The Vicar's Wifeby Katharine Swartz
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Jane Hatton and her British husband Andrew relocate from New York City to a small village on the Cumbrian coast. Jane has been city-based and career-driven but when her fourteen year old daughter Natalie falls in with the wrong crowd at school in Manhattan, she and Andrew decide to try country living. However Jane has trouble getting used to the silence and solitude of a remote village. Natalie hates her new school, and eleven-year-old Ben struggles academically. Only eight-year-old Merrie enjoys country life. Has Jane made a horrible mistake? The Hattons have bought the old vicarage in the village. When Jane finds a scrap of shopping list, she grows curious about Alice, the vicar’s wife who lived there years before. As we follow the twin narratives of Jane, in the present, and Alice in the 1930s we discover that both are on a journey to discover their true selves, and to address their deepest fears.
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Meet the Author
After spending three years as a diehard New Yorker, Katharine Swartz now lives in the Lake District with her husband, an Anglican minister, their five children, and a Golden Retriever. She enjoys such novel things as long country walks and chatting with people in the street, and her children love the freedom of village lifealthough she often has to ring four or five people to figure out where they’ve gone off to!
She writes women’s fiction as well as contemporary romance for Mills & Boon Modern under the name Kate Hewitt, and whatever the genre she enjoys delivering a compelling and intensely emotional story.
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The Vicar's Wife came along at just the right time for me. I had finished The Pilgrim's Progress, which was a struggle and I had been doing some other heavy reading, including American Psychosis, which is about the problems with America's mental health treatment system, and believe me there are many. I've also been secretly reading Tony Judt's gut-wrenching Postwar: A History of Europe since 1945. (By secretly I mean I haven't reported it to Goodreads yet.) In any case, I needed a book that is not lightweight but not too challenging. The Vicar's Wife is just that. It's the story of Jane Hatton, a New Yorker who has moved to Cumbria with her English husband after 16 years of married life in New York City. Jane doesn't want to leave her demanding and fulfilling job or her challenging but deeply rewarding city. Andrew, who teaches engineering at Columbia, has always wanted to go back to England and Jane doesn't feel like she can say no to him now, although neither she nor their three children are eager to bury themselves in the far northwest of England in a cold, dark, wet, windy town. Jane tries to adapt to life in the old vicarage in Goswell, but she longs to return to her bustling city that never sleeps. She finds it hard to get to know other women in town and she suspects her children, especially Nadia, a sulky teenager, are having trouble at school. Andrew, a man with a sunny disposition, seems oblivious to her unhappiness. But Jane is not the vicar's wife of the title. That's Alice James, who in 1930 married the vicar of Goswell and moved to the house where Jane's family is now trying to settle down. When Jane finds a scrap of paper behind a slate shelf in the "cold" pantry (where food would have been kept in the 30s) she becomes curious about the woman who wrote the list and what her life was like. As she begins poking around, asking questions, Jane feels a kind of empathy with Alice. She suspects that her predecessor was not happy in this house either and slowly learns her story. Talking with a woman who was the housekeeper after Alice's time and an old man who was resident there as a boy and knew Alice, Jane discovers the joys and sorrows of Alice's life in Goswell. Meanwhile she makes a trip back to New York City and finds that her children don't really want to go back even for a visit. Does she know her children at all? And what about her own feelings about the city and her old job? She still longs for the rewards that her old life brought her, including a flavored Starbuck's coffee every morning. A small thing and seemingly superficial, but it represents so many things Jane has lost. The narrative of this book uses a technique I particularly like. It switches back and forth from Jane to Alice with each alternating chapter and we slowly learn Alice's story as we watch Jane struggle to adapt to this new life. This is not a traditional love story -- boy meets girl, boy loses girl, etc. The story is not the marriage plot. It's the story of two women coming to recognize who they are, how to adapt to difficulty and change, and what is important in their lives. The very thing for a rainy fall day. A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher.
