I have been a fan of Jody Hedlund’s historical romances since her debut release back in 2010. But she particularly excels in this genre when she writes about or is inspired by actual historical figures. From her very first novel which was inspired by John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim’s Progress, to her faithful historical renderings based on American missionaries Marcus and Narcissa Whitman, founding father John Adams and wife Abigail, to her more recent depiction of Martin Luther and his bride Katharina, she never fails to paint a vivid and well researched picture of their lives. And now, with her recent release Newton and Polly she continues her streak of excellence.
Newton and Polly introduces us to a young John Newton, just as he himself is introduced to Polly Catlett, the woman who becomes the love of his life and who is also instrumental in his eventual salvation and transformation. For those who are unfamiliar with John Newton, he is the author of many hymns, including the famous Amazing Grace, as well as being an important figure in the fight to abolish slavery in Britain. Newton lived his younger years in rebellion to his father and in defiance of most authority and found himself involved in some despicable things, including the slave trade. He had no use for God until he met the reverent and innocent Polly. Even with her memory in the forefront of his mind, he still struggled to reconcile himself with a God who he felt was harsh and unloving.
This book follows Newton and Polly Catlett’s relationship from its’ inception through the challenges of multiple and sometimes lengthy separations, difference of belief, disapproving parents, her young age and his immaturity and lack of responsibility to its’ eventual resolution.
Hedlund’s careful research and inclusion of historical detail make their story come alive. It is as if I had traveled back in time and met these two personally, which is one of the reasons I adore this author’s books on historical figures. I also appreciate how Hedlund draws us into learning more about the supporting character (usually women) behind the more famous historical figure.
Many people have heard or are familiar with the name John Newton, but not nearly as many will have known the name Polly Catlett. And yet, Newton, as well as the other historical figures Hedlund writes about, would not be so well known without the absolute support and strength of the women/wives behind the well-known names. Particularly in John Newton’s life, without his love for Polly motivating him, we may never have heard his name.
I always recommend this author’s books, but if you are a history buff like me, you can trust Hedlund’s stories to remain as true as possible to the historical record and facts while still giving you a well-rounded fictionalized biography of someone you may have only met in history books.
I would also recommend the movie Amazing Grace, which tells how William Wilberforce with the help of John Newton fought a decades long battle in the British Parliament to abolish the slave trade which both found so abhorrent. It is inspiring and also will give you an additional perspective on Newton.