Ever heard of Polly Catlett? Yeah, I hadn’t either.
In fact, most people wouldn’t have taken a second glance. She was the daughter of a shipping clerk—one of the few that refused to turn a blind eye to the smuggling in his district, which ended up costing her the education she longed for. She was the type who would just go out caroling with her aunt. Ordinary. Normal.
Until that caroling venture turned out to be a plot to help slaves escape. Until she was sent into the forest to hide from the officials.
And until she met John Newton.
The HISTORY. *drowns in history* It was woven in so excellently. I can only imagine how hard it was to write a story where historical figures were the main characters. I have a hard enough time when I just bring them in for a handful of scenes. (Did I portray them right? What if my facts are wrong? What if one of their great-great-great-great grandchildren sees it and is offended?)
Even though Newton made some REALLY poor decisions sometimes (sometimes the same one over and over again) and I was mentally shaking him to see if that would help put some sense in his head, the author still managed to make me relate to him and see where he was coming from. Partway through, I was like “Wait a second. This is the same stupid decision he made back at the beginning. Why do I almost think this is a good idea?” When he was impressed and later deserted, even though I was screaming “NO! THAT’S A TERRIBLE IDEA!” I also understood his anger. (And admittedly was kind of thinking “Take that you kidnappers!”)
His relationship with his father was very interesting—how it didn’t excuse that his father maybe didn’t give him the type of love he needed, how Newton tried to constantly measure up to him before giving up entirely, and their journey to understanding each other.
Really, Newton’s journey was the best thing about this book. I started out shaking my head, then I related to him, and then he became kind of evil. And I got dragged along for the ride. Even though I had a faint idea of where it was going to end up, I still kept turning pages just to be sure.
While I don’t feel like I got as deeply into Polly’s point of view as Newton’s, I still loved her conflict of trying to earn favor from those around her and even from God. It was a very interesting journey and drew me in as well.
There are a handful of mentions of what the slave trade was like. While this was not really a negative part—it was necessary to the story—and while it was very tactfully done, it’s pretty intense stuff.
Speaking of which, the romance in the book was pretty intense at times as well. I feel like there were good boundaries in place and that it didn’t go too far, but if that’s not your cup of tea when it comes to books you might want to rethink this one.
We sing Amazing Grace all the time. And Newton and Polly is a brilliant book to learn more of the story behind that song . . . and one ordinary girl’s role in it all.
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Hi there! Rachel again. Check out this section for book reviews and cover reveals of some of my favorites!