Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Book Review: To Have and To Hold, by Mary Johnston

To Have and To Hold, by Mary Johnston
Rating:  4 out of 10 stars

    To Have and To Hold is Mary Johnston’s best known novel, and is set in the early days of America, in the settlement of Jamestown.  It is a romance novel, telling the story, in the first person, of Captain Percy’s hasty marriage, and the wild, unpredictable adventures to which it led.

    Captain Percy was a bachelor, and thought himself content, but on a whim he marries, purchasing his wife from a shipment from England.  She is cold and haughty, and freely acknowledges that she cares nothing for him, and desires to be treated as a stranger.  She is obviously high born, and has plenty of money, but for some reason she has degraded herself to the point of marrying a wild adventurer in Virginia.  A few weeks later, a ship arrives from England, with a guest on board who explains the mystery.  Mrs. Percy is a runaway ward of the King, who is trying to escape from her enemy, the ruthless Lord Carnal.
    When Percy refuses to submit to the King’s order to surrender his wife to the court favorite, troubles thicken rapidly, and finally the Percys are forced to flee from Jamestown.  At the moment of departure, their enemy falls in with them, and is forced to accompany them, much against both their wills and his own.  From this point the story takes a seafaring turn, as they weather storms, meet, and temporarily join, pirates, and finally are captured by an English ship and taken back to Jamestown.
    The future begins to look brighter, as Jocelyn Percy grows to not only respect, but love her husband, but when Indian troubles break out, all hope seems to be suddenly wiped away forever.  Captain Percy has been carried off, but returns to Jamestown at the critical moment, only to find that his wife has disappeared into the forest, filled with hostile Indians.  His despair is turned to joy when he finally finds her, safe and well, and the story ends with every prospect that they will live happily ever after.

My thoughts:

    To Have and To Hold is a classic romance novel, and as such focuses largely on the emotions of the characters.  It also paints in detail the evil passions of the anti-hero, Lord Carnal.  While romance, emotion, and “bad guys” are elements in most good stories, in this one they have been drawn out of proportion and leave the reader on an unrealistic emotional high.  Also, the moral tone of the story is not very high, as Captain Percy freely confesses, without much repentance, that he had been wild and sometimes cruel in his earlier years, and does not scruple to destroy life when it is necessary for the betterment of his party.
    Although it professes to be “A story of Jamestown”, it really teaches very little about the settlement, though some information may be picked up incidentally.
    Altogether, I think this is not a book a Christian should spend their time in reading.  (I was not aware of its nature when I listened to it, and had hoped to learn about Jamestown.)  There are so many good books to read; why spend time on unprofitable ones?

Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
Philippians 4:8

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