Impossible Saints

Written by Clarissa Harwood
Review by Jeanne Greene

England, 1907. As the women’s suffrage movement grows more militant, public opinion on women’s rights becomes sharply divided. Wherever the issues are debated, people take sides silently or, like Lilia Brooke and Paul Harris, outspokenly. Although they left the same village for London, they have little else in common. Lilia, once a country schoolteacher, is a passionate advocate for women’s rights. Paul is an ambitious Anglican priest; he envisions a compliant wife to help advance his career. Paul and Lilia see each other regularly (supposedly to please Lilia’s mother), but whenever they meet, their conversations inevitably turn into disputes, each taking the opposite position. While Lilia is defending her opinions, however, Paul slowly falls in love with her and begins to reexamine his personal goals. Must he sacrifice his principles to win Lilia’s love? Or is compromise possible? Does he want an old-fashioned wife or an equal partner?

Paul’s willingness to listen leads to a fragile understanding, which Lilia almost destroys. This frustrating but tender romance, teetering between hope and despair, doubtless represents many relationships challenged by change. The story is best for readers interested in women’s rights and the British suffrage movement.