Lynn Austin’s novel, A Proper Pursuit, tells the story of a young woman’s journey from girlhood to womanhood. Ms. Violet Hayes tricks her father into allowing her to stay with relatives in Chicago under the false guise of wanting to see the World’s Fair. In reality, she wants to find her mother, but upon arriving she discovers that each of her hosts has a different agenda—and suitor—ready for her. What follows is Violet’s struggle to unearth her past, determine her future, and enjoy the present.
Austin tells the tale completely from Violet’s perspective, describing events as they happen. This becomes a little confusing, due to the amount of people and situations the heroine is introduced to, but also adds more depth to Violet’s point of view and is worth it in the end. The characters in the story are varied and interesting, and though they develop and become more complex as the book moves along, the bonds between them do seem rather weak and fragile, usually with nothing but society or family ties holding them together. The few exceptions are the relationships between Violet and Mr. McClure, and Violet and her mother. In fact, the most memorable scene in the book occurs when Violet finally locates her mother, and discovers just how much the world’s cruelty has affected all of their lives.
At the beginning of A Proper Pursuit the plot is rather simple, with Ms. Hayes seeking out her runaway mother in Chicago. But as time and events progress, Violet finds herself with a line of suitors she must choose from before the month’s end, which complicates her life just a little. More than that, she must decide what standards she will live by for the rest of her life: society’s, God’s, her family’s, or her own. In the end, she chooses to live out her own heart instead of her family’s, to change society instead of being controlled by it, and to honor God by being herself.
Although the headstrong Violet begins the book as an incredibly naïve character, she grows and blooms throughout the story in a very realistic way. She is the only truly dynamic person in the book—all of the others are used to represent the different forces that are pulling and pushing on her as she makes her decisions. A good example of this is shown in her four primary suitors: Silas, who symbolizes her own desires; Herman, who is an example of her family’s wishes for her; Louis, who is the church’s will for her life; and Nelson, who is society’s choice.
The only element that bothered me about Austin’s book was the mystery surrounding Silas McClure. In the beginning it fit everything very well, but the average reader will figure out who he is by the middle of the story, and Violet’s inability to see what is obvious until the end becomes rather annoying. But, all in all, I very much enjoyed A Proper Pursuit, and would recommend it to any reader who wants a light and romantic story. -- Kate R. Miller, Christian Book Previews.com
It seems a perfect backdrop for what Violet Hayes longs to experience: a little mystery, a little romance.
To be honest, it is more than a little mystery. She schemed her way to Chicago to discover the mother she barely remembered. As for romance--well, with the help of her grandmother and three great aunts, that is coming along nicely as well--perhaps too well. Each of her relatives--including her saintly grandmother--seems to have a separate agenda for her.
In the course of a summer, Violet's world will open wide before her eyes. But in the wake of discovery, she must find a way to determine which path--and which man--will ultimately be the right lifetime choice for her.