Moan, moan, moan. While researching a little of the author's life for this review, I discovered that Katharine Swartz had, herself, spent a few years living in New York. She also moved from there to the north of England and her husband is an Anglican minister. So she must have experienced many of the emotions that her characters struggle with. Jane Hatton and her family thought they were true New Yorkers until Jane's British husband, Andrew, decided they should move to an isolated village in northern England to get away from the bad crowd their eldest daughter was mixing with. Jane left her high powered job and compact New York apartment to move to a crumbling old dusty vicarage. It was a difficult move but the three children adapted surprisingly well, leaving only Jane floundering and lost without her American roots. While attempting to redecorate the pantry, she found an old shopping list, which prompted her to see what she could discover about this former resident of the vicarage. Through flashbacks, we learn of Alice James's move to Goswell as the new young wife of the incumbent vicar, David James, in 1931. She also struggled to settle in the draughty old vicarage and wasn't sure what was expected of her as wife to the much loved vicar. Through alternating chapters we follow Jane's attempts to integrate within the village and Alice James's life, seventy, or so, years previously, in the build up to WWII. Unfortunately, the first half of the book irritated me with the endless moaning and complaining on the part of both women, but particularly Jane Hatton, who made very little effort to become part of the village. The words 'guilt' and 'guilty' appeared so often that I started highlighting them on my Kindle. By the time she started to show a little less negativity I was ready to send her back to New York City. Alice James was slightly better and her story interested me more, but neither women was particularly endearing. I hadn't realised that the author writes for Mills and Boon under the name Kate Hewitt, and this did explain the style of her writing. For me it lacked depth and substance, and the women were far too miserable and sorry for themselves.
This story was interesting, but I wish the author had stayed with either story. All she did was whine about her lot in life and her discontentedness.
I loved this book, really loved it. I felt like I knew Jane and Alice and I wish they could had met somehow. I hope there will be a sequel.
The Vicar’s Wife by Katherine Swartz was an enjoyable book even though at the beginning it was somewhat depressing, at least to me. Jane and Andrew Hatton have moved to England from New York City and are living in the old vicarage in the village of Goswell. Andrew is delighted to be back home in England but Jane is very unhappy and feels that neither the house nor England will ever feel like home to her and their three children, Natalie, Ben, and Merrie. Jane found a piece of a shopping list that had belonged to Alice James the wife of the vicar during the 1930′s. Jane can’t seem to forget the woman and goes all out searching for information about Alice. She and Alice are very much alike in that both are not sure about living in the vicarage and also seem to be searching to find out who they really are and to overcome their fears and learn what is really important in life. The author did an excellent job in the development of the characters. In fact her portrayal of Jane was so well done and seemed so real that I wanted to grab her by the shoulders and give her a good shaking. Alice also came alive on the pages of the book and I wanted to give her a hug for she was trying so hard and it seemed that almost everyone was against her. There were a few twists in the plot and it was interesting to read how each one turned out. There were also a few surprises near the end of the story. The dialogue of the characters was well written, in fact so well written that at times I found myself talking to them, at least in my head. Natalie, Ben, and Merrie were completely real in the story again showing the skill of the author in developing the character of each one. I really liked the way that the narrative changed between Jane and Alice with each chapter. Even though I found the beginning of the book somewhat depressing, by the end of the story I found that I actually liked Jane for she finally realized what she wanted in life and began to work for it. I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy English authors and stories set in the English countryside. Kregel Publications provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
Drastic times require drastic measures. Jane's daughter is caught drinking underage. That set in motion a plan that affects everyone in the family. Jane's husband decides he's had enough of the big apple and wants the family to move to England where he is originally from. That would certainly separate their daughter from unwanted influences! Jane just sort of floats along without really letting reality sink in. Refusing to go look at houses, her husband buys one for them--reporting in glowing terms about it's "character" (code word for fixer-upper). The idyllic image of England somehow doesn't match reality. The trade from a high end apartment in New York to a drafty, run-down vicarage is quite distressing for Jane. They don't even have a Starbucks! So begins a new and stormy chapter in Jane's life. Always a city girl, rural England is quite an adjustment. But she gave up more than city life; she gave up a rewarding--albeit demanding--position helping women. Gone are the glitzy fundraising dinners, always networking to develop a strong donor base. Also gone are the days of a franetic schedule that left little time to spend with her children. With time now on her hands, Jane is faced with how little she knows about her children. They'd barely had time to talk in New York; now when Jane has time, some of her children are less than willing to make the effort. The book is all from Jane's perspective. From her vantage point, it's Jane against the world. She's angry with her husband for moving her to the middle of nowhere, distant