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

I’ve been fascinated with Gilbert Keith Chesterton for quite a while. But the most I’d known of him before now had been his memorable quotations. So when I signed up to review books through BookSneeze.com, I jumped at the chance to review Defiant Joy: The Remarkable Life & Impact of G.K. Chesterton by Kevin Belmonte.

Kevin does a good job of providing a high-level overview of GK Chesterton though a survey of his works. The book begins with a telescopic view of Chesterton’s family and early life and quickly moves into G.K.’s literary career.

Kevin uses the timeline of Chesterton’s life to introduce us to Chesterton’s work which he quotes from at length. And his contemporaries, which he also quotes from at length. Kevin also paints a compelling portrait of a devout Christian who thoughtfully and respectfully engaged some of Christianity’s most ardent critics like George Bernard Shaw and H.L. Mencken.

Kevin describes how Gilbert Keith Chesterton and George Bernard Shaw were at once close friends and bitter ideological opponents. We are given a glimpse of this complex relationship through Kevin’s liberal use of primary sources like letters between the two over the course of Chesterton’s life.

Kevin does a good job of introducing us to some of Chesterton’s more influential works. This is achieved, though, through copious use of block quotations which make the book a chore to read. By the end of the book I was inspired to read some of Chesterton’s works in full on my own, and felt as though I already had read much of them from the number and size of quotations Kevin uses. I was also inspired to find additional resources featuring Chesterton’s work, like the Orson Welles production of The Man Who Was Thursday.

Overall I wouldn’t consider this book to be the easiest in the world to read. Or the best when it comes to depth of research. At best it is a Frankenstein of other works. I’m not sure if I would recommend this book to anyone, even a Chesterton novice like myself.


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