Friday, March 20, 2015

The Brown Study by Grace S. Richmond

The reasons I dislike vintage novels (preachy and sentimental) are the same reasons I'm drawn to them (morally uplifting and undemanding).

Grace S. Richmond is an author from that era who intrigues me because my grandparents used to read her books together when they were courting in 1917. Anyway, her book, The Brown Study, was a pleasant surprise in light reading. It had a nice twist on the common plot of "poor-girl-meets-rich-boy-and-they-live happily-ever-after."

Donald Brown is the young pastor of the huge wealthy congregation of St. Timothy's. After some soul-searching, he decides that he's wasting his life serving such superficial folks, and he makes the experiment of moving into a poor neighborhood to see if he can make a difference there. His friends think he's a lunatic and the gist of the book is how they all come to understand one another. (There's a little romance too.) The title is a pun on the old-fashioned expression "Brown Study," which means to think deeply about something.

Two other novels that deal with this theme are Harold Bell Wright's A Higher Call and Elizabeth Goudge's Gentian Hill. In these books the pastor is forced to decide if he'll leave a comfortable ministry for a demanding one. (This is also the message of Jen Hatmaker's Interrupted, which I'm reading right now so this subject is really resonating with me.)

There is a chapter that could not have been written today about how Brown borrows the neighbor's baby to cuddle in his loneliness. Modern readers would only see sexual implications in that.

This title is free for Kindle (My version was followed by a romantic short story "The Time of His Life" that you can take or leave.)


Farm Girl said...

Very interesting review. I can't help it but I love those simple kinds of stories.
Just sweet kind stories.
I like that you find books that I have never heard of but I know by reading your reviews I would just love.

Carol said...

I didn't know there was a genre called the Vintage Novel. I always thought it referred to a publisher! Thanks for enlightening me.

Unknown said...

Good review. Never heard of this book or the author but I love, love historical novels and it sounds like one I would enjoy.

gretchenjoanna said...

Thanks for the tip. I downloaded it to my Kindle just now. In the last few months I read a few other books because they were free on Kindle and seemed worth a try. I wonder if Kathleen Thompson Norris would be considered a vintage novelist? I liked Sisters and Josselyn's Wife by her, though I wouldn't consider them great. They seemed in some way to be period pieces.

hopeinbrazil said...

Yes, Gretchen, Norris would be considered a vintage novelist. And her stuff is much better than most of the syrupy novels that were popular at that time.