from her children because she's rarely spent time with them and at odds with her mother-in-law whom she felt never liked her. Even her house is against her--peeling paint and disrepair in every room. Although Jane came across as a spoiled socialite, she does have a pretty tall order to fill with getting their family settled in a less than posh home. Part of me wondered why her husband didn't have any time off when they moved to help out with some of the grunt work in making their house habitable? Does he not know how to paint or clean? How about time to instruct her on the use of the ancient stove in the home? Who wouldn't feel overwhelmed in a new town, house and even country! While Jane was taking out shelves in a pantry to paint, she uncovered a slip of paper that looked like a grocery list. Written in the beautiful script of days gone by and the mention of guests for dinner, Jane wonders about the author of the list. She visits the church to find out the names of prior vicars. And this bit of mystery suddenly provides Jane with the distraction she needs to escape her self-pity. The reader is then introduced to the list writer--a previous vicar's wife, Alice, and the remainder of the book is a parallel story of Alice's story and Jane's who experienced similar struggles adjusting to life at the vicarage, although decades apart. I have to admit to feeling a bit disappointed that a book titled, "The Vicar's Wife" had very little to do with church or her Christian faith. Neither Alice, nor Jane, seemed to see the the Lord as a source of strength. Alice in her shyness remained somewhat aloof from her husband's parish and Jane in her ignorance, didn't really include church as part of her family's life. I would have assumed that with a church in your backyard, just plain curiosity would have had led her there before the very end of the book. In spite of not having a lot of spiritual depth to the story, I did enjoy the parallel stories and the emotional development that happened in both Alice's and Jane's lives, albeit years apart. It demonstrates how universal our humans struggles really are.
This is one of those books I wasn't sure I would like after reading the first chapter. But I am so glad I kept reading. This was also one of those books I can't really put my finger on what I liked about it but I did...a lot. After the first chapter, which had a lot of back story, I was drawn into the life of Jane and Alice. Jane is our modern-day heroine and Alice is our past-day (not sure if that's really a term) heroine. Both women are struggling to find their place in their new lives. Katherine (the author) does a great job of making the reader sympathetic to the characters. Although with Jane I did want to tell her to get over herself a couple of times. But I am sure I would've felt the same way she did, as I tend to have pity parties for myself when things don't go my way. I identified with Jane's struggles as a mother, wanting to be a good mom but questioning her abilities and wondering if she really knew her kids as well as she thought. What mom doesn't question if she's doing a good job? I loved visiting the English countryside, I could picture the sheep pasture and small church near by. I could feel the cold and the rain but still found that place intriguing. There isn't a whole lot of talk about God or Jesus even though this is consider Christian fiction but it is a clean read, which is what I like. If you're looking for something a bit different you might want to give this book a read. A copy of this book was given to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Katherine Swartz in her new book, “The Vicar’s Wife” published by Kregel Publications introduces us to Jane Hatton and Alice James. From the back cover: A powerful drama of domestic life following two memorable women who shared a house eighty years apart A New Yorker all her life, Jane Hatton loved her job as the head of a charity championing women’s rights, but her fourteenyear- old daughter, Natalie, had fallen in with the wrong crowd at her Manhattan school. So Jane and her British husband, Andrew, have decided to move their family to the English countryside. The Hattons have bought the large old vicarage in a small village on the Cumbrian coast, near Andrew’s new job. The silence and solitude of a remote village is quite a change. Natalie hates her new school, and eleven-year-old Ben struggles academically. Only seven-year-old Merrie enjoys country life. Has Jane made a horrible mistake? What of her career? Her own identity? Putting on a brave face for the family, Jane tackles renovating the rambling, drafty old house. When she finds a scrap of a very old shopping list, she grows curious about Alice, the vicar’s wife who lived there years before. As the twin narratives unfold—of Jane in the present and Alice in the 1930s—we discover that both are on a journey to discover their true selves, and to address their deepest fears. I like the English countryside. It seems to be a quiet place where families can live in peace, everyone knows one another and things mover along like a lazy river. However Jane is from New York City. Things there happen quickly, the people walk fast, talk fast, don’t really know you and it never goes to sleep. For Jane it is difficult to give up the life she knew for England but she is doing it for her family and their need. By accident she finds out about Alice, who lived there before and sets out to discover more about this young woman. ”The Vicar’s Wife” is a story about discovery. Both women have to learn to begin anew in this new home. As they begin their separate journey’s they both discover who they are and the things that are important in their lives. This is a wonderful story of adapting to change and learning that there is more to a person that can only be revealed when pushed outside the comfort zone. Katherine Swartz is an extremely talented writer who really knows how to tell a story that will grab you and keep you flipping pages until you reach the end. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Kregel Publications. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”