I’m excited to share my review of Newton and Polly by Jody Hedlund with you today! I received a complementary copy from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.
A description of the book from the publisher:
Acclaimed novelist Jody Hedlund brings the real story of “Amazing Grace” to page in a thrilling tale of the love story of John Newton and Polly Catlett.
John Newton fell in love with Polly Catlett at first sight. But Polly was unable to return the affections of the rebellious, worldly young man and her father ordered the aimless John away from her. Not long after, John was pressed into serving in the Navy. He saw Polly one last time before leaving England but Polly couldn’t promise any future to him.
After four years away, John is called back to England on family matters. But John was heavily, blindly involved in the slave trade and had no desire to return. John Sr. used his son’s undying love for Polly to lure him home. On that treacherous voyage back to England, in the midst of a terrible storm, John finally experienced salvation and began moving towards, eventually, crusading against slavery. Back at home, John must work hard to convince wise-beyond-her-years Polly Catlett that he is a changed man and worthy of her.
As usual, my five point review:
- This story–this true love story–is incredible. I couldn’t put it down! As you can tell if you’ve read the description above, this is a love story between John Newton (the author of the hymn “Amazing Grace” and his (eventual) wife, Polly. As I’ve said time and time again, Christian fiction is very, very, VERY hit or miss with me. I’m so picky about what I like and what I don’t. This isn’t a love story of the cheesy, “Jesus brought us together” coincidental variety… but rather one that is realistic, involved family/work/religion/faith conflicts, and one that ACTUALLY happened. I know we all think our love stories are pretty cool (and they are) but this one is phenomenal. It is a story that needs to be told, so I’m glad Jody did!
- What made this story so powerful was the author’s thorough research and commitment to keeping the story true to the historical events of the time, even though it is fiction. This made for some uncomfortable scenes (not inappropriate, but tough to read/think about) relating to the slave trade, male-female interactions, etc. These scenes, as far as I know from my own reading and history background, seem very true to the era. Anyone interested in life in the 1700s, the slave trade, or the crusade against slavery would enjoy this book for just these reasons. The love story would just be a bonus. 🙂
- I loved all the emotion in this novel. You could feel Polly’s change of heart towards John over time… from their early moments to the tough middle and to the wonderful ending. The author did such a great job with Polly’s character! It’s like she’s your friend (or yourself). Absolutely lovely!
- At the same time, Jody Hedlund did an amazing job capturing John Newton. At the beginning of the story, he was only seventeen and rather aimless. It was a different time period and his freedoms were different then as opposed to most seventeen year olds now. The author’s portrayal of John in good times and bad–experiencing pain, tragedy, joy, heartache, and more–was so rich! Before reading this novel, I only had a cursory understanding of the background of the man who wrote “Amazing Grace.” But now, the words of his hymn make SO MUCH SENSE.
- All in all, this book is wonderful. You’ll want to savor it, you’ll want to rush through it to see how it ends (even though some of that is spoiled for you in this review… they do get together! Haha!)… but in this case, the joy is in the journey. And grace is captured so, so well. Read this book! You won’t regret it.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books. However, I was not required to write a positive review. The thoughts expressed above are entirely my own. Thanks to for the chance to read this great book!