Newton and Polly

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 13 Jan 2020

Member Reviews

Newton and Polly is the fictional account of a true story, the story of John Newton and Polly Catlett. The two were unlikely matches, met by chance and fell for each other nearly instantly. The author captured the obstacles, e.g. Polly's faith and John's trade, perfectly and managed to write a convincing story of how John met Polly.
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Jody Hedlund is one of my favorite writers.  Whether she is writing about lighthouse keepers, orphan trains or anything else, I have read many of her books.  I waited for a long time to read Newton & Polly and it surprised me.  At first I found it a chore.  I was prepared to be inspired by John Newton, because, after all, he wrote Amazing Grace, one of the most revered hymns in Christianity today. 

I could not get excited about John Newton the man.  Once I realized how I felt about him, I kept reading and in true Jody Hedlund fashion, she researched her subject so well that it was reflected into his character.  This man was quite the opposite of what I expected.  When I think of a clergyman from the 1700's I am not thinking of an irresponsible young man who strays from duty so far that he goes A.W.O.L. from his shipboard duties, mocks the faith of fellow seamen, drinks to excess, gambles and deals in the slave trade.  It was only by the grace of God that he was saved.  It was after such a long and hard fall from grace that he realized the path of destruction he was on.  It was then, after he was saved that he penned the words to the beautiful song describing what a wretch he had been.  In the end, I was inspired by this man's story and how far he had sunk before finding his faith. If you enjoy reading historical Christian fiction I recommend this book to you.
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This is a powerful story of redemption! And along the way a sweet and sometimes sad love story.

It was fascinating to learn the story of John Newton's life and of course that of his wife. Jody does a beautiful job of sharing their story. I just couldn't put this book down.
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I was excited to get to read this book and to learn more about the writer of “Amazing Grace’ and his life. And wow, did I learn a lot! I was so impressed at the author’s strict attention to the true facts of the life of John Newton. I had never read any book by her before this one, as I mainly read and prefer contemporary fiction. I felt that this story began great and finished great. I was less enthralled through the middle though. But I can truthfully say that I will never hear or sing ‘Amazing Grace’ without thinking of this book.. I was given a copy to read by NetGalley (thank you) but the opinions are entirely my own.
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I thoroughly enjoyed the plot, atmosphere, and characters.  I would recommend the book to friends and family for their reading pleasure.
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I love reading well-written biographies that take me back to a time in history and explain the motives and reasons behind an event or person in history. Jody Hedlund’s book Newton and Polly does just that. She explores the life of John Newton, famous for his abolitionist activism in England in the 1700s, and his famous hymn, Amazing Grace. Hedlund shows John Newton’s change in character throughout his formative adolescent years. 

In addition, she introduces us to Polly Catlett, the young woman who becomes the object of Newton’s affections from the moment he sets eyes on her. Polly, an accomplished musician, comes from a middle-class Christian family, and even though she feels strongly attracted to John (a distant cousin), her parents caution her against allowing the attraction to blossom into love. They see serious character flaws in John, and they urge her to maintain a friendship with him.

At first I struggled with the author’s accurate descriptions of strong physical attraction between two young people. Perhaps I secretly believed that in a book for young adults, describing desire was inappropriate. But then I realized that as a preteen and young teenager, I felt many of those same feelings. If we as adults don’t honestly examine the feelings that accompany hormonal changes, and guide our kids in how to channel and deal with those feelings in a constructive way, they will fall prey to society’s belief that there’s nothing wrong with instant gratification.

If you’re a parent looking for a good biography to read aloud to your younger children, some of the scenes may make you squirm (not because of their graphic nature, but because of their honesty about feelings). This would be a perfect opportunity to discuss the beauty of how God created us to be attracted to each other. If the book were a movie, I’d give it a PG-13 rating (some violence does occur as well). 

I really appreciate Hedlund’s honesty in writing this book. All too often we try to sugar-coat the lives of church giants and fail to realize that they struggled with the same things we struggle with.
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NEWTON AND POLLY by JODY HEDLUND is a historical romance novel that tells us of the life of the man who wrote Amazing Grace, and that of the woman, Polly Catlett, who, from the moment he met and fell in love with her, was his inspiration to live a better life.
Polly was pure and beautiful. She tried very hard to draw near to God through her own efforts, unlike John Newton, whose life, until he had a real encounter with Jesus on a sinking ship, was one of debauchery and sin. It is very much the story of the Prodigal Son; and in fact we see the love of John's earthly father throughout the story, which mirrors our Heavenly Father's unconditional love. When we read how God saved John from death so many times, we are reminded of His amazing grace and mercy.
The struggles that both Polly and John go through are made very real to us. We feel their pain at the constant separations and the decisions they try to make.
The author has obviously done a great deal of research, and the description of life at that time is very interesting. It is good for us to see what life was like then, with the dangers they faced, not only at sea.
I can really recommend this book - it is a good read with a strong Christian message.
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It took me a long time to read this book, I guess because I wasn't as interested at first in reading it as I was all the others I finished in between readings, so I had a hard time getting into it. But I'm SO glad I finally finished it! It was a beautiful tale of redemption..but not at first! Many were the times I was so DONE with John, and wanted to urge Polly to pass him by, he wasn't worth her time. Fortunately God is never done with us, and this was one of those stories where the reprobate finally hits rock bottom and turns his heart to God finding true forgiveness and then finds the peace that has eluded him all these years as he tried to find happiness on his own selfish terms. I liked that only in his forgiven state he was finally worthy of the prize he coveted all this time...sweet story!
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What an amazing story! This book really did not deserve to languish in my TBR pile for as long as it did, because I was spellbound from the moment I picked it up. I have no hesitation in saying this is the best I have read of Jody Hedlund!

