For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. ---Ephesians 6:12

"The age of casual Catholicism is over; the age of heroic Catholicism has begun. We can no longer be Catholics by accident, but instead must be Catholics by CONVICTION." ---Fr. Terrence Henry TOR, Franciscan University of Steubenville

Friday, September 12, 2008

Not For Women Only ---Book Review of Lady of Milkweed Manor

Not more than a couple of weeks before I renounced my membership to the University of Illinois alumni association for the university's continued support of William Ayers, I read in the alumni magazine about a former classmate, former radio coworker, and old friend with whom I (until recently) lost touch after graduation named Julie Klassen who had published her first novel just last year. It's a Christian romance novel set in Regency England called Lady of Milkweed Manor, and it's gotten some very good reviews which can be found HERE and HERE.

It's a story of a vicar's fallen daughter who finds herself an unwed mother-to-be at a time in history when people were shunned for such mistakes. Her father, an unforgiving clergyman, is no exception and banishes her from home, forcing her to take refuge at a home for unwed mothers, a manor with a garden wrought with milkweeds. Later we learn the milkweeds are purposely grown for medicinal use, and become very symbolic throughout the book and consistent with the theme that things are not always as they seem.

It's basically a story about true love and sacrifice during a period when class, manners, snobbery, and hypocrisy seemed to rule the day. But the hope lies in the triumphing of the spirit, in patience, and in the Will of God. The period in which the story takes place was one in which very few thought so highly of themselves as to question the existence of God, though their behavior might oftentimes suggest a lack of God's influence. But while the sin of indifference to the least of us seems prevalent (snobbery running amok towards those far beyond unweds, wet-nurses, and fatherless babies), abortion is never an option.

One of the interesting examples of Julie Klassen's findings through extensive, on-site research in Britain of the historical period in question, was the practice of using goats as wet-nurses, in which the babies are straddled by the beasts and fed by direct contact in order to reduce the spreading of syphilis. Other items of note are excerpts from poems or other literature from that period that are usually about milkweeds or puerperal insanity (prenatal and/or postpartum depression) found at the start of each chapter. Plus, there is a lot of breastfeeding going on throughout the book, but tastefully described and in great detail.

As an author Julie (pictured at right) seems quite adept at plot flow, keeping my interest throughout and surprising me many times. Needless to say I found the book hard to put down. Perhaps it is her years of experience as a fictional editor (giving her such wonderful talent in writing) that makes this excellent debut offering so engrossing. It is an interesting and enjoyable read not just for women, but for any anglophile or lover of Christian literature.

Click HERE for an excerpt.

Picture of author and book cover borrowed from Julie Klassen.


Tanner said...

If its christian how romantic can it be? Not to say its not interesting. The goats bit got my attention. Probably made regular milk taste a bit off, though.