When I chose to review Defiant Joy The Remarkable Life and Impact of G.K. Chesterton by Kevin Belmonte for BookSneeze (for an honest review) I did so because I thought I would be getting a biography of GK Chesterton. In this I was mistaken. It is not a biography but rather a study of his works and the subsequent influence and impact on the literary world, reading audience, and contemporary authors.
After a brief discourse on Chesterton's childhood, education and conversion to Christianity, Belmonte goes on to describe some of the major works that Chesterton produced. There are twenty-five chapters and each chapter discusses at length different books Chesterton wrote. Belmonte quotes extensively contemporary critics and biographers as well as Chesterton himself. These quotes and excerpts from Chesterton's literary repertoire wet one's appetite and leave one desiring to go buy the complete work. In fact, after reading this book, if I had enough money I'd like to go out and buy everything Chesterton wrote. One book I'd like to get is the biography that Maisie Ward wrote a few years after Chesterton's death. Belmonte gets a lot of his information for Defiant Joy from her. Hopefully her biography includes a little more of GKC's personal life and goes into more detail concerning his conversion to Christianity, something Defiant Joy definitely lacks.
There is, however, much information about Chesterton's dissertations on other famous writers and figures such as St. Francis, Thomas Aquinas, Austen, Kipling, Stevenson, and especially Dickens. It's was interesting to find out that it was Chesterton that actually saved one of today's most famous Victorian writers from obscurity through his essays and books on Charles Dickens.
Another valuable contribution is the inclusion of essays by both Chesterton and others who explain some of Chesterton's more difficult to understand works, such as The Man Who Was Thursday. I found those passages to be particularly enlightening.
Belmonte includes humorous debates between Chesterton and contemporary atheists. I would say a battle of the wits except Chesterton seems capable of making the most scathing arguments against Christianity seem ridiculous.
In conclusion, I found Defiant Joy to be well-researched with an extensive bibliography. If you like Chesterton or are curious to know more about this under-appreciated literary titan who is considered instrumental in leading the likes of C.S. Lewis to Christianity yet was able to maintain a life long friendship with the atheist, George Bernard Shaw, this is a good book to start with.