Through this simple, almost fairy-tale plot, Goldsmith gives us a charming comedy. It is not a novel of sentiment but an artful send-up of many of the familiar literary conventions of his day: the pastoral scene, the artificial romance, the unquestioning stoic bravery of the heroall culminating, of course, in a gloriously improbable denouement....Continua
This is widely regarded as a timeless classic but when I started it, it seemed a bit tame. It tells of the rather small life of a homely and endlessly virtuous vicar. Nothing much seems to happen because people who were not working class did not do much of anything, it seems. Life mainly consisted of visiting, walking, eating, listening to music, and gossip.
A third of the way into the book, however, it seemed to pick up. I think it was partly because I had adjusted to the pace of the narrative. I noticed that Goldsmith was obviously a very bright man when I read the quality of his musings (through his characters) on every aspect of society, from politics to personal ethics, and religion. The Vicar Of Wakefield can be seen as a philosophical text on the nature of ethics, virtue, and honour. It is very edifying without being overly didactic. It can also be seen as a modern version of the Book Of Job from the Old Testament. The trials and tribulations heaped upon the old vicar are quite astounding, and they increase throughout the book.
The story keeps increasing pace until the very end, which contains a climactic denouement as satisfying as any found in Dickens. This is the sort of book one might possibly read more than once, especially as one grows older and naturally more contemplative. I do not see young readers enjoying this: they are too young and have not lived enough to appreciate the wit and poignancy of Goldsmith. This is a book for a more mature and world-wise person, someone who has experienced enough of life to understand the importance of Goldsmith's topics. So, in summary, I found it brilliant but only for people who enjoy reading philosophy and ethics. There is a superb little twist in the tale but I fear the action-hungry reader will never be able to reach the end....Continua