Monday, September 17, 2012

The Following of the Star by Florence L Barclay

When this book was first recommended to me about a year and a half ago, I had to read The Rosary instead because I could not find The Following of the Star online. Soon after, I did in fact find a hard copy of this book at a sale, and I've just got around to reading it.

I have very fond memories of The Rosary. A drippily sentimental love story following two strong-minded people who are unable to accept each other until they learn humility and the necessity of putting God first, above each other, it was an unexpected treasure. The Following of the Star is--hurrah--more of the same.

David Rivers is a missionary to Central Africa who, having been shipped back to England with a life-threatening illness, is spending his short recovery as a supply preacher, or locum tenens (placeholder, if my Latin is any good) for the Rector of a little Hampshire village. Faced by a complacent and deaf congregation, David struggles to wake them up to a pursuit of holiness even as he prepares to return to Africa where he knows the climate will kill him. As he puts the finishing touches to one of his final sermons, on the Wise Men and their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh (representing charitable giving, worship, and suffering), he draws some consolation from the fact that a mysterious, beautiful lady has been visiting the church to listen attentively to his sermons. He has a feeling that the lady is somehow lost and desperately searching for answers, but when his sermon on the following of the star prompts her to turn to him for help, nothing could prepare him for the thing she asks him to do--or why he feels bound to help.

More of the story I cannot give away, except to warn you under no circumstances to glance ahead at the final pages!

This book is the third in a series of books by Florence Barclay all sharing some of the same characters, and references the previous one, The Rosary, a couple of times. Nevertheless, you don't have to read either The Rosary or The Mistress of Shenstone in order to appreciate this book. What ties the books together are their themes of the interplay of human and divine love. In many gooey Edwardian melodramas, the divine love is left out altogether or made to play second fiddle to the romantic love. That's why Florence L Barclay's books are so very refreshing--they recognise this fault, and work to repair it; not only in the stories themselves, but also in the characters:
She saw the happenings of the past in a new light.
First of all, Self had reigned supreme.
Then--when the great earthly love had ousted Self--she had placed David upon the throne.
Now the true and only King of Love drew near in risen power; and she realised that He was come, in deepest tenderness, to claim the place which should all along have been His own.
Yes, there were things that didn't seem quite right in this book. I didn't quite agree with all the exposition of the Bible, although most of it was entirely good and unobjectionable. I felt like the main characters sometimes acted a little dense, and I didn't believe that David's decision in the first half of the book was the right one. Still, the book doesn't present them as flawless, and hints that perhaps he wasn't as right as he thought he was:
God, Who alone can make all things work together for good, had overruled their great mistake, and was guiding them, across life's lonely desert, to the feet of the King.
I very much enjoyed The Following of the Star. Perhaps not quite as much as I liked The Rosary (sorry, people!) but it was a very pleasant read, and well worth the time.

Gutenberg etext

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I just obtained a copy of the Original Author's printing. A number 160 of the original printings at Putnam in London. I feel so special


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