I had a vague idea that Newton had been a bit of a reprobate in his younger years, but until I read this story I didn’t fully appreciate just how lost he had been.  And I had no idea about the woman who inspired him. This, then, is the story of a passionate love, but also a painful love for many years, both for Polly and for Newton.  In all honesty, if John Newton had been a fictional character—or, more to the point, if I hadn’t known how his story turned out—I would have been tempted to throw my iPad at the wall at the way he continually sabotaged himself. Even so, I was holding my breath until the end, never fully convinced that things would turn out the way I wanted them to until I read the words with my own eyes.

Such a powerful story is no doubt a significant part of what made this novel so incredible, but full credit also needs to go to Jody Hedlund for the way she wove the story together. The writing was excellent, and she did a great job of showing the emotional bond that grew between Newton and Polly, but also contrasting it with their individual struggles: Newton rationalising his poor choices, and Polly struggling to reconcile her head and her heart. Part of Polly's father's advice will always stay with me:

    “If we hold true to God’s Word and walk according to his way—no matter how tempting it is to take the easy path—he’ll bring us to green pastures eventually.”

Newton’s journey, on the other hand, is truly summed up best in his own words:

    “Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found; was blind, but now I see.”

It can’t be said strongly enough: This is a truly memorable must read!

I received a copy of this novel through the Blogging For Books program. This has not influenced the content of my review.
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This novel was a pleasant surprise, as I have been sorely disappointed by other novels by this author, especially her YA series. It had just amount of Romance blended with adventure, intrigue and historical detail. I was grateful that the Romance was not too overdone or mushy.
The friendly banter between Newton and Polly was quite well written, and she did not spend all her time pining when he was away. Unlike in other books I have read by the same author, there is no over-the-top violence, especially against women. That alone was welcome.

Instead, it was a simple old fashioned good story about the love of two young people over the course of several years apart- a love which ultimately led to the salvation of a dissolute, selfish and bitter young man who went on to become author of the world's favourite hymn. Polly Catlitt did not come over as simpering or needy, even though she was deeply in love. She actually seemed like quite a sensible, practical lass most of the time, and realized the dangers of throwing herself into a relationship with an unsuitable man. I knew a little of John Newton's background, but this really bought it to life in a vivid, imaginative way.

The historical detail was well used and accurate. Immersive without being too distracting, and of course there was a sound salvation message, as it’s about the journey to faith of John Newton (and to some extent Polly), presented realistically and sensitively. That said, his religious doubts did not come over as contrived or patronizing, as they do in some stories written by Christians.

If I had any complaints, I would say they were shortcomings common to many books like this- namely stories set in Britain or featuring British characters written by Americans who have never set foot in the British Isles. Sadly, Mrs Hedlund conflates England and Britain throughout the novel- in fact I don’t think the term Britain was ever used to refer to the entire UK which includes England, Scotland and Wales it was just (wrongly) called ‘England’.
Even in the historical note it’s said the slave trade was abolished ‘in England’- when it was Britain and throughout the British Empire. There were also numerous Americanisms like ‘fall’ instead of ‘Autumn’, and certain minor historical details that were incorrect about the Political system.

As much as I would like to see problems like that fixed, it did not detract from my enjoyment of the story. Recommended.

I requested an electronic copy of this book from the Publisher Waterbrook via Blogging for Books and purchased the audiobook of my own volition. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions expressed are my own
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Although I have heard and sung the song Amazing Grace many times, I don't  think I ever had really heard the story behind it.
Jody Hedlund does a wonderful job at bringing that song and backstory to life. In this book you will get to know the characters surrounding the song, and it will make the song even more meaningful to you when you sing.

I enjoyed this book immensely. Jody held me captive by Newton's charismatic charm, Polly's innocence and godliness, as well as her strong character. Newton was a bit of a reckless, free will kind of guy, who mostly just went with the flow of whatever he felt like doing until one day, his choices were removed from him by force. Eventually, during dire circumstances, John finds God and His amazing grace. 
Once a slave owner himself, in his later years of life he fight for the Abolitionist Movement.
Polly, is quite a character also, young, sweet, and a survivor as well as supporter of Newton. She believed in him and proves it. They always made quite a team together.

I really appreciated Jody's fact background at the end of the book that cleared up the facts and fiction aspects of the novel. It was very insightful. I loved Jody's creative telling, and learning more about the context of this song, will certainly make me appreciate it even more every time I hear it.

I received this book from Blogging for Books free to review. All opinions are my own and I was not asked to review it positively.
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