Book Review: The Betrayal

“The Betrayal: A Novel on John Calvin” by Douglas Bond

Murder, corruption, political intrigue… this is the stuff of blockbuster movies and top-selling novels today, but it was reality for those living in Europe during the turbulent 16th-century Protestant reformation. It is a fascinating time to study — not to mention an important part of our Christian heritage — but often comes across as dry and unappealing in the history books and traditional biographies. Thankfully, Douglas Bond has brought this period to life in this novel, which shows us just how exciting history can be!

The Betrayal is a historical novel which follows the life of the French theologian and pastor, Jean Cauvin — whom we have come to know as John Calvin. The story is told from the perspective of a fictional character who, though a lifelong rival, has a life intertwined with Calvin’s right up until his death. Though the character and some of the dialogue are fictional, the events chronicled are historical events, and Calvin’s words in the novel are taken straight from his letters, books, and sermons. The author even references Calvin’s writings in an appendix titled “For Further Reading”, so that we can be sure that the conversations that take place in the book are representative of what Calvin actually believed and taught at various stages of his ministry.

Without going into too much detail about the plot (I don’t want to ruin it for you!), I can tell you that this is a gripping story that never feels bogged down in details. I was engaged from very beginning, and my attention was held to the final page! John Calvin and the other historical figures are portrayed accurately as great but flawed men who were used mightily by God to advance the cause of the pure doctrines of Jesus Christ in the face of resistance from every side.

Having read several biographies and writings of John Calvin, as well as books on church history, there was nothing in this novel that was totally “new” to me. However, doctrines and dates that had previously been confined to the realm of intellectual knowledge came to life in a way that was totally new, something I didn’t really expect from a novel. It was a pleasant surprise!

To those who have read Calvin before: I believe this book will have the same effect on you. To those who are turned off by history books and biographies: This book will serve as a great introduction to a man and a time period that you should know about. Do I personally prefer it to a well-written traditionaly biography? No, but I still give it a very high recommendation. Buy it here.

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