Grace Livingston Hill (1865-1947) wrote Christian Romances from approximately 1887 through 1949.  (Okay, after 1947, she had a little help).  I can’t say I’ve read them all, but I’ve read a good many.  They fit right in with today’s prosperity Christianity, and I get a cynic’s guilty thrill out of all of them.  The three below capture some of her ideas on surviving the Great Depression with gentility.  

 April gold (1936).  At the death of the breadwinner in the backdrop of the Depression, the son and daughter each find jobs, fall in love with well-off people, enjoy wholesome meals, do a little gardening, and begin a Ministry in the abandoned factory side of town.  Pretty much defines heart-warming.

The gold shoe (1930).  Three virtues of a young girl: she knows how to pack her clothes in a suitcase; she gives photos of herself at Christmas; she falls in love with a minister who has a shoe fetish.

Book Jacket

Mystery flowers (1936).  Diana Disston’s father marries Helen, a woman who more properly belongs in hard-boiled crime fiction.  The betrayal of her mother’s memory propels the “winsome-faced” girl into a waitress job, an attic apartment, crackers for dinner, and Bible study.  Evil is adequately rewarded by the death of stepmother on yacht; love comes with the anonymous delivery of white carnations; the goodness of Scots blood in America, particularly among the servant class, is extolled.

I find Mystery Flowers especially problematic for its renderings of good, evil, and mercy, rewards here on earth going to the virtuous, oh, and the gender relations described by that pat-on-the-head when Diana faces a more advanced moral dilemma.  Here’s the specific excerpt:

That evening she talked [Helen’s death] over with Gordon [her virtuous intended].

“Didn’t I tell you that God would work it out in His own way?” he said gently.

“Yes, work it out,” said Diana, thoughtfully, sadly.  “He’s worked it out for us of course, and made the way easy for Father and me.  But I’ve been thinking about Helen.  Gordon, I never thought about people that way before, until after I was saved.  But I keep thinking that Jesus died to save Helen as much as He did to save me.  God loved Helen, and sent His Son to die in her place, too, and I’m quite sure she never thought anything about it.  I’m quite sure she wasn’t saved.  Gordon, I keep thinking that I did wrong to go away.  I should have stayed here even though it was hard.   . . .   But now I’m practically sure she must be lost.  And I can’t think of her laughing to God! I don’t think she laughed when the boat went down!  I know she was frightened!  Poor Helen!”

 (. . . .) “I know, little girl,” he said, “but you can’t tell what may have happened between her soul and God at the last minute, even in the twinkling of an eye.”  (etc).

Even a few of the Christian book reviewers find her work just a little overdrawn: teaching too much about evil and with Christian heroes that are altogether too handsome.  I guess we just can’t work those miracles in real life.

Ms. Hill has her own Web site, put together by a fan.  And I’m a fan of sorts: I just enjoy viewing that certitude from the outside.

Photo:–dustcovers for vintage books. . . .