The Vicar of Sorrows

Overview

In this powerful novel that will confirm his reputation as one of Britain's brightest literary lights, A. N. Wilson recounts the downward spiral of Francis Kreer, a clergyman who does not believe in God and whose life starts to come apart at the seams.
When his mother dies, Francis is shocked to discover that she had a lover and that he must share his inheritance with this (awful) man. Then Francis falls in love—painfully, absolutely—with an ...

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Overview

In this powerful novel that will confirm his reputation as one of Britain's brightest literary lights, A. N. Wilson recounts the downward spiral of Francis Kreer, a clergyman who does not believe in God and whose life starts to come apart at the seams.
When his mother dies, Francis is shocked to discover that she had a lover and that he must share his inheritance with this (awful) man. Then Francis falls in love—painfully, absolutely—with an irresistible but most unsuitable young woman.
A. N. Wilson traces Francis's descent through various circles of the English establishment, a tragi-comic journey that takes the hapless hero to the outer edges of both absurdity and despair.

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Editorial Reviews

Gail Caldwell - Boston Sunday Globe
“A marvelously conceived novel that takes on everything from the Church of England to modern marriage in its sendup of contemporary mores.”
Gabrielle Donnelly - Los Angeles Times
“Quite superb. . . . Wilson's eye on the minefields of English social and clerical life is devastatingly accurate.”
National Review
“Terrifically funny and at the same time terrifically sad. . . . Mr. Wilson is a brilliantly mordant observer of human types, of which this book offers a merciless catalogue.”
The Independent [London]
“Entertaining, perceptive, and affecting. . . . His best novel yet.”
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A nonbelieving clergyman sees his life fall apart after the death of his mother, whom he learns had been keeping a lover, and after his own affair with a young woman. (Apr.)
Library Journal
In his 1992 biography, Wilson made clear his acceptance of the human, but rejection of the divine, Jesus ( Jesus, LJ 9/15/92). This theme carries over into his latest and, to date, best novel, in which he takes on the Anglican church and middle-class sanctimony. Francis Kreer, the vicar of sorrows, is a clergyman who has lost his belief in God and is trapped in a loveless marriage. He remains a faithful shepherd to his flock until a chain of events, triggered by his mother's death and the discovery that she once had an illicit love affair, propels him into madness and despair. Job-like, he loses all he holds dear and is ``compelled to confront the terrible truth about life on this planet,'' truth that the biblical writers understood but that the bland bishops do not: ``the fact of death, the fact of evil, the difficulty of virtue, the fickleness of one's own heart.'' God may not exist, but the human heart still needs to find him. It is this fact, Wilson suggests, that makes us ``beautiful beings.'' Wilson's send-up of the Anglican clergy and the all-too-typical ``parishoner'' frequently lighten the otherwise serious tone of this Waugh-like work. Highly recommended for serious collections of British fiction.-- David W. Henderson, Eckerd Coll. Lib., St. Petersburg, Fla.
Gabrielle Donnelly
"Quite superb...Wilson's eye on the mindfields of social and clerical life is devastatingly accurate." -- The Los Angeles Times
Kirkus Reviews
The prolific novelist and biographer, and well-known apostate from the Church of England, here records in fiction a similar loss of faith. More so than his previous novels (Daughters of Albion, etc.), this is very much of our times, and incorporates language and themes unusual for this once veddy proper Englishman. Francis Kreer, a middle-aged vicar in a small London suburb, seems the perfect clergyman: his theology is mainstream C of E, his family life is suitably dull, and he even brushes up his classics with a few friendly parishioners. But Francis's world comes tumbling down when his mother dies unexpectedly, having added a disturbing codicil to her will: She leaves a significant part of her sizable estate to a former lover. Suddenly, Francis indulges his worst thoughts and emotions. His twitty, girlish wife disgusts him, causing her to have panic attacks; he begins to neglect his beloved daughter; and, worst of all, career-wise, he no longer believes in God. The moment Francis begins to "go funny," the parish begins to disintegrate. The obnoxious Low Church couple, the Spittles, raise their troublemaking to a new level when Mrs. Spittle publicly (and absurdly) accuses Francis of sexually accosting her. Francis's best friend from seminary is no help either—an effeminate Anglo-Catholic, he's already been sanctioned by the Archbishop for some public restroom exploits. Just as Francis's mania increases, a band of hippie wanderers set up camp nearby, and among the scruffy bunch Francis spots his salvation: a beautiful young violinist who dropped out of conservatory to bum around with her junky boyfriend. While Francis neglects parish duties and pursues the girl, hisown daughter becomes a religious fanatic, hoping Jesus will restore her family. But things get only worse. By the end, Francis has gone completely bonkers. Certainly the darkest of Wilson's novels: a superb web of secrets and misunderstandings that ends with an affirmation—all the more powerful for being hard-earned.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393312942
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/1/1995
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

A. N. Wilson is the author of the acclaimed biographies Tolstoy, C. S. Lewis, Jesus, and Paul; God's Funeral, and several celebrated novels. He lives in London.

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