Early last year I read Lynn Austin’s book A Woman’s Place (which I reviewed HERE). Being exceedingly enthusiastic about that particular work, I was delighted to get my hands on a copy of A Proper Pursuit. I finished the book late last night and decided to sleep on it before writing a review of it. I’ve been thinking through the book all morning – what I liked and what I didn’t.
The thing that rankled me the most was that, at one particular point in the book, I felt like Ms. Austin was dumbing down her writing a bit just in case her readers might miss the meaning of her symbolism in describing a particular relationship. That one little paragraph annoyed me for the rest of the book. I felt a bit condescended to and spent the rest of the book wondering if she trusted me enough to follow her story. It’s just a minor point and I realize I’m being picky AND snobby but it did bother me. (And, for the record, after this one incident, she trusted her readers to get the point throughout the rest of the book.)
Secondly, I found this story line more predictable in figuring out the relationships than I did when I was reading A Woman’s Place . However, it was not so predictable as to prevent me from finishing the story. One thing Ms. Austin does well is that she transports you to a different time and place in her writing which keeps a reader entertained.
In this particular story we are taken to Chicago in 1893 during the time of the World Fair. A lot of the residents that we meet are survivors of the Great Chicago Fire (1871) and there is quite a bit of reminiscing about that particular instance. The way that Austin handled the story reminded me that each generation has their own catastrophe that they had to deal with. In A Woman’s Place we are met with the challenges and struggles the women faced during World War II. Women today (depending on your generation) are more apt to remember where they were when JFK was shot or (in my particular case) where I was when the Twin Towers were struck on 9/11. A Proper Pursuit is a reminder that even though our times may have changed, our clothing style is different and social etiquette (isn’t what it used to be), we are still the same internally. We feel the same emotions, we just express them differently depending on our culture and status.
I looked for more information on her website and discerned that she had a special relationship with her grandmother and mother and that the changes that women have undergone, culturally speaking, is a fascinating topic for Austin. It does receive a great deal of focus in A Proper Pursuit. Again, like in A Woman’s Place , I don’t feel that to be a bad thing. It’s done well enough and is blended into the story in an appropriate manner.
I think the thing that I found most fascinating in Pursuit was that Violet, our protagonist in this story, knows so little of her own mind that she is rather heavily influenced by every other character around her. Not being one who is influenced by people unless I choose to be, I found her very hard to identify with. She is a young 20 year old who is unsure of her position in life and really doesn’t know who she is. She goes to live with her grandmother and great aunts who all have different personality bents and agendas who all use various ways and means of influencing their young charge.
The bottom line message of the story was that everyone is different and everyone has something to offer in the way of personality and character gifts, to the body of Christ. What is good for one person might not be good for another. Not everyone is expected to get along but grace and love will help us get a lot further in relation to one another. Not everyone can be trusted but everyone has something worth listening to.
You’ll also like this book if you like happy, sweet endings.
I am curious to hear from more of you concerning other of Ms. Austin’s works. Is there a particular book of hers that you have read and would strongly recommend or encourage me to read? I would find your comments interesting if you’d care to leave one! This particular book really wasn’t me, primarily because I couldn’t identify with the main character’s character. However, I do enjoy the way that Austin tells her stories and I enjoyed the supporting cast.
As always, happy reading!
Carrie comes by her book obsession honestly, having descended from a long line of bibliophiles. She blogs about books regularly at Reading to Know.
This review is linked to Semicolon’s Saturday Review of Books.