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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

cover of The Ransom

Christobel Kershaw is a bit different from most Grace Livingston Hill characters. She comes home from boarding school for her step-mother's funeral, and she is a rather angry young woman, and not sure what she believes in or where she thinks her step-mother has gone now that she's dead. Christobel and her brother Randall are practically strangers from her father because of this woman he married who immediately shipped them away to school and started enjoying her new husband's wealth. Everyone thinks Mr. Kershaw is quite wealthy, but they don't know that his wife was profligate in her spending and his business is starting to founder (I believe this is set near the beginning of the Great Depression). This doesn't prevent his wife's stylish servants from trying to steal all the silver and expensive dresses (Christobel figures this out and helps catch them), and eventually Randall is kidnapped and a ransom is demanded.

In some ways, Christobel is more interesting than many of Hill's other heroines, because of her uncertainty and her questions. However, it seems that Hill only does this in order to have another character share his faith in Christ with her, and the way this is written dragged me out of the story pretty abruptly. There's something similar in the second part of the book, too. Roughly half-way through, the story shifts to the kidnapped Randall who is being kept in a remote cabin in the woods. Randall notices a little book hidden in the chinks of his room, and because it has an endorsement by a famous athlete (not to mention he has nothing else to do), he begins reading it first to himself and then to his captors. The little book is the Gospel of John, which none of them have ever heard before, and they are convicted by it. The Gospel effectively becomes Randall's ransom, because when their hiding place is discovered and they flee, the kidnapper who is ordered to kill Randall lets him go instead, and Randall eventually escapes back to his family.

This is not really much of a romance, and with the plot ingredients it should be a more exciting adventure than it actually turns out to be. Hill seems to be orchestrating the plot and her characters' lack of belief purposely so that she can overtly share her faith through the book, which to my mind makes both the story and the gospel she's attempting to share less engaging. The Gospel being someone's "ransom" in a life-or-death situation is a compelling idea, but it seems to be handled rather clumsily here.

Title:The Ransom
Author:Grace Livingston Hill
Date published:1933
Number of pages:238
Notes:repeat reading


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