“Defiant Joy” is a biography of G. K. Chesterton by Kevin Belmonte. Chesterton was an English writer, philosopher, lay theologian, and literary and art critic that wrote primarily in the early 1900s. Blessed with a sharp wit, he created the fictional priest-detective Father Brown, a very popular series in its time, wrote the definite biography of Charles Dickens and most famously wrote on apologetics, among other subjects. Chesterton converted to Catholicism but was and still is an influence on many Protestants as well. In fact, Chesterton’s “The Everlasting Man” contributed to C. S. Lewis’s conversion to Christianity and he thought it the “best popular defense of the full Christian position”. Chesterton was considered a master of the paradox, and he was difficult to best in a debate.
Chesterton was a man with firm convictions who did not mind criticizing others views while, most of the time, being able to maintain good relations with those he disagreed. Belmonte depicts Chesterton’s friendships with men like George Bernard Shaw and H.G. Wells who were philosophically and ideologically opposed to Chesterton’s insistence on the validity of the Christian worldview, yet there was a genuine affection between them.
Belmonte does not present a traditional biography, although the book loosely covers his life in chronological order. The book is more a literary critique of his writings following key points in his life and publishing career. It is an excellent introduction to Chesterton’s writings but all of the detail does tend to make the book drag at places including quoting long passages of reviews of his works. Those wanting to be introduced to his works will be pleased with this approach; those wanting a more in-depth biography with more details on Chesterton’s life can look elsewhere. Defiant Joy provides a great reference source for the works of one of the most original minds of modern times as well as an overview of the life of one of the great writers of the 20th Century.