Friday, January 18, 2008

The Following of the Star by Florence Barclay

I've been reading The Artful Edit by Susan Bell. One of her pieces of advice to writers is to break free of the endless round of niggling: “To constantly print out, reread, and perfect your prose is usually a trap: after a month of writing, you often have perfectly laid out phrases that say very little, because you paid attention to their sound far more than their purpose."

I'm very prone to fall into such a trap: this particular piece is nearly a year old, and has no less than 3 very different versions running around loose. So here's to a more productive writing life!

The Following of the Star

I’m afraid my attitude towards Christian fiction is rather cynical. I’m tired of reading dull, pietistic, shallow and saccharine stories. I want to read something that shows Christianity as a real, vibrant, and victorious way of life. And I wouldn’t mind a high level of literary quality, either. Yet stories like these seem few and far between. And so I look upon any new find with a jaundiced eye, cynically wondering whether I will once again be wasting my time.

This book is different. Tainted with an omnipresent 19th century sentimentalism, yes, but still different. For in The Following of the Star I've found a story that takes Christianity away from the sermons and applies it to the perplexing problems of life. Here I've found characters who struggle, make bad decisions, learn from them, and ultimately come to see the Providence of God working in their lives.

The Following of the Star was published in 1911 by Florence Barclay, a pastor's wife and invalid author distantly related to the founder of the Salvation Army. The story is built around a Christmas sermon given in the 3rd chapter, in which the gifts of the wise men are applied to the Christian life as symbolizing giving, worship, and death. How these gifts are lived out in the lives of the preacher and the “Lady of Mystery” makes a very fascinating story of growth, love and devotion to God.

I am at a loss on how further to describe the plot without completely giving away the story. Let me just warn my readers to refrain from reading the ending prematurely. This is the voice of impatient experience speaking!


Unknown said...

This is one my favourite books.
It gives tears, courage and joy for the characters and on your life.

Kara Dekker said...

thanks for your comment, Niroshi.