The Vicar of Sorrows

A. N. Wilson, Author W. W. Norton & Company $23 (0p) ISBN 978-0-393-03610-7
Initially, this latest work by prolific novelist ( Daughters of Albion ) and biographer ( Jesus ) Wilson, apparently invites readers onto his familiar, comfortably bourgeois and somewhat parochial territory, only to veer from the vicarage and village drawing rooms into darker, unexpectedly stark regions of the heart and mind. Out of love with his wife, life and God, faithless Anglican clergyman Francis Kreer finds his mother's death the coup de grace. Sent hurtling into the maw of midlife crisis, he clings desperately to the hope offered by his newfound love for a teenage runaway. Out of this story, whose twists and turns constantly confound expectations, Wilson fashions a somber meditation on the power of love in a godless and virtually hopeless world. Echoes of Austen--in his surprisingly wide-ranging and barbed social critique--and Dickens--in the panoply of types from John Major's Britain (gay priest, junkie thief, lecherous vet), that throng his pages--show Wilson to be aiming high. Even his most infuriating tics (e.g., lengthy digressions into the arcana of Anglo - Catholic devotional practice) are testimony to his ambitious reach. If Wilson's narrative eventually spirals out of his control on its breathless way to a Christmas Day climax on London's sunless streets, readers will surely forgive him after a journey far more unsettling and moving than any offered by his previous work. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 01/03/1994
Release date: 01/01/1994
Genre: Fiction
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-7861-0972-2
Paperback - 400 pages - 978-0-393-31294-2
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