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Friday, July 16, 2010

My review of A Proper Pursuit by Lynn Austin

Proper Pursuit, A 

About the book:

When Violet Hayes ventures to Chicago during the time of the World's Fair, her one goal is to find her mother, who has been missing from her life since she was nine. Naïve, impressionable, and highly imaginative (having secretly ingested a diet of romance novels and true crime stories at school), Violet stays in Chicago under the care of her grandmother and her three great aunts. It is here that her perspectives on life are opened as she is exposed to the world about her--from high society to the poor immigrant families; from the suffragette movement to the security of a suitable marriage match. As Violet contemplates what course her life will take, she will discover the missing parts of her family's past--and, ultimately, Violet will discover herself.

My review:

A Proper Pursuit covers so many topics it's hard to know where to begin. I loved how Violet got to experience all walks of life to some degree while staying in Chicago. Violet have several eccentric aunts and a grandmother who did a lot of work with the poor. One had dementia, another was a feminist, another highly religious, and another had married for money and tolerated her husband's dalliances.

The setting included the World's Fair in 1893. I loved that Violet learned so much when she spent those months with her aunts, including how selfish her own heart tended to be. I especially enjoyed her pursuit of the real meaning of love. It was hilarious how she described the feeling of being in love as being similar to a sickness. She was naive in many ways, but also very wise because she looked beyond the outward appearances the majority of the time.

Violet had a variety of potential suitors, and they were all very different. She learned about getting to know people better and not just exiting in a world of socialites playacting their roles and eating dainties while visiting the rich. As the story moved along, readers got to know each of the men, and discovered the good and the bad about them along with Violet.

Poor Violet just wanted to be loved for who she was...and to find her mother so she could find out why she abandoned her so many years ago. Neither task was easy, though the particulars were so well-written that I found myself growing anxious on so many levels. I cared about all of the characters in this book. The author's voice and setting really brought Violet to life in my mind. Her desperation for her mother's love was emotionally evocative, too.

And talk about an intense romantic element with some whopper kisses! I won't tell you which man she finally received those romantic kisses from because it would spoil the fun...but I can say that Violet discovered that it was possible to find true love. I just about melted when she was kissed that first time. The author really built the tension, and did it so well that I felt a bit breathless myself.

Wonderful writing, an amazing setting full of accurate historical details, believable dialog, tender romance, and a solid faith thread made this book a real winner.

A Proper Pursuit was published by Bethany House in 2007. It received a Christy Award. I can see why! It was an excellent read.

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