This is F. Marion Crawford's only novel to be set solely in England. Taking place almost entirely in the English countryside, this bucolic romance begins with witty good humor and turns into a more serious tale of romance and . . . responsibility.
It may not be Crawford's best book. It is rarely listed in critical studies of his time, and never (well, almost never) afterward. But it is my favorite of his books. It is the one I most often give as a gift. It is the one I return to most often.
Charm. That's the word I think of when I think of "A Tale of a Lonely Parish." It's a charming book. It should be a "cult classic" of Anglophile readers. Why is it not? Because it was written by an American best known for his Italian romances? Perhaps.
But try it. I'm not going to analyze it as literature, here. I'm an enthusiast of this book. So what you get, this time from me, is advertising! Praise.
Precisely what the book deserves, if you ask me.
This is lesser Crawford. It is not a great work of literature. Towards the end of his career in fiction, his spirit flagged, perhaps drained by the historical research he did for his Italian histories.
But there was something I noticed about "Whosever Shall Offend" from its first page: it is as well written, in terms of prose style, as anything he wrote.
Yes, it is heavy on plot. Alas, it is not deep in character. There is incident. And there may be sentimentality.
But it is expertly done, and well told, and I won't say anything against it, other than to say that it is not great.
Accept as prose, which strikes me as no small amount of praise after all.