Dwell Deep, or Hilda Thorn’s Life StoryJuly 28, 2014
So, apparently Grace Livingston Hill’s brand of religion makes me want to go read about Amy Le Feuvre’s brand of religion. And I suppose it serves me right that Dwell Deep is more Hill-like that any Le Feuvre book I’ve read to date. It’s the story of Hilda Thorn, a young woman who moves in with her guardian’s family, who have little tolerance for her religious scruples.
I think the fact that she was converted before the story begins was part of what bugged me, although I guess it saved me one of Le Feuvre’s weirdly unsatisfactory conversion scenes. I also wasn’t wild about the first person narration, although I eventually got used to it.
The setup reminds me a little bit of Elsie Dinsmore, with a religious main character surrounded by people who not only don’t share her views, but can’t seem to live and let live. But it seems more pointless here. There’s no real reason for them to get angry with her for choosing not to go to parties, as her guardian does, or to tease her mercilessly about her religion, as her guardian’s son Kenneth does. She even points out to Kenneth how unfair he is to her: if she doesn’t react to his teasing, it’s because she considers herself above the rest of them, and if she does, she’s not as good as she pretends to be. She can’t win. And then he’s like, yeah, I guess that’s true, and continues to be an asshole.
That said, it’s hard to see the Forsyths’ lack of sympathy and occasional hostility towards Hilda as anything resembling persecution. A sickly poor child dies, but that’s the function of sickly poor children in books like this. One of the Forsyths’ guests is more of an asshole to Hilda than Kenneth, even, but that never seems terribly important, either. Even when a major character gets sick and nearly dies, we only find out about it once she’s on the road to recovery. The stakes are never very high, is what I’m saying.
I did get into Dwell Deep, eventually. I stopped being disconcerted by the first person narration, and got comfortable with Hilda as a character. And I like Hilda’s hands-off attitude to converting people, and that the most important piece of advice she gets is basically to trust her own judgement, because otherwise someone else’s opinion could become more important to her than God. It’s not exactly the thing I’m used to seeing from Le Feuvre, but it’s in harmony with the way she always treats religion–as a framework, a system of belief rather than just a belief. I don’t think I’m going to itch to reread Dwell Deep the way I itch to reread Her Kingdom and Olive Tracy, but I still like Amy Le Feuvre a lot.