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Friday, February 4, 2011

Defiant Joy: The Remarkable Life & Impact of G.K. Chesterton by Kevin Belmonte



A great introduction to a terrifically important writer

For most people, including this reviewer, C.S. Lewis was the gateway to G.K. Chesterton. Lewis, of course, is famous for being THE Christian apologist for his generation - a man who did not believe but then, after his conversion, was able to voice the thoughts and beliefs for millions with such landmark books as Mere Christianity. When I found out that it was the writings of G.K. Chesterton that helped to convert Lewis I had to start to looking into Chesterton (fortunately I have a Kindle - they have more than 2 dozen Chesterton books and essays for free, so I was able to get my feet wet in the ocean of writing that Chesterton produced without any worries).

That being said, I am a relative newbie to Chesterton so this biography was a welcome addition to my on again off again studies of the man.

Rather than give a blow by blow book report of this biography, I'll outline its general strengths and weaknesses.

Strengths:

-Good coverage of Chesterton's early life, including his early education. Like so many geniuses, he was indifferent to his studies and gave little indication that he would be celebrated throughout the English-speaking world for his written works.

-The book is fantastic at covering his intellectual life. All of his most important works are covered - the biggest ones with individual chapters. His relationships with other authors are discussed throughout the book. We learn about his prolific books, his play, his novels, his literary criticisms and his essays. Sadly, almost nothing is mentioned about his columns and work with newspapers and magazines.


G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936)
-Belmonte makes extensive use of quotes. He often lets Chesterton speak for himself and that is a good thing because Chesterton is extremely well-spoken.

-Chesterton's larger than life personality, good humor and charm are discussed throughout the book. Belmonte does a good job of using quotations from other sources, such as fellow authors or newspaper interviews to tell us about him.

Weaknesses:

-Blemonte tells us almost nothing about Chesterton's personal life after Chesterton's becomes a successful author. The focus shifts to his writing and its impact and only rarely shifts back. I can only think of four times: when he became gravely ill, when his brother died in World War I, his trip to the United States and his death. I would have appreciated more about Chesterton the man in this biography.

To sum up, Belmonte's biography of Chesterton gave this beginning Chesterton scholar a better foundation to build upon. Solidly done.

Due to some crazy federal regulation, I am required to inform all readers that I received this biography free of charge from Thomas Nelson's BookSneeze program. However, the thoughts and opinions expressed above are my actual thoughts and opinions because I tell it to you straight.
I rate this biography 4 stars out of 5.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here: Defiant Joy: The Remarkable Life & Impact of G.K. Chesterton by Kevin Belmonte.

Reviewed on February 4, 2011.

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