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The Betrayal: A Novel on John Calvin Paperback – June 1, 2009
100 (Fiction) Books to Read in a Lifetime
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"Anything Doug Bond writes is, almost now by definition, a fascinating read. But to have his skills attached to the life of John Calvin is a double treat." --Joel Belz, founder, WORLD magazine
"If you enjoy reading the fictional works of C. S. Lewis, you will love this book." --Burk Parsons, editor, Tabletalk magazine
"An exciting read, almost effortlessly and implicitly undoing caricatures about Calvin along the way . . . Calvin and his times brought to life in a page-turner!" --Joel R. Beeke, president, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary
About the Author
Douglas Bond, author of nearly twenty books for young people and adults, lives
with his wife and six children in Washington State. He is a ruling elder in the
Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), teaches English and history at Covenant
High School, and was awarded the regional Teacher Award for teaching young
people how to write. He lectures on literature and church history and leads study tours in Europe.
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Top Customer Reviews
The Betrayal, published by P&R Publishing, comes from the pen of Douglas Bond who has written several historical fiction novels in the past. In this new book, he writes from the perspective of a lifelong sworn enemy of Calvin--a boy who grows up in the same town and who, as a man, remains involved with Calvin's life to the very end. As the publisher says, "This fast-paced biographical novel is a tale of envy that escalates to violent intrigue and shameless betrayal." I hesitate to say too much about the plot lest I inadvertently ruin it for those who would like to read the book. Perhaps there is value, then, in simply sharing a few of the endorsements for it.
Burk Parsons, editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, Doxology says, "With masterful insight, Douglas Bond offers us an illuminating portrait of the life, ministry, and theology of John Calvin. For readers of all ages, this well-researched, historical fiction takes us back to the sixteenth-century Reformation as if we were eye-witnesses of all that God accomplished in and through the life of His humble servant John Calvin. If you enjoy reading the fictional works of C. S. Lewis, you will love this book."
Joel Beeke, who has written several books on Calvin and Calvinism writes, "Douglas Bond introduces John Calvin to us in a gripping way, colorfully taking us back to Geneva and its times, unveiling Calvin as the principled man of action, commitment, and love that he was. The Betrayal makes for an exciting read, showing the great Reformer's heart for theology, piety, and doxology, while almost effortlessly and implicitly undoing caricatures about Calvin along the way. If you want Calvin and his times brought to life in a page-turner, this is the book for you!"
And David Hall, who heads up Calvin500, writes "Douglas Bond's latest novel introduces many to a prejudicially ignored character: John Calvin. This historical fiction brings Calvin back from an unwarranted oblivion. Thanks to Bond's vivid writing style and thorough acquaintance with the period, readers now have a looking glass into the life and history of a great man. I am pleased to commend this fine book to readers, especially those who will meet Calvin in these pages just in time for the 500th anniversary of his birth."
As for me, well, I'll be honest and say that I read fiction only on rare occasions and my preference would always be to read a standard biography over a historical novel. However, I do know that a lot of readers prefer fiction and for these people, I think The Betrayal will be a great way of getting a useful overview of Calvin's life. I was sometimes amazed at just how much of Calvin's life is present in this book but never in such a way that the novel becomes bogged down in irrelevant details. Bond has done a great job of integrating reality with fiction so the reader will hardly know when one begins and the other ends.
If you are a fan of novels or of historical fiction, and if you are anxious to learn a little bit about John Calvin, this man who is so fondly remembered even five hundred years after his birth, you cannot go far wrong in reading The Betrayal.
The writing in this book is a strange mixture of Les Miserable and Frankenstein. And much like those two books, it's hard to get involved with the characters until you are thoroughly soaked in the action of the story rather than the characters themselves.
I am not a historical fiction fan. I am a character-driven novel fan. It's the characters that I care about: not the plot or even the events. This is an event driven novel. One that centers around the places and actions, rather than the characters themselves. Consequently, I was dragging though the boring details that were trying to set the scene, while the characters remained flat and lifeless. I did not care about them, so I could hardly care about what happened to them.
What I liked: The author did an beautiful job of transcribing and detailing the words of Calvin, himself, and making his genius shine through.
What I didn't like: too much boring detail with scene setting, and at times the novel was jarring in its pov switches.
Overall, It is a pretty good novel, but I still don't know that I would describe it as fast-paced or gripping. I recieved a copy of this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
In a lot of ways, this book doesn't know if it wants to be a novel or a theology manual. Bond undertook a difficult task in trying to novelize Calvin's life, as he is a man remembered not primarily remembered for some heroic deed, but rather for what he said and thought. Unlike figures such as Churchill, Washington or Patton who are remembered as great statesmen or military generals, Calvin's main impact on history was through his Institutes of the Christian Religion.
As a theology book, The Betrayal does serve to give the reader a broad overview of the issues surrounding the Reformation. The first half of the book spends a great deal of time illuminating the spiritual darkness and corruption that gripped the Roman Catholic Church. Bond chooses three doctrinal distinctives of the reformation (the sufficiency of Scripture, the sacraments, and predestination/free-will) and deeply explores Calvin's thoughts of the matter. Most of the words spoken by Calvin in the novel are drawn from his writing in the Institutes.
As a novel, this book is difficult to adjust to stylistically. Since most of Calvin's lines are drawn from the Institutes, the remainder of the book is written in rather formal language to match the tenor of Calvin's other words. For an uneducated servant, Jean-Louise seems to have a rather large vocabulary! The book is written as a deathbed confession, making everything past-tense. This serves to put some distance between the reader and the story. While I had a difficult time with the first half of the book, the book picks up speed once Calvin is betrayed.
Bond's book both succeeds and fails. Don't pick it up expecting a gripping novel set in the religious-political turmoil of 16th century France. The book moves slowly and is full of detailed theological arguments. However, that doesn't make it a book not worth reading. If you're looking for a broad overview of Calvin and the issues facing him and other leaders of the Reformation, this is probably the book for you.
Nate Brooks <[...]>