While distraught at the lies told to her surrounding her mother’s death, their discovery gives twenty year old, Violet Hayes the impetus to defy her father and travel to Chicago and visit with her grandmother and three great aunts.
Violet soon discovers that each of the elderly sisters have a plan for her future ~ Agnes intends to match her with one of the wealthy offspring of her socialite friends, Matilda wishes to open her eyes to women’s rights and claim her independence, her grandmother prays she will humbly assume a life of religious servitude and the loving but senile Birdie wants her to marry for love.
Violet’s naivety and overactive imagination soon entangle her in all manner of humourous and socially awkward situations as she scrambles to apply the etiquette drummed in to her at Madame Beauchamps School for Young Ladies. Suddenly a number of gentlemen are seeking her hand but Violet is concerned about their motives and carefully considers their merits and attributes. Simultaneously Violet hopes to discover the truth about her mother and commences her own investigation, aided by her clandestine yet voracious reading of dime novels and pulp fiction magazines, including True Crime Stories, The Illustrated Police News and True Romance Stories.
A Proper Pursuit is an entertaining diversion from Lynn Austin’s usual intense writing style. Set against the backdrop of the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 it is a fascinating insight into the era, particularly with reference to women, their status, constraints and desires. Violet delightfully depicts the frustrations of an independent young woman of that time, bound by social obligations yet yearning for more in her relationships and aspirations for her future. Lynn Austin uses Violet’s grandmother and each of the aunts to display the options available to women and likewise, with each of Violet’s suitors, men of the era are depicted. While it was clear early on which path Violet would choose, the mystery surrounding her mother adds intrigue and further depth to the story. Details relating to the Fair and exhibits were obviously well researched and provide substance to a lively and engaging tale.
Now available from Bethany
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1 Have an Australian mailing address;
2 Post before midnight Sunday 27th January; and
3 Tell me your best read of 2007!
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