Great Lion of God is a mangy beast

The Apostle Paul is one of the towering figures of the New Testament, but little is known of his pre-Damascus Road experiences.

dust jacket of Great Lion of God features lion rampant
Lion rampant symbolizes courage, nobility.

In Great Lion of God, Taylor Caldwell imagines a Jewish-Roman family and childhood experiences to account for his behavior in later life.

Not content with that, she also deliberately sets out to draw comparisons between the Roman era and twentieth century America, with an ultimate goal, she says in her introduction, to influence people to study the scriptures.

With all those weighty goals, it’s no surprise the novel feels as if it’s back is broken.

Caldwell extensively researched the background of her story and the pictures she draws of the different communities and cultures in the first century are fascinating. Unfortunately, the historical characters she moves through these scenes are not fascinating.

Caldwell’s attempt to make Paul appear a man like ourselves backfires: Readers won’t want to be like Paul. From childhood, the Paul of the novel is cold and generally unpleasant.

Even the youthful sexual experience Caldwell invents to account for Paul’s alleged anti-woman attitudes doesn’t make him interesting. The man is boring.

If you’re interested in Paul, read his letters: He’s at his best there.

Great Lion of God by Taylor Caldwell
Doubleday, 1970. Book Club Edition. 597 pp.
1970 bestseller #5. My grade: B

© 2018 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Dear and Glorious Physician Is a Lukewarm Biography

Writing fictional biography is a hazardous occupation.

Authors are expected to stick to account plausiably for all the mistakes,  foibles, and inconsistencies that make the characters interesting, while sticking to historical facts.

Dear and Glorious Physician illustrates just how difficult the task is.

The physican is, of course, Luke, widely believed to have penned the gospel that bears his name and the book of Acts. Taylor Caldwell’s task is to show how a Greek doctor came to know all the history in those books.

Caldwell has Luke raised in the home of a Roman soldier, mentored by a Chaldean physician, taught by Greek philosopher, educated in Egypt. As Luke moves through the Mediterