Book Review: “Newton and Polly: A Novel of Amazing Grace”

I’m back! I took a short hiatus for the past month due to school and graduation. I am going to shift gears in my blog posts and focus on something new: book reviews.

The first book review I’m going to do is for a book called, “Newton and Polly: A Novel of Amazing Grace.” If you like Christian fiction novels as I do, you’ll really like this book.

The following synopsis and featured photo are taken from Goodreads.com:

“Now remembered as the author of the world s most famous hymn, in the mid-eighteenth century as England and France stand on the brink of war, John Newton is a young sailor wandering aimlessly through life. His only duty is to report to his ship and avoid disgracing his father until the night he hears Polly Catlett s enchanting voice, caroling. He s immediately smitten and determined to win her affection.
An intense connection quickly forms between the two, but John s reckless spirit and disregard for the Christian life are concerns for the responsible, devout Polly. When an ill-fated stop at a tavern leaves John imprisoned and bound, Polly must choose to either stand by his side or walk out of his life forever. Will she forfeit her future for the man she loves?
Step back through the pages of history, to uncover the true love story behind a song that continues to stir the hearts and ignite the faith of millions around the globe.”

I loved how this story was based on a real life event. Polly Catlett was my favorite character out of the whole story. All she wants out of life is to do what God has planned for her. She prays every night and attends church every Sunday with her family.

However, she sometimes gets led astray by her aunt, Susanna, who is a fierce abolitionist. Though her intentions are good, Susanna’s way of trying to help people isn’t always the best course of action. Quite a few times, she drags Polly down along with her.

John Newton, Polly’s love interest, ignores his posting to work on a ship in Jamaica and instead goes to the Catlett’s home after receiving an invitation from Polly’s mother.

John is a man who doesn’t believe in God and disregards the Christian way of life. He lost his mother, a devout Christian, when he was very young. Since then, he turned his back on God.

This proves to be very problematic for Polly as her feelings for John grow. They spend a lot of time together and have a few secluded moments with each other orchestrated by Susana. A few stolen kisses are the climax of these secluded moments. Nothing severely inappropriate happens between them.

There is some jealousy and animosity between John and Polly’s neighbor, Billy Baldock. Billy has loved Polly ever since they were little kids. However, Polly is clearly smitten with John.

Out of jealousy, Billy tells two soldiers who work for the Royal Navy that John is drinking away his troubles in a bar. The two soldiers come bursting in and haul all the men who look like they would be fit for the navy onto a ship. Their they are imprisoned and forced to work on the ship. When Polly learns of this, she rushes to see John and make sure he is alright. After this encounter, quite a bit of time passes before they see each other again.

Near Christmas time, John gets a pass for a one- day leave. However, he disregards the time limit and stays a week with Polly and her family. When Polly’s father learns of this, he tells John to leave. Her father has not been impressed with John’s behavior, and he wants a man to treat his daughter with respect. He feels that John does not possess the qualities worthy of courting and marrying his daughter.

The rest of the story continues over the next several years with Polly and John seeing each other on occasion. John moves from ship to ship because of his reckless behavior. Near the end of the novel, John is in Africa working as a slave trader.

One day, a ship comes ashore at the island where John is staying. Captain Swanwick knows John’s father says said that he will pay for John’s immediate release.

John, however, does not want to leave with the captain. He wants to keep working and selling the slaves, so he can earn more money and be worthy of Polly’s affection. After an interesting conversation, John decides to leave with the Swanwick that night.

They travel for a year in extremely rough waters to get back to England. That time on the see proves to be very life-changing for John. After many near death experiences, John comes to realize how much God has protected him over the years. He feels guilty about his actions over the course of his life. Throughout the year on the water, John comes to realize how much he needs God’s love and forgiveness. He is truly a changed man.

Meanwhile back in England, Polly has gone to stay with Susana and her husband while attending boarding school. When her time at school is over with, she comes home to live with her parents. Billy calls on Polly the day she arrives home and asks to officially court her. Though Polly still has her heart set on John, she agrees to give Billy’s request some consideration.

Meanwhile, John’s father, Captain Newton, visits the Catlett’s and asks Polly to wait for John to come home. This brings up Polly’s affection for John all over again.

However, Polly and John’s father have to wait and see if John makes it home alive.

In the end, John and the others make it back to Ireland and then proceed down towards England. John proves his worthiness to Polly and her family, and they get married.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It is an interesting story that inspired the infamous hymn, “Amazing Grace.”

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