Just Where You Stand

Written by Sandra Marie Lewis
Review by Richard Tearle

A novel that covers three generations of an ordinary lower class family living in Berkshire, England. The story is mainly concerned with Lenore Argyle, her son George and his daughter Gertrude. Shy and awkward, Lenore never expects to marry but does so, to John Argyle, an agricultural labourer. They have many children, but John mistreats her whenever he has had a drink. Years of a humble yet typical existence go by, and on her deathbed, Lenore confesses to George that she is unworthy of going to heaven. Puzzled, he becomes obsessed with finding a religion that will redeem his mother, as he believes that their Baptist upbringing has not done so. George has, by now, married Ellen and one of their children, Gertrude, grows up and marries Jack.

George feels that the new Russellites have the answers he is looking for and throws himself into the religion to the exclusion of most other things. They all move to Canada, and George also encourages Jack who embraces the new faith just as eagerly.

For the most part, this is well-written, the characterisation is good, and the life of a poor person in rural Berkshire is accurate. Unfortunately, there are a couple of issues that should have been picked up during the editing process: one is that on a couple of occasions towards the end the focus switches from third person to first – once in mid-chapter. The other slightly spoiled the authenticity of the narrative: one does not buy ‘candy’ from a ‘candy store’ in early 20th-century Berkshire, England. There were one or two other errors, so I would suggest a good re-edit. The intriguing cover – a minor detail – does not convey a 19th-century feel or express what the novel is about. But full marks to the author for not make judgement on any one religion, and successfully managing to write a family-based story that centres around religion while not being a religious novel.