Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Vicar of Sorrows

The Reverend Francis Kreer has a problem, he no longer believes in God.  However, he doesn’t find this to be too much of a problem in his job as an Anglican clergyman and in traditional British fashion he just gets a stiff upper lip and carries on.  Francis has other problems at home, though.  He is bored with his wife and bored with his life in general.  When his mother dies and leaves half of everything she owns to her former lover, this pushes Francis over the edge.  Francis suffers a nervous breakdown, has an affair with a hippie who is young enough to be his daughter, and gets fired from his job.

Author A.N. Wilson with Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams

This is the basic plot of A.N. Wilson’s 1993 soap opera The Vicar of Sorrows.  Although it had its moments, Vicar is about 150 pages too long.  Mrs. Kreer, the mother, gets mad at Francis for something he didn’t say and leaves half of her estate to a former R.A.F. pilot whom she had a passionate affair with during the Blitz.   Being an Anglican Church groupie, I liked all the long winded passages about the ecclesiastical politics of the Church of England.  Francis’ best friend Damien is a gay Anglo-Catholic priest who has lost his position because he was caught out in public in a compromising position with another man.   By the end of the novel, as Francis’ career as a clergyman has crashed, Damien has been rehabilitated.  The Archdeacon of the Diocese thinks Francis is a kook but doesn’t have a problem with Damien:  “(The Archdeacon) who derived most of his views from liberal newspapers, took a very lenient view of Damien’s proclivities: but one had to be sensible, and think of the ‘old dears’ in the pew, who might be slower than the rest of us to realize that fornication, when practiced by homosexuals, was no longer exactly a sin.”

A.N. Wilson

Overall, The Vicar of Sorrows was probably not worth the time it took to read the 391 pages of it.  It could have been a humorous little satire if it had been about 150 to 200 pages shorter.  Two out of Five.

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