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The Vicar's Wife (Tales from Goswell) by…

The Vicar's Wife (Tales from Goswell)

by Katharine Swartz

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4522256,992 (3.98)4



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I liked this a lot. It's the story of a woman moving from the US, where she has a busy life with a job she loves, to Goswell, West Cumbria, to live in old vicarage. Jane is reluctant to leave New York, but tells herself it is her British husband's "turn" to have the life he wants. Nevertheless, she privately resents the change, and makes little attempt to adapt to her new life. The only thing that piques her interest at all is the scrap of paper she finds while exploring the larder, a brief shopping list. She manages to identify the writer of the list tentatively as Alice James, wife of the vicar of Goswell in the 1930s, and thus, a former resident of Jane's new home.

At this point, Alice's story starts in parallel, and the two run side-by-side for the remainder of the book. In many ways, Alice is the real protagonist, although Jane is the one the reader is expected to identify with. But both are depicted with equal sympathy, as is the community of Goswell, clearly based on the author's own experience of living in Cumbria.

It may be purely coincidence that the title echoes that of one of Joanna Trollope's very successful "Aga sagas", though I doubt it, because this is very much in the Trollope tradition. Something Swartz shares with Trollope is the ability to create convincing child characters, and to engage your interest in them. The depiction of the gradual realisation of unhappiness is also very reminiscent of Trollope at her best. Even the cover could be Trollope.

This is not the only time that Swartz has written about Goswell, I've discovered, and I shall be reading more of her books. Thoroughly recommended.

My copy was courtesy of NetGalley. ( )
  GeraniumCat | Jan 11, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
It was an okay read. The Vicar’s Wife didn’t grab my attention, and it was easy to put down to do other things. With that being said, it was a pleasant, interesting read. I did love how it went back and forth from Alice to Jane, and how you could see their lives were much of the same, even from different eras.
Jane did come off stubborn throughout the book, as well as Andrew. There seemed to be total lack of communication, even with them being married. Sure moving can be stressful, and I am sure it brings out the worst in people, but it was like they never had time, or made time for one another when it was needed the most.
I loved Alice throughout the read. She was more rounded, and understood more things, even if she seemed younger than Jane. Alice married David, they fought through losing a child, and much more. I would have loved to read more about Alice and David or Mr. & Mrs. James. ( )
  wjbooks | Jan 2, 2015 |
Two women, one house.

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. ( )
  DubaiReader | Apr 13, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
A very interesting story that caught my attention from the beginning. The main character, Jane, hit me at first as a self-centered and depressing woman who really needed just to get over things and grow up, however as I read on and she discovers the history behind another woman of the house, she begins to grow. Although not concentrating on God and faith as much as I may have liked, the story has a good lesson that is learned as we see Jane grow. A nice, quick and fun read! ( )
  tweezle | Mar 30, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Title: The Vicar’s Wife
Author: Katharine Swartz
Pages: 334
Year: 2013
Publisher: Lion Hudson
Jane Hatton was born and bred in the big city and loves her life there. She has an all-consuming job that she loves, however, that doesn’t leave much time for her husband and three children. Her husband is British and proposes a move to Britain. Jane feels it is her turn to sacrifice, but once she moves she realizes she might have sacrificed too much. She discovers an old grocery list that prompts her to think of who wrote it and what their life might have been like living in the old vicarage house. Jane hates everything about her new life situation. She discovers the author of the note, and readers via flashback get to see how the life of Alice James circa 1931-1943 came to pass. The chapters take turns between Jane’s story in the present and Alice’s story from the past.
There were things I liked about this book and things I didn’t like. I liked the look into the past as well as the description of the countryside of Cumbria. The chapters were easy to read and it didn’t take long at all to finish the book. I didn’t like how self-absorbed Jane Hatton was with everything centered on how she felt, how unhappy she was and how difficult her new life was. I thought that most of the description of Alice’s life was depressing. Both women seemed so lost, but neither turned to the Lord for help and hope. No one in their lives guided them to Him. I would have thought Alice’s husband, David James, as a vicar would have given her some spiritual guidance. I also thought Vicar James was very selfish. He married a young bride, moved her to the middle of nowhere and then happily went about his job, leaving Alice alone for hours. She had no one to talk to, no friends, no skills, no job…nothing and he didn’t help her adjust at all.
This is not much in the way of Christian fiction in my point of view. There was very little mentioned about God or faith in this story. This seems to be yet another book marketed by a supposed Christian publisher targeted at a Christian audience, but is mainly a mainstream fictional offering. If you’re looking for any spiritual aspects in this book, there aren’t any. I didn’t care for this book and wouldn’t recommend it.
My rating is 2 stars.
Note: I received a complimentary copy for an honest review of this book. The opinions shared in this review are solely my responsibility. Other reviews can be read at http://seekingwithallyurheart.blogspot.com/. Also follow me on Twitter @lcjohnson1988, FaceBook at https://www.facebook.com/lisa.johnson.75457 ( )
  lcjohnson1988 | Feb 16, 2014 |
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