Thursday, March 23, 2006

Review: The Dante Club

For book #7 in my 52-this-year-resolution, I read The Dante Club, by Matthew Pearl. I had no particular interest in this novel - I saw it at a book sale at a library in Syracuse, and it looked interesting, so I picked it up.

The book is fiction, but uses some factual settings from Boston, 1865. The focus is on "America's first Dante scholars" - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, James Russell Lowell, and publisher J.T. Fields. They are working together in their Dante Club to help Longfellow as he undertakes a translation of Dante's Inferno. (This much seems to be historical fact.) The group then gets caught up in a series of gruesome murders, and their expertise makes them most likely to solve the crimes. I don't want to give much more away than that. The book started extremely slow - I thought I would never get into it. But by the end I was reading bigger and bigger chunks at a time.

An excerpt:
"In medical school, the sciences had allowed Oliver Wendell Holmes to discover how nature operated when freed from superstition and fear. He believed that just as astronomy had replaced astrology, so would 'theonomy' rise up one day over its slow-witted twin. With this faith, Holmes prospered as a poet and a professor." (pg. 42)

Hm...I was a "pre-theology" major in college. My brothers always used to tease me that this meant "pre-God." What do you think - are we students of God, or "knowers" of God - as Holmes' theonomy would suggest? Maybe we should all just stick with "theophilos" instead - loving God ;)
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