Review: Arnold Drive by Hugh Cornwell

arnoldArnold Drive by Hugh Cornwell

“Nothing much has ever happened to Rev Arnold Drive, the meekly quiet vicar of St Tobias. Feeling safe only within the walls of his church and the gentle rules of his faith, Arnold is ironically a man utterly without drive; a man content that nothing much ever happens. Nothing, that is, until the day his church is sold off to property developers. Ejected from his church and his home, Arnold is thrust out into the modern world – a world for which he is utterly ill-equipped.

Suddenly, life presents Arnold with a series of moral dilemmas that test his faith, his judgement and his understanding of human nature. His first experience of love and sex, a surprise confession of murder, a suicide, the prospect of unexpected wealth, the discovery of a hidden family history, all cause Arnold to reassess the certainties he has taken for granted. Then, a near-fatal car accident forces him to face up to the fragility of sanity and of life itself…

Arnold Drive is the story of a man’s journey from innocence to experience where he discovers his moral compass isn’t always pointing the right way. ”


I think it was about chapter three when I fell in love with Arnold Drive. He is an incredible character capable of such genuine affection and empathy. His foibles, such as the bars of sunlight on the carpeting and his preoccupation with the barking dog, really brought him to life for me. I felt like I was reading his pilgrimage from who he was to the man he becomes. I have heard Arnold being referred to as naïve, but I’m not entirely sure I agree- to me he was un-jaded, and that is a marvellous thing to be.

His journey begins when he is forced to leave the church, and along with questioning his faith, he loses his identity and they way he viewed his future life. I thought it was a traumatic moment for him because he then had to face an uncertainty and forge a new life from scratch – and the life he rebuilt was quite extraordinary. There was a lot of karmic justice being weighed out, for every good thing that happened to him, something equally bad resulted. Even in Arnold’s darkest hours, he overcame and retained his genteel graceful nature- never allowing the negatively to darken his soul.

“Arnold Drive” is a remarkable book, and Hugh Cornwell’s meandering prose is enchanting and eloquent. The author does have a unique style that takes a few pages to get used to, but once I did I was captivated. I regret now purchasing this book in a kindle edition, because after reading, I want it paperback – to keep and reread often.

I found this book on the Unbound publisher’s website and it immediately caught my eye. It was after finishing this book and googling the author for his other works, did I find that he was “the” Hugh Cornwell. I am glad that I was ignorant of that fact because I went in with no preconceptions or expectations, without having to separate the artist from the author.

I devoured this book within hours of buying it, only stopping to sleep and I felt lost when it was finished. It left me wanting more and for the book to never finish. “Arnold Drive” was an immersive experience that I can highly recommend. This book is now a beloved favourite of mine and I look forward to reading more from Hugh Cornwell.

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