All the Blue of Heaven
Date Published: February 8, 2013
Number of Pages: 244
Print Price: $
eBook Price: $2.99
Okay, before I get started here, let me begin by saying that I’ve never been a big fan of the “romance” genre; in fact, just giving a book that tag tends to prejudice me against it at the outset. Knowing this, you might be surprised to learn how very much I enjoyed reading Virginia Carmichael’s delightful novel All the Blue of Heaven, since it would certainly fall into the romance category. (To tell you the truth, it surprised me a bit, too!) This is a wholesome, refreshing, and satisfying book, and I’m glad I decided to give it a fair trial.
The story begins in 1906, just after the famous earthquake that devastated the city of San Francisco. Years earlier, beautiful young Alberta (“Allie”) Hathaway had fled to that West Coast artists’ haven from her Chicago-area home, in order to pursue her dream of becoming a painter.
A gal who is more modern-thinking than many of her late Victorian-era contemporaries, Allie is fiercely determined to use her God-given artistic talent to its best advantage. When she leaves home to head out to San Francisco, she goes against the wishes of her disapproving mother, who wants her to stay and secure a traditional future. She also leaves behind – and loses – her first love and true soul mate Thomas Bradford, her mother’s stable boy.
She manages to achieve much critical and financial success in the art world – and she does this during an era when a woman of her class was expected to eschew career aspirations, find a suitable husband (a gentleman, not a stable boy) to provide for her, settle down with him, and spend her days raising children.
This beautiful book is pro-feminist, but in the truest Christian interpretation of the term. It extols the idea that women are the equals of men, and as such deserve the right to vote, to make important decisions, and to pursue careers that interest them; but it also spotlights the nurturing side of women, an inborn trait that makes them uniquely qualified to be mothers. Allie Hathaway has never married and hasn’t given birth to babies of her own; but when she becomes the legal guardian of her orphaned niece, Janey, she truly grows a mother’s heart.
I don’t want to give away the ending, so I’ll just wrap this up by saying that All the Blue of Heaven is like a breath of fresh air. This touching novel is a romance in the best possible sense: Carmichael exposes the feelings of love and passion between her two well-developed main characters in a way that rings true, but without resorting to blush-inducing scenes of physical intimacy that are inappropriate for a reader of any age. Although this is not a Catholic novel, it is profoundly Christian, and the virtues and morals taught by the Catholic Church are quietly promoted throughout the story.
Carmichael’s writing style is very attractive, her plot is compelling, and her character development (even when it comes to the minor players) is excellent. If it had been more carefully copy-edited and formatted, All the Blue of Heaven would be a top-notch work of fiction; however, there are typos and errors throughout the book, and I found them somewhat distracting.
Even so, when I read it I couldn’t wait to see what happened next, and I couldn’t help but root for the likable heroine and her dashing hero to end up together. Despite the scattered instances of sub-par editing, in my opinion this is a book that deserves an audience. I am happy to recommend it to CatholicFiction.net readers.
Postscript: During some recent correspondence with Virginia Carmichael, in which I expressed my concerns about the book’s editing, I learned that the author was already aware of the problem. In fact, All the Blue of Heaven is currently in the process of being professionally re-edited and re-formatted, and I am pleased to report that a new and improved edition of the book will be available in the near future. Be on the look-out for it!
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Original Language: English
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