Thursday, January 14, 2016

Review: Julie

Catherine Marshall


By Catherine Marshall
Avon, July 2006

About the Book

Julie Wallace is just eighteen in 1934 when her father risks their life savings on a struggling newspaper and moves the family to a flood-prone Pennsylvania town. It is here a young woman’s convictions take firm root, as Julie finds herself taking sides when battle lines are drawn between desperate steelworkers and the mill owners who control their lives.

And it is here where her heart and her loyalties are torn, divided between two special men. But when a devastating natural catastrophe becomes the ultimate test of courage and commitment, Julie's remarkable inner strength will come to the fore—a strength born of faith and love.

My Review

I’ve read Catherine Marshall’s Christy many times, but, this was my first time reading her last novel, Julie.

On the surface, Julie reminded me very much of North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell, one of my favorite books. Julie’s family is on the move because the father has left the ministry. The family has mixed feelings about the move, and there is a certain amount of uncertainty about the future.

The town where they move is a mill town. The lower-class workers are most upset about working conditions and are contemplating striking. Julie becomes interested in their cause, and enjoys talking with workers now and then. She’s not afraid to speak up for the lower classes and make a few enemies.

So what is the story about? Julie is in some ways a novel about social class. These were just a few similarities that came to mind. But there are plenty of things that make Julie unique. Julie is the oldest of three children. She has a younger brother, Tim, and a younger sister, Anne-Marie. Their father has just bought the local newspaper. Buying the paper has taken all their resources—if the paper doesn’t make it, then the family loses everything. Oh, and I should mention the book is set in Pennsylvania during the Great Depression. So there are no guarantees that the newspaper can survive the hard times. They’ve got barely enough to run the paper and manage their living expenses. They didn’t budget for emergencies. Fortunately, the family seems to have a guardian angel who looks out for them and the paper. The guardian angel is named Dean.

Julie’s in high school. She volunteers at the paper when she’s not busy in school. She wants to be a journalist, so she doesn’t really mind all that much. She makes a few good friends. There are several guys interested in Julie, but she seems much more interested in an older man, an English man, named Rand. These two don’t always get along, however. Julie likes to ask too many questions, and some of the questions make him uncomfortable. For one, she becomes fascinated with the dam. Is it safe? Is it dangerous? Does it need repairs? How many? Are any of them major repairs? When will they be done? Why is talk about the dam discouraged?

Julie’s questions are catching. Soon her father is asking questions as well, which, in addition to their views on unions, makes the family some enemies . . .

I definitely found Julie a compelling and dramatic read. I’m glad I finally read it!

Becky Laney

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