Shh...No one alert Mikaela to the existence of this post, all right? She tends to get a little protective over her favorite books, and contemplating Ebay competition for the ones I'm about to tell you about definitely triggers her, "Let go of the books and no one gets hurt" mode!
It all started when, as a seven or eight year old voracious reader, I would scan the titles on Mama's bookshelves. I didn't know what all those pine-green antique books were, but the titles didn't pique the interest of a girl who just then read every mystery book she could get her hands on. Titles like Miss Lou or Opening a Chestnut Burr didn't exactly sound like nail-biting mysteries.
As time went on I discovered that my maternal grandmother whom I never met as well as my great-grandmother collected these antique books in a time when collecting meant searching every bookshelf at every antique store you ever saw. It was Mikaela who first dove into the writings of E.P. Roe, an American minister turned novelist who was also an avid gardener and Civil War veteran. He wrote, "My object in writing, as in preaching, is to do good, and the question is, Which can I do best? I think with the pen, and I shall go on writing, no matter what the critics say.1"
Every book of his I have ever read I have loved. His books chronicle believable spiritual growth and change in his characters, digging so truthfully into human nature that you can't help but wonder how he could have written your own thoughts hundreds of years before you were born, or how he could write such a poignant and relevant cultural commentary while living in a different society.
But this post was not supposed to a "Rave on E.P. Roe in General" post as much as a "Rave on A Knight of the Nineteenth Century In Particular" sort of post. As soon as I finished this book several weeks ago, it replaced my previous favorite book of his as my current favorite.
The preface tells it all:
"He best deserves a knightly crest,
Who slays the evils that infest
His soul within. If victor here,
He soon will find a wider sphere.
The world is cold to him who pleads;
The world bows low to knightly deeds."
The opening sentence is as gripping a one as I have ever read, so much so that I had to read it aloud to Mikaela as soon as I began it:
"Egbert Haldane had an enemy who loved him very dearly, and he sincerely returned her affection, as he was in duty bound, since she was his mother. If, inspired by hate and malice, Mrs. Haldane had brooded over but one question at the cradle of her child, How can I most surely destroy this boy? she could scarcely have set about the task more skilfully and successfully."
From there E.P. Roe masterfully contrasts nominal Christians with vibrant Christians, weak men held in utter bondage to their sin with men and women who are free in Christ. If ever a story was written that vividly illustrated the battle of Romans 6, this is it. I laughed, I nearly cried, and I stayed up late to finish it because I had to know how it ended!
Romance is merely a sidenote in this book, although E.P. Roe had me worried when he introduced a foolish marriage proposal in the very beginning. Therein lies the only point which I dislike about this book--his characters don't wholeheartedly condemn the marriage of a Christian to a non-Christian, although he definitely shows that as a foolish choice which will bring great grief. Suffice it to say, that was only a brief few sentences and was not a part of a major storyline, but I still felt it worth pointing out.
A Knight of the Nineteenth Century is now one of my favorite books, and I can't wait to hear your thoughts. Have you ever read anything by E.P. Roe? Are you going to try reading this book? Do you have any current book favorites to share with me?Click here to read a free public domain copy of the book.
1. E.P. Roe: Reminiscences of His Life, by Mary Abigail Roe; page 127.