Trippey, Ruth. The Soul of the Rose. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press. 2013.
Set in the 1870s, Celia Thatcher is sent by her parents to work in a bookstore while mourning her friend’s death. While staying with a wonderful couple, Celia soon makes friends in the community which benefits her love of flowers, books and the arts. Celia also gains the attention of two suitors: the secluded, unsociable Mr. Edward Lyons and the captivating Harvard law student, Charles Harrod. Through some deep conversations and debates, Celia is able to stay true to her beliefs while selecting her future husband.
A PENNY FOR MY THOUGHTS:
Reminiscent of “The Beauty and the Beast”, this book was an insightful read. Though difficult to follow in places (perhaps due to the dialogue style), I found the underlying premise to be of value and interest. My attention did seem to wander during the reading of this book but I did find myself wanting to finish it (to see how Celia fared). The title of the novel was interwoven throughout the plot of the story which I found to be compelling. (Literary enthusiasts would probably truly appreciate this novel.)
3.5 (out of 5) pennies
Interview Questions for Ruth Trippy:
Every book starts with an author and every author has a story of their own. Tell about yourself and how you became a writer.
Growing up, I wanted to teach, never thought to write. However, in my 30’s I experienced a tremendous restlessness and started praying daily for God to show me what to do. Then I reread a treasured historical romance, St. Elmo by Augusta Evans, and was so moved, so encouraged, particularly in my difficult marriage, that I suddenly knew the answer. I thought: if I can write to give others the kind of hope this novel gave me, my prayer has been answered.
Readers might see a connection between your book and Jane Eyre. Was this connection intentional? Why did you decide to include elements of classic literature in your story?
I taught American and British literature so this was a natural focus for my characters who love literature. The connection with Jane Eyre: I loved that novel, but didn’t set about purposely to include it in my book. Yet, it ran deep in my consciousness, so pushed its way into my story. Both Mr. Rochester and Edward are wounded heroes. When Mrs. Harrod, the lawyers’ wife, presents her son Charles’s gift of the novel to Celia and recognizes the resemblance, well, I just had to go along with her! This is what writers mean by characters taking on a life of their own. It’s as if they direct the story.
You use the imagery of a rose throughout the narrative. Where did this idea come from? How do you want readers to interpret this?
I love flowers, the rose being my favorite. The rose is Celia, and not only is she the rose that “gets into a man’s blood,” but she is the rose outside Edward’s prison walls, representing loveliness and hope. And, she is that soul (of the title) who needs to decide what she will choose: the forbidden love that pulls at her or her deep faith in God.
Your book touches on some pretty big topics of religion and philosophy, including Unitarianism and Transcendentalism. What’s the secret to writing a book that accurately represents the societal discussions of a specific historical time but keeping it engaging and inspiring at the same time?
To keep deep topics engaging to the reader, I believe these topics must be important to the protagonists, to their future happiness. Their very different beliefs are at the core of who they are, so cannot be easily put aside: Edward, as a Boston Brahmin, was Unitarian; Charles, a Harvard law student, was sympathetic to Transcendentalism; Celia, daughter of a scholarly minister, believed in Biblical Christianity. Will these characters change as the result of their discussions? This will determine the outcome of their love, their passion for each other.
Celia is starting life afresh after the tragic death of a close friend. Why did you choose to present a character just after a life-changing event? Is there a message or word of advice here for the reader?
After this trauma, Celia is having to “find her way,” which many of us do after experiencing something tragic. But if we can learn from it, grow from it, so that we can then help others—like Celia did when she counseled Edward to forgive Mrs. Divers and to forgive quickly—then we find purpose in the trauma.
Celia is a forgiving character. Forgiveness is a very spiritual concept. What other faith-based ideas run through your book?
One in particular comes to mind: Can we trust God when our situation is difficult? And then to take it a step further: Are we willing to make the right choice when it is a hard one? Celia knew she could not be obedient to God and marry an unbeliever. She could not honor and love—both God and her lover. A difficult choice had to be made.
Is there a certain Bible passage or verse that goes along with the message of The Soul of the Rose?
An important message of the book centers around that of a tender, hard-won love. This is a picture of the way Christ loves us. “I am my beloved’s…” (The Song of Solomon 7:10). The characters and their love story is a metaphor of the love between Christ and His bride the church.
Many authors write characters inspired by people they know. Are your characters based on specific people in your life?
Some of my characters are composites of people I know, like Celia’s father: a composite of my grandfather and a former minister, or they might be completely fictional, like Mrs. Adams. One character, the mischievous Loydie in the story, was
based on a childhood nemesis of mine.
Who is your favorite character and why?
I love Celia and the Chestleys, but I will choose Edward. After I read George Howe Colt’s non-fiction The Big House and saw how this Boston Brahmin family portrayed one branch of my family, it both warmed my heart and gave me an immediate understanding of Edward. I loved the workings of Edward’s mind, his athleticism and how he grew in his love.
You’ve written history, literature, and romance all in one book. What is the main theme you want readers to take away from The Soul of the Rose?
There are many take-a-ways from this book. The main one, for me, is that God is preeminent. When it comes right down to it, this is what Celia faces when she is confronted with the difficult decision of what to do with a lover who doesn’t know her God—and doesn’t care to.
What’s next for you? Where can our audience find out more about Ruth Trippy?
I am writing another historical romance set in 1870’s Connecticut which then moves onto NYC and St. Louis. Everyone is invited to visit my website: http://www.ruthtrippy.com. The Contact Page has my email and FB. I would enjoy hearing from readers!
*I received a complimentary copy of The Soul of the Rose from Abingdon Press for my honest review*