously published books in the series, but had heard about both and was interested in the origin story.

Turns out The Road to Grantchester is a much more deeply felt and engaging book than I had expected, one I really enjoyed and think works very well as a stand alone story. The first half, set during the Italian campaign in World War II, is gripping and very well written (some of the best depictions of battle and the life of an infantry so
Jan 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I received a free advance copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

I love Grantchester. The books, the TV show, the characters, the setting, the mysteries. All of it. When I learned author James Runcie had written a prequel explaining everything I’d always wondered, I had to read it. And I was not disappointed. In fact, I’d consider “The Road to Grantchester” perhaps a love letter from Runcie to his fans – his opportunity to reward us with answers to the questions we’ve puzzled o
Jan 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4 stars

This prequel to the Grantchester series is a telling of just how Sidney got from carefree Cambridge student to wartime hero to an Archdeacon in the Church of England.

The short paragraphs make this book fly by. It was very interesting hearing about Sidney’s war years and his subsequent battle with faith. The loss of his closest friend Robert in the war really hit him hard. His decision to join the church I think came as almost a surprise to him. I’ve seen the Grantchester series on televi
Rachel Myers
Jan 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having read several of the Grantchester books, I was excited to learn about Sidney’s early life, and the Road to Grantchester did not disappoint. From the beginnings of his relationship with Amanda Kendall, through the horrors of his war experience with her brother Robert, to his decision to join the church, James Runcie’s tale flows along at a good pace throughout. Being a prequel, the ending was already known, but it was fascinating to see how Sidney became the man he is in the Grantchester se ...more
Neil Plakcy
Mar 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
I love Sidney Chambers, but the first section of this book, during World War II and its aftermath, really dragged for me. It was only in the second section, when Sidney reconnects with Amanda, that the book picked up, and I enjoyed the end, as Sidney comes into his own as a priest. HOWEVER, there are no mysteries here, so it was a bit disappointing toward that end. Even though Runcie's other books often put more emphasis on character and emotion than on the crime at hand, there were crimes there ...more
May 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
This series is thoughtful, gentle and powerful. Here, we see Sydney Chambers in World War II with his friend Robert, Amanda's brother. The men have been best friends their entire lives. Runcie shows the power of faith, love and friendship on every page and how courage is necessary every moment. And at one brief point, solves a mystery.
My only disappointment is not with the books, but the television series. By giving Sydney a completely different personal life, it changed the nature of the charac
Mar 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 d ...more
Apr 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
This prequel to the Grantchester mystery series does not involve a crime to be solved but rather unravels the mysteries of the human heart. The reader discovers the origin of Sidney Chambers and Amanda Kendall’s complex but deep and enduring friendship; the influence of Amanda’s brother, Robert; and Sidney’s discernment of his call to ministry.

The book begins in earnest when Sidney is 22 and fighting with the Scots Guards in WWII Italy. This was the hardest section for me to read and consumes 35
Kate Ashton
Feb 22, 2019 rated it liked it
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
Feb 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Thank you NetGalley, publisher and author, for the opportunity to read The Road to Grantchester. I loved it! I previously read one of the Sidney Chambers books and liked it, not loved it. Now I feel I have a better understanding of the main character, and I definitely plan to finish the series.

The author covers quite a span of years in the life of Sidney Chambers. We follow him through the trenches of WW2, the reintegration into society post-war, and his struggles to understand and accept his c
May 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-this-month
Quite different than other Granchester novels, no mysteries to solve. Although you do get glimpse of Sidney in detective mode with his friend Freddie.Freddie has some great lines: ‘My definition of eternity is the time the bus takes to get from the railway station to my aunt’s house in Lacock. That’s a disappointment, let me tell you. No lays and precious few cocks.’
‘Oh, my giddy aunt and bloody God,'
‘People use the word “busy” to cover all manner of selfishness.’

While TV and Book Sidney go the
Michael Cayley
Mar 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: general-fiction
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 grea ...more
Mar 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 writ ...more
Apr 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rating between 3.5 and 4

a very well written novel by the author that gives background to some of the characters featured in his series of novels titled Grantchester. Those books are set in the decades between 1950 and 2000 and are comprised on individual but linked novellas.
This prequel book covers the time between 1938 and 1950 (approximately), and tells the wartime story of Sidney Chambers and his decision to become a priest. It also fills in more details about his family, his best friend Robe
May 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book follows Sidney Chambers from his time as a soldier in the Italian campaign through a time of doubt and wandering, to his training as an Anglican priest and his first job as curate. At the end he is taking the position at Grantchester. The first section, during the war, reminded me of Ernie Pyle's "The Death of Captain Waskow" and the movie made from Pyle's war experiences, The Story of G.I. Joe. After the loss of many friends, including his best friend, Sidney enters into a sort of pos ...more
Laura Newsholme
Apr 13, 2019 rated it liked it
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 ...more
May 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mysteries
I picked this up in the Heathrow airport to read on the long journey home and was not disappointed. I have enjoyed watching the Grantchester mystery series and this prequel on Sidney's earlier life--references to college, service in World War II, adjusting or not to peacetime England, finding faith, and becoming a priest in the Church of England--helped make sense of some things in the series. Sidney's best friend Robert's sister, Amanda, is a thread throughout the book as she will be later in t ...more
Jane Schwarz
Mar 26, 2019 rated it liked it
This is an origin story that fills in the background of Sidney Chambers and how he became the vicar in Grantchester. It is a slow and gentle read even when it depicts how he and his friends fought in Italy and the horrors of war. How the death of his friend, Robert, brother of Amanda, affected him. And even when he returned home to his family, how at a loss he was to return to his old life. Slowly he began turning toward religion to make sense of what he went through and realizes that becoming o ...more
May 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
If you're a fan of Sidney Chambers from the books or t.v. series you don't want to miss this prequel. Chambers is just out of school when war forces him into service. His best friends Robert Kendall and gay actor Freddie, are in Italy where Robert is killed and Chambers gains a Military Cross. On wars end Chambers renews his friendship with Robert's sister, Amanda, and contemplates his future. He eventually hears a calling and becomes an Anglican Priest. Serving first in urban Coventry he eventu ...more
Thanks, Netgalley, for this arc.

I'm a big fan of the Grantchester TV series - after a recent rewatch, I still think I prefer the show over the books. At some parts this "prequel" was slow and dragged; the first third of the book took place on the WWII battlefields, so if you're not immune to reading about warfare, you might want to skip over it. All the same, it was interesting to see Sidney's journey from soldier to priest.
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James Runcie is a British novelist, documentary film-maker, television producer, theatre director, and Artistic Director of the Bath Literature Festival.

Other books in the series

The Grantchester Mysteries (6 books)
  • Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death (The Grantchester Mysteries #1)
  • Sidney Chambers and the Perils of the Night (The Grantchester Mysteries #2)
  • Sidney Chambers and the Problem of Evil (The Grantchester Mysteries #3)
  • Sidney Chambers and The Forgiveness of Sins (The Grantchester Mysteries #4)
  • Sidney Chambers and The Dangers of Temptation (The Grantchester Mysteries #5)
  • Sidney Chambers and the Persistence of Love (The Grantchester Mysteries #6)
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