Book Review: Cripps the Carrier

02 Mar
book cover of Cripps, the Carrier

“Cripps the Carrier,” by Richard D. Blackmore

Genre: classic; romance; mystery

Plot Summary: When a young woman goes missing in a small town, everyone is upset by the news, especially her elderly father.  Later, a body is found under an avalanche of snow.  But one young man is not entirely convinced as everyone else that it is the missing Grace Oglander.  Meanwhile, another young gentleman encounters a beautiful maiden in a wood and saves her life.  But are events entirely as innocent as they appear on the surface?  Where is Grace Oglander?

My Book Review: Years ago I set out to read every classic work by every well-known classic author ever written.  But recently I realized I’ve changed my reading goals over the years and am not quite as ambitious as I used to be.  So I did a little weeding through my reading notebook to decide what I really wanted to read.  “Cripps the Carrier” by Richard D. Blackmore was a title lucky enough to remain on my To-Read List, but by the time it came through my library’s loan system I couldn’t remember what it was about.  The title didn’t exactly inspire me with paroxysms of anticipation.  Besides, the volume that came to me was a little brown edition printed in 1890.  The librarian warned me to be VERY careful with it when I took it home!

I was surprised to be immediately hooked by the plot.  I loved the author’s poetic descriptions, and I copied down a few quotes for my Quote Notebook.  The reading wasn’t too stuffy or thick –true, there were a few times I wasn’t sure I completely understood what was trying to be said, but I got the gist of it.  Some of the characters communicate in a rustic, colloquial speech, but nothing that was so incoherent that I couldn’t understand.

BBC - Your Paintings - The Farmyard, Garsington, Oxfordshire

“Scarcely in full bloom of youth, but ripe for blush or dreaminess, she felt the power of early spring, and the budding hope around her.” ~Cripps the Carrier, by Richard D. Blackmore

The characters in the story quickly became memorable ones.  One could really do an interesting character study on them!  First you’ve got Carrier Cripps, the character who is the common thread weaving the different events of the story together.  He lives simply, but is by no means simpleminded, and the chapter entitled “Cripps on Celibacy” reveals quite an intellectual at heart.  Endearing Squire Oglander, the missing girl’s father, doesn’t understand why he is made to suffer so much in his old age, but clings to his faith in God, rather like Job in the Bible.  Russel Overshute, an upstanding young gentleman, is the only one who keeps hope alive, even to the point of nearly sacrificing himself to solve the mystery.  Faithful Esther puts herself at risk and does what is right, while others abandon their duty.  Rev. Thomas Hardenow, bound by his vows to never marry, yet drawn to a particular selfless young woman.  Manipulative Lawyer Sharp (I pictured Kirk Douglas), who seems to have a finger in the pie, but how and why?  Pathetic Mrs. Sharp, who has no life other than to hang on her husband’s every word, praising him to the skies, and idolizing her son.

And then we have Christopher Sharp, quite possibly my favorite character out of the slew of them!  I’m not sure why.  Indulgently brought up as the Sharps’ only son, he seems to have no aim in life other than pleasure.  He lives for himself, has no friends, and is pretty much on the out’s of any community of respectable people.  Having been spoiled his whole life by his mother, and believed to be an idiot (and continuously called so) by his father, you can see why “Kit” turned out the way he did.  Even though a young adult, he is never treated as such by either parent, so he is rather stunted in personality and lives up to his parents’ low expectations of him.  But there comes of a point in the story where his parents go too far, and Kit is called to make an important personal decision.  He can choose the easy path of pleasure as usual, or go against his own father even though it may mean his family’s ruin.

“In his face there was no possibility of lie, hidden thoughts, or subterfuge. Whatever he meant wa there expressed in quick bold features, and frank bright eyes. His tall, straight figure, firm neck, and broad shoulders helped to make people respect what he meant; moreover, he walked as if he had always something in view before him. He never turned round to look after a pretty girl, as weak young fellows do. He admired a pretty girl very much; but had too much respect for her to show it.” ~Cripps the Carrier, by Richard D. Blackmore

A word must be said for several male heroes in this story.  They certainly knew the meaning of the words “honor,” chivalry,” and “gentlemanly behavior”!  It was a refreshing pleasure to read how they conducted themselves in certain circumstances, how they chose not to take advantage of easy situations, and how they humbly owned up to mistakes.  Gentlemen are never old-fashioned!

SPOILER: I also admired the character of Grace Oglander.  Although a victim deceived, she eventually starts to become suspicious of certain letters supposedly sent to her from her father.  She and her father had always been very close, but the letters do not sound quite like her father’s choice of words and the directions do not sound as though they came from her father’s heart.  And when it comes right down to it, she does what she knows in her own heart to be correct, even though it means going against the directions and the “false teaching” of Aunt Patch.  It brought a particular verse to mind,

John 10:27- “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”

If I had one complaint about the story, it was that the heroes weren’t able to do commit any derring do’s.  Russel Overshute is weakened by typhus, and Rev. Hardenow ends up held captive in a pigsty.  But it could be argued that this does allow for Kit’s one great stand in life.  I also wish we could have been privy to the reuniting of Grace and Russel.  We are only led to assume they ended up marrying each other in the end.  END OF SPOILER.

The short manageable chapters made easy, quick reading.  The story goes at a good, balanced pace and never becomes bogged down by events that seem unnecessary to the plot (as is usually the case in older books).  Even when characters have to relate long stories that take several chapters, the author breaks the speeches up by interjections, questions, interruptions from other characters.  I also loved how Blackmore doesn’t tell all at once, he keeps you guessing for as long as possible.  There is even a plot twist I wasn’t expecting at the end!  So the book does not fall into a predictable rut.

If you’re ready to settle in for a good old-fashioned classic, full of mystery with a dash of romance (actually 3 romances), this is the book for you!  It had me all out cheering for the characters!  It would make a great Masterpiece Classic sometime (hint, hint)!

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Posted by on March 2, 2014 in Book Reviews


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