Sunday, 27 February 2011
Defiant Joy by Kevin Belmonte - a review
Thomas Nelson, 2010
336 pp; £10.99; pbk
Gilbert Chesterton (1874-1936) is a multi-faceted character. He is a detective writer, a biographer, an apologist, a poet, a cultural critic among many other things. He has been called an 'apostle of common sense' (Dale Ahlquist), 'a theologian' (Aidan Nichols) and 'a prophet for the twentieth century' (Aidan Mackey). Numerous biographies have been written about him. So why the interest in him and why another biography? Particularly as a major biography is soon to be released in 2011 by Ian Ker published by OUP.
What makes this book by Belmonte, stand out? This is not a biography in the normal sense of the word - its first chapters are biographical covering the period form his birth through his 'dark night of the soul' while at the Slade school of Art, his marriage to Frances Blogg and his career as a journalist and writer (chapters 1-4). The rest of the book looks at Chesterton's key work in chronological order and uses them to look at the man and, as the subtitle suggests, his impact. Thus it provides an interesting slant on a biography and we get a fuller look at Chesterton's work than we would in a traditional biography.
Belmonte makes good use of secondary sources - he utilises at least ten other biographies. He also draws upon contemporary reviews and criticisms of Chesterton's work; this serves well to place Chesterton's work in its cultural milieu. It is fascinating to read what H L Mencken, G B Shaw and T S Elliott made of Chesterton.
There is a helpful timeline and bibliography, there are 29 pages of notes, but, unfortunately, no index.
This is a great starting book for those who want to get to know better the life and works of G K Chesterton.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”