If you expect A. J. Cronin’s Three Loves to be one of his typical heartwarming tales of a dedicated doctor, you are in for a shock.
Around the turn of the twentieth century, Lucy Murray married Frank Moore, an easy-going commercial traveler, whom she loves as much for what she thinks she can mold him into as for what he is. She’s willing to do anything for Frank except let Frank decide what he wants done.
Frank’s death in a boating accident for which Lucy was really responsible leaves her to raise their son, Peter, alone. She’s willing to accept any hardship to see that Peter becomes a doctor.
Lucy wrangles her way into Frank’s old job, and does it better than he. When the firm is sold, she is forced to take the only job available: collecting rent in the slums.
Peter gets his degree, but marries a rich girl whose father made his fortune renting the slum dwellings where Lucy collected rents. Lucy’s fortunes sink lower.
She wanders into a church where she falls in love with Jesus and decides to enter holy orders. Instead of the ecstatic spiritual union she seeks, she finds debilitating emotional and physical deprivation.
Lucy’s personality mingles resourcefulness, perseverance, and loyalty with a selfish passion for control, which she calls love. Having established her essential characteristics, Cronin turns her loose and watches what happens.
The novel is uneven. It would be stronger without plot elements Cronin introduces only to drop them again. But despite its flaws, Three Loves is a compelling portrait that readers won’t soon forget.Three Loves A. J. Cronin Little, Brown, 1932 Pyramid Books, 1960 1932 Bestseller #10
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