The story of the early days of The Salvation Army has been told many times over. Most often the account centres around the characters of William and Catherine Booth, often portraying them as more saintly and devoted than the Old Testament prophets, and occasionally as well-meaning eccentrics. Writers who seek to be more objective sometimes produce dry and lifeless chronologies of disconnected anecdotes or lists of dull facts.
In contrast, Charles Terrot weaves facts gathered from reliable sources such as Robert Sandall (official Salvation Army historian) and St John Irvine’s excellent two volume work into a captivating tale of two dedicated young Hallelujah Lasses.
Along the way we meet the fiery evangelist Elijah Cadman, calling himself “Captain” before the Christian Mission became an Army. His combination of fervent preaching with sound good sense draw Janine and Maud into a world of excitement and danger. There encounters with the Skeleton Army bring both tragedy and triumph. We also glimpse The Army’s early slum work in New York and their efforts to rescue young girls in London.
For the most part, both history and novel are skillfully recounted – with only an occasional clumsy conversation or overly long descriptive passage.
The story climaxes with an account of the famous Maiden Tribute case. Janine becomes involved in a bid to rescue some girls bound for houses of ill repute in Europe.
Whilst much of this episode is clearly based on historical facts, the rescue seemed at odds both with history and the novel itself.
Despite that minor criticism, the novel is both a good story and a helpful overview of the incredible growth an influence of William Booth’s Salvation Army. The book is long out of print. But if a copy come your way, make sure you read it.
(Check it out on Amazon)