08/10/2007

Not Under the Law (by Grace Livingston Hill)

Since I quite enjoyed the first book I read by Grace Livingston Hill ('The White Lady') I borrowed another. It has a similar theme - that of someone living in unexpectedly difficult circumstances, who is falls in love with a wonderful man. Like a Christian version of Mills and Boon romances, written nearly 100 years ago, perhaps.

'Not Under the Law' is the story of Joyce, an orphan who has lived with her loving aunt for many years. The novel opens shortly after the aunt has died, when Joyce is not being treated at all well by her cousin and his wife, who basically want her as an unpaid cook, babysitter and general skivvy.

Joyce hopes to qualify as a teacher so as to earn her own living, but her cousin does all he can to stop her taking the necessary exams. Life becomes so difficult for Joyce that she finally walks out of the house, determined to make a new life for herself somewhere else. She gets briefly mixed up with some unknown criminal activity in a cemetary; one of the gang is a young man she has known and liked for some years.

The following day she catches a train to a small town a hundred miles away. She begins to make friends, buys a very surprising place to live, and finds work. However, back home people have no idea where she is, and her aunt's lawyer is eager to find out.

It's an exciting story in some ways, set and written in the 1920s in the USA, with a dramatic and satisfying conclusion. However, it's (in my view) a bit too 'religious' - and that's writing as a Christian myself. Following God's leading is, of course, always a good thing, and the description of a repentant sinner that occurs in the book is fairly realistic, and possibly could have been useful to help someone understand the Christian message in the time the book was written.

But there's a huge amount of repetition, introspection, and over-preachy writing which I found myself skimming to find out what actually happened! This style would be off-putting for most folk today, unfortunately; yet it's a good story, albeit a little unlikely, and basically very well-written.

Long out of print, the second-hand price is a great deal more reasonable in the USA than the UK, particularly with the dollar such a weak currency at present.

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