Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Book Review: She Walks In Beauty

Cover photo of a young woman in a beautiful gown...set in the Gilded Age of the early 20th century...scandal and intrigue in the upper classes....sound familiar?  Like maybe...The Luxe series? 

She Walks in Beauty isn't just a rip-off of the Luxe books, even though they have similar settings.  As much as I loved The Luxe series, I think I actually ended up enjoying She Walks In Beauty more.  I completely identified with the main character, who is more interested in her education than her social status, but is being forced to debut in order to restore her family's honor - by making a match with the most eligible bachelor of the season.  And her best friend is going for the same guy!  Ok, so it's not high brow literature, but if you're a fan of the Luxe books, you'll like this one.

The best thing to me is that this is actually under the category of Christian fiction, but you'd never know.  Well, ok that might be pushing it, but the thing is that the characters don't walk around talking about their Christianity.  And the main theme of the book isn't how to become a Christian or why you should be more like Christians or whatever.  The main "issues" addressed by the book are the disparity between those living in poverty and those flaunting their wealth and the dangers of obsessing over outer beauty.  A few of the characters are Christians and one character tells another that God loves her just as she is.  That's about it on the preaching front.

Which brings me to what I really loved about this book (other than the fact that the story is intriguing and well-written).  This is the kind of book I want to see more Christian authors marketing.  Writing a work of "fiction" that is a thinly disguised sermon, which you will in turn publish by a Christian publishing house and market solely in Christian markets seems like preaching to the choir to me.  There's nothing wrong with stores like Lifeway that cater to a Christian market, and there's nothing wrong with enjoying those books. 

But I think it's hugely important for Christian fiction authors to be able to compete outside of that market as well.  And if you're not a good writer (except compared to other Christian authors) and you're writing books that no one is going to pick up because they are such obvious attempts at explaining the gospel message, I don't think you're fulfilling the Biblical command to excel.  If we can do all things through Christ, why aren't we writing best sellers across various markets?  And why does Christian fiction have to be about soul winning?  I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'd love to see Christians authors writing fiction that may or may not have Christian characters but isn't crammed into the genre fiction that is Christian Lit. 

Apparently, Siri Mitchell can do it.  I was really impressed with this one.  Give it  a chance and let me know what you think!  Thanks to Jim at Bethany House for sending me a great book that doesn't limit itself to genre fiction!

2 comments:

  1. I really like what you said about the genre of Christian fiction. I'm an unashamed Christian but am turned off by all the preachy, poorly written books. It shouldn't be that way, and I'm so glad you found She Walks in Beauty. Maybe I will give Siri Mitchell a try!

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  2. Two very enthusiastic thumbs up on you Christian Fiction thoughts. I love reading and am a Christian and I generally just roll my eyes at Christian Fiction. It's just so frigging cheesy! I hate the "the main character is learning the Gospel so that you can too" push. Yuck. Thanks for your thoughts, I'm right there with ya.

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