Synopsis: Effie Martin never paid much attention to what people said about her, going about her way bicycling, ball-playing, and fidgeting. It wasn’t until she overheard the neighbourhood girls discussing their dislike of her and fearing she would embarrass them in front of the neighbourhood golden boy, Lawrence, who recently returned from college. Wanting to become better liked but unsure how, Effie finds herself befriended by Lawrence and finding the path to God.
Author: Grace Livingston Hill is a rather famous inspirational writer from the late 19th to early 20th century. Her books were considered contemporary in it’s day, but are now rather outmoded. She is known for having a strong Christian moral, as well as teaching female readers the importance of being “domestic” and proper lady-like behavior.
Writing Style: The tone of the book was a bit more old-fashioned than seen today. It has a tendency toward a narrative “telling” rather than the descriptive “showing” of more recent literature. Also, presumedly due to the times, there were some aggravating declarations as to what characteristics make a proper, well-bred girl.
Plot: The storyline has a nice bit of irony: All the girls in the popular clique want Lawrence and dislike Effie, but due to their machinations to keep the two apart the girls create the opportunity for the pair to meet. Thus allowing Lawrence to befriend Effie rather than the society girls.
Theme: The book tries to depict the Bible verse “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” by showing the main character’s improvement by her doing her best to follow this.
Character: Eleanor is Effie’s older sister who is one of the society girls. Because Nell acts as the majority of society expects she is the better liked of the two girls by everyone, including their mother. Eleanor is actually rather self-centred and rude, caring only for what she wants even to the detriment of others. Nell is conformity at it’s worse, showing how societal expectations and warp one’s personality into something entirely dislikeable and eminently unhappy.
Character Development: Effie starts as a young girl who doesn’t think before she acts and neither cares about what others deem proper behaviour. After being publicly humiliated and meeting Lawrence, Effie turns her life around from being least liked to becoming most liked.
Romance: For a book declaring it to be a novel of enduring romance, there is very little by way of a loving relationship. Lawrence and Effie have a very short time together and are only just starting to become friends when Lawrence leaves town. Eventually he forgets about her for the third time, and Effie only remembers him with residual hero-worship that has endured since childhood. Neither of them shows much romantic interest in each other, if any at all!
Quote: People don’t make heroines out of my kind of stuff.
The Verdict: The book has an interesting plot to it, but the prose is sometimes a struggle to get through. Though the characters have potential, they feel somewhat inconsistent and fail to create a strong connection with the reader. The strict gender roles are aggravating to read for any emancipated female and lead to horrified disbelief. The book is okay and I might consider reading it again, but only as a last resort.