Class, Privilege, and Courage in If I Were You: Author Lynn Austin on her new novel

May 29, 2020


Lynn Austin’s new novel If I Were You tells the story of two young women who come of age during World War II. Later, the secrets they carry will push their friendship to the breaking point. Read on to see what Lynn shared about why she writes Christian fiction, the story that inspired the novel, and more.

Books have been part of my life for as long as I can remember, beginning with bedtime stories when I was a child. My mother was the town librarian in the village where I grew up, so it’s not an exaggeration to say I was raised in a library. Over the years, I helped with everything from processing books to reading aloud for story hour, and I developed a deep appreciation for all sorts of books. In addition, my grandmother was a natural-born storyteller whose tales kept my sisters and me spellbound for hours on warm summer evenings.

I loved to read, but after a while it seemed like so many well-written books offered very little hope. Too many themes seemed to be “Life is hard and then you die.” I agree that life is hard—but God is good! So I sat down one day 35 years ago (I was a stay-at-home mom with a new baby at the time) and decided to write the kind of book I enjoyed reading—one that makes me laugh, makes me cry, and helps me learn something about myself and my life.

I write historical fiction because I love history, especially the little-known stories of ordinary people. For me, reading about the past and how people like me lived lives of courage in difficult times helps me live a life of faith and grace with God’s help. When we travel back in history through novels, I think it’s easier to see how God used tragic events as part of His redemption story. And that gives us faith to believe that He is still working now and that our lives can play a part in His story today.

The idea for If I Were You began with a true story someone told me about a British war bride who came to America after WWII—only to learn that her husband had died in a tragic accident. Should she stay? Return to London? As I began researching the time period, I discovered how much the war changed roles and expectations for women in Britain, dissolving class differences. I’m a huge fan of the TV series Downton Abbey, so I decided to create two women—Audrey, a wealthy aristocrat, and Eve, her servant—and explore the ways the war and the “invasion” of American soldiers before D-Day changed their lives.

Audrey Clarkson is raised with wealth and privilege—which seems enviable except that she’s confined to a life of narrowly defined roles and is expected to marry within her class, not for love. Eve Dawson is born into the working class as a servant, with very little hope of ever bettering herself—or marrying the upper-class man she loves. But when the war begins, the women enlist in the Army together and drive ambulances in war-ravaged London. Their courage and faith are challenged in ways they’d never imagined. Adversity—in this case a devastating war—can sometimes help us figure out who we are and what our purpose in life might be. God has a purpose for each of us, and once we find the courage to break free from the expectations of family and society—and our own fears—we can live the life we were meant to live.

I hope that by reading this story of ordinary women who persevered through extraordinary circumstances, my readers will be encouraged to face their own challenges with courage and faith.

Post adapted from a Q&A with Lynn Austin.

Visit the If I Were You by Lynn Austin novel website to learn more about this new historical fiction novel