I have been a fan of G.K. Chesterton ever since I picked up a copy of Orthodoxy while I was in college. Since then, I’ve read several books by or about him, including The Man Who Was Thursday, The Everlasting Man, St. Thomas Aquinas, Francis of Assisi, The Napoleon of Notting Hill, Joseph Pearce’s biography Wisdom and Innocence, Garry Wills’s literary study, and several of the Father Brown stories.
It was with excitement and a little trepidation, then, that I picked up Kevin Belmonte’s book Defiant Joy: The Remarkable Life & Impact of G.K. Chesterton. “After all,” I thought, “What can be said about Chesterton that hasn’t already been said?
The answer I got from this book was: not much. But that isn’t a criticism of the book. The book is intended as an invitation to Chesterton, not an exhaustive biography. If the reader keeps that aim in mind, this book will not disappoint. Belmonte devotes chapters to several of Chesterton’s most famous works (the ones mentioned above, plus several others), quoting extensively from the works themselves as well as reviews. Belmonte seems particularly interested to show how Chesterton was received in the United States, as he quotes from several reviews run by the New York Times.
Belmonte does a good, if unspectacular, job in this overview of and invitation to Chesterton. He makes the case that Chesterton has something to say to our own age of confusion and incivility, not just his own. If this book encourages more people to read Chesterton, Belmonte will have accomplished his task. Personally, I hope that he succeeds beyond his wildest imagination.
Note: Thanks to Thomas Nelson for a review copy. I was not asked to give a positive review.