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Saturday, January 26, 2008

cover of The Obsession of Victoria Gracen

Not your usual Grace Livingston Hill book, this is a love story of a sort, but it's not a romantic one. The title character takes in her nephew, Dick, after his mother dies. Dick was the son of Victoria's beloved brother who married a poor woman and didn't have much contact with his family afterwards. (A little funny to read this after reading Crimson Roses, which ends with a marriage a bit like that.) Victoria Gracen is a beautiful, wealthy older woman, respected by her neighbors and loved by her servants. But after she takes Dick in, she finds herself spending more and more time with Dick and the other young men of the town-- boys that her fellow church-goers think are disreputable and "bad," and they come to believe Victoria is "obsessed" with boys. Of course, she is loving and nurturing them, educating them about culture and faith; and the more she comes to know them, the harder she finds it to believe that these boys are as bad as everyone thinks. I'm sure the title characters name was quite intentionally chosen by the author, and I don't know how I missed it when I read this book the first time-- this is a wonderful picture of victorious grace, taking a rough outcast into a beautiful home, making him feel loved and that he belongs, and transforming him.

This is an enjoyable book, and it's fun to watch the characters change. Victoria grows to love "her boy" Dick (that's how she thinks of him) and his friends, and opens up her house more and more to the boys and girls. The boys don't know what to do with themselves on Sundays, so she invites them over and finds a good entertaining (but moral and educational) story to read to them. She serves them food on her china dishes and lets them lounge on her good furniture. She plays piano and sings with them-- they like the ragtime, but she gets them to sing hymns, too, and gets them going to church (as part of the deal for the Sunday entertainment). One young man is poor and his family disgraced because his father is in prison for embezzling, but he is thoughtful and kind, and has a beautiful singing voice. As she associates with the boys, Victoria gets younger and more childlike in some good ways, too-- she goes out boating with the boys, and sledding on the hill behind her house (to the shock and chagrin of an old friend and neighbor).

It is moving when others finally see the change in these boys. The old neighbor, who's a bit of a gossip and meddler, gets injured and Victoria asks the boys to look after her. Even though Lydia Bypath abuses them and insults them (assuming they are hired hands Victoria has paid for), they keep on doing the work because they are doing it out of their love for Victoria. Eventually Lydia overhears them and discovers their dislike for her, and yet their generosity inspired by love for Victoria. There's a similar arc for the pastor who had about given up on his "wild" oldest son, but sees him transformed by his association with Victoria and the other boys.

A nice change from the regular, romantic Hill novels, and not overly preachy but entertaining and a bit inspiring to think of how love and grace can transform people's lives.

Title:The Obsession of Victoria Gracen
Author:Grace Livingston Hill
Date published:1927
Number of pages:261
Notes:second reading


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