If you haven’t heard of Reformation Heritage Books before today, you’ve been missing out. They produce a number of fine volumes on theology, particularly on Puritan theology.
One of the most significant contributions they are making to the life of the church is the Christian Biographies for Young Readers series. These are fully illustrated, hardbound books that are suitable early elementary through middle school. The books include drawings and paintings of historic scenes as well as contemporary photos of historical sites.
The latest edition in this series highlights the life of Marie Durand. Durand was a French Protestant who was born in the early eighteenth century. As a Protestant in Catholic France, her family was at times tolerated, but later on most of the family was arrested for meeting together and worshipping according to their conscience.
As a result of her faith, which led her to disobedience to the crown, Durand spent thirty-eight years in prison. She lived the first 19 years of her life free, though with threat of persecution through many of those years. Nearly her entire adult life was lived in the small confines of the Tower of Constance, where she and a number of other Protestant women and children were imprisoned. Snow and rain fell through the grating in the roof and through the slitted windows. Their meager provisions had to be augmented by their families and friends on the outside.
Inside, Durand served as a teacher to the children, letter writer for many of the other prisoners, and also spiritual leader because of her ability to read and write better than others. Her role was significant, and yet the reality is that she spent nearly four decades in a small one-room prison with only occasional opportunities to go outside into the fresh air.
While the women, including Marie Durand, were imprisoned, their husbands were made to be galley slaves. Or, like Marie’s brother Pierre, were executed outright if they persisted in preaching the Protestant faith.
And yet they persisted.
Analysis and Conclusion
This is what makes this biography so powerful and timely. Durand’s story reminds us of what real persecution looks like. This is not merely social marginalization but absolute, unfettered, and unreasoning punishment. Many men and women lost their lives in exchange for an unsullied conscience.
This book is written as a third person historical biography. In other words, it is not a story book, but a work of non-fiction directed to the young. This is the sort of story that can provide the sort of vicarious memory that a young Christian may need when attempting to sort through the social consequences of a vibrant Christian faith in the coming years. This volume shows that others have paid a greater price, and that it was worth it.
The author, Simonetta Carr, is a native of Italy with a multicultural background. She has been an elementary school teacher, a home-school teacher of eight, and a writer for newspapers and magazines. The book is illustrated by Matt Abraxas who is an artist by trade who lives on Colorado.
These books are not inexpensive, but they are well constructed. The illustrations draw the reader in and help to make the story come alive. This would be a suitable volume to incorporate into a homeschool unit, or as part of church library. The entire series would make an exceptional Christmas or birthday gift for a young reader. This is the sort of reading that will stick to a child’s ribs and provide encouragement in a time of need.
This is the ninth book in the series. Previous titles include John Calvin; Augustine of Hippo; John Owen, Athanasius; Lady Jane Grey; Anselm of Canterbury; John Knox; and Jonathan Edwards. Hopefully there are more planned in the near future. If the future volumes are as good as this one, the church will be blessed.
Note: A gratis copy of this volume was received from the publisher through Cross Focused Reviews with no expectation of a positive review.