Book Review: Beyond the Odds

Beyond the Odds

Providence in Britain’s Wars of the 20th Century

John Scriven and Tim Dieppe

Wilberforce Publications, 2021 (ISBN: 9781916121126, 598pp, £15)

God works all things according to the counsel of his will – and it is the privilege of history to reflect with hindsight on these works. This book acknowledges the vast mass of literature on the two world wars but is confident in its original contribution, charting the religious dimension of key moments in the conflicts in greater depth than ever before. The result is certainly not a conventional narrative of the wars concerned (even from the British perspective), but one which delves into unexpected corners while ignoring large swathes of the conventional chronology and is often intensely personal. 

Scriven is an enthusiastic author of history, though a lawyer rather than a historian by profession. Thus his text is excellently researched, lucid and compelling, though occasionally abrupt and unshaped. The discussion of Churchill’s faith, for example, is deeply intriguing but forms an awkward conclusion to the long section on the second world war. A chapter on the Falklands conflict is included, almost by way of appendix. Being a war which concerned Britain’s reputation rather than its survival, this feels an odd inclusion, but is nonetheless enjoyable and worthwhile in itself. 

The preacher will find plenty of stirring illustrations in these pages, while the history buff will discover a new aspect to C20th affairs definitely not covered by TV documentaries!

Edward Keene, Little Shelford