Saturday, May 12, 2012

Book Review: The Pursuit of Lucy Banning

The Pursuit of Lucy Banning. Olivia Newport. 2012. Revell. 304 pages.

A week from Tuesday. Is that possible?

For those that absolutely love historical fiction/historical romance, The Pursuit of Lucy Banning may prove irresistible. Especially if you judge books by their covers.

I didn't love this one. I barely liked it.

It's set in Chicago in 1892-1893 as the city prepares for the World's Fair. The heroine, Lucy Banning, is a stubborn young woman determined to show her independence one tiny step at a time. Fearful of her parents and her fiance, Daniel, Lucy Banning decides that lying is the best way to further her education. By saying that she's volunteering at a local orphanage, she gets the chance to leave the house three days a week. Does she feel guilty about lying to almost everyone in her life? Not really. She doesn't really care what Daniel thinks because she doesn't really care about Daniel. So what if he objects? As for her parents, she tells herself that she's not really hurting them by deceiving them because what they don't know can't hurt them right? And if she told them, well, she might have to listen to them. She doesn't give them a chance to say yes or no. (As it turns out, when she is honest with them, that they don't care, they don't mind at all).

I get the idea that readers are supposed to be on Lucy's side in everything. We're supposed to applaud her stubbornness, her independence, her quest for further education, her quest to be more than just a dutiful, obedient daughter. Lucy wants to be the boss of Lucy. End of story. Personally, I found Lucy to be selfish, deceptive, manipulative. Not that Lucy doesn't have a few good traits. She does. She does genuinely care for orphans--one day a week, at least. And she does like being different from others. She has compassion on the less fortunate, the least of these. She sees the needs of the world around her, the weak, the poor, the needy, the helpless. She knows she's compassionate, and likes feeling that she "gets" what Christianity is all about more than others. But still. She sees them as human beings. And we do see her relationship develop with one unfortunate maid, Charlotte. So readers are shown what Lucy's compassion looks like. Which isn't a bad thing at all.

We also get Charlotte's point of view at several times throughout this story. She's a young woman with a mysterious past. She shows up with a BIG secret. She's hiding a baby in a carpet bag in a closet on the third floor. The baby is only a few weeks old, still sleeps almost all the time, and she's trained her newborn son to feed only at night and sleep through the day without making a sound. (Believe that anyone?) The treatment of this son just bothered me. As if being hidden in a closet in a bag wasn't bad enough, he's "hidden" in a heap of fabric--covered up by several yards of several different fabrics--and carried outside of the house to his new home.

And then there's the romance....

I think the big problem for me was the characterization. It wasn't dreadful. It wasn't even flat or one-dimensional (if you don't count the parents and the brother). It was just slightly unpredictable. Meaning I felt the characters kept surprising the author as the story was written by going in their own directions? Of course, that's just a guess on my part. I am not saying it's bad that this one was more unpredictable than predictable--in a way. I could just as easily be dismissing a book for being too predictable, too formulaic, too generic.

My favorite character would probably be Will. The character I understood least (because every time he was in a scene he acted different) is Daniel. The character I sympathized most with was Charlotte. I would have liked to know more about her--how she came to be in her situation--alone and with a newborn child. Where were her parents? Did she have any family to turn to? Was she kicked out of the house? Who was the father of the baby? Was he married? Did he manipulate her? Was she in love with him? In love with him still? What does the future hold for her? Will she find a way to be with her son again? Will she find someone who loves and accepts her?

I did enjoy some elements of this one.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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