Oliver Goldsmith's short 1766 novel, is a humorous, sentimental, melodramatic fairy tale - a pious vicar, Dr. Primrose, relates his and his (sometimes feckless) family's travails and changing fortunes. Christopher Robbie reads with the rhetorical formality we would expect of the period and character, and skillfully conveys the vicar's innocent propriety. Robbie also captures Primrose's occasional naïveté and silliness, while keeping him sympathetic. While his voice is pleasant and expressive, his one fault is a nearly constant quaver, as if Primrose were infirm or always on the verge of tears. This is much reduced when he takes on other voices but, nonetheless, mars a fine performance.
© and (P)1996 NAXOS AudioBooks Ltd.
This is one of those classics that I probably should have read years ago. It's the story of Mr. Primrose, a proud but good man, who suffers at the hands of both ill fortune and human malice. As the novel begins, Mr. Primrose seems to be the man who has everything: a good post in a friendly and peaceful town, a small but sufficient invested fortune, a loving wife whom he equally adores, two beautiful and refined daughters, two honest and hardworking elder sons, and two adorable little ones. But as one would expect from a sentimental novel, trials and tribulations soon begin, bringing him to debtor's prison and to the point of despair. But never fear: through a series of miraculous coincidences, all ends well.
Had The Vicar of Wakefield been written within the last 50 years, I would have dismissed it as little more than clich?? and melodrama; but since it was written in 1761, I recognized it as the source of many clich??s to follow and forgive it the excesses and improbabilities of its happy ending. Goldsmith presents a charming portrait of the Primrose family, full of the little details of life in the eighteenth century English countryside. The character of Deborah Primrose, the vicar's adored wife, is particularly well-drawn as a woman devoted to her husband but even more devoted to her ambitions for her daughters--with near-tragic results. While I enjoyed this brief, fast-paced novel, it wasn't exactly a stunner. But I'd recommend it especially to anyone with an interest in the history and development of the English novel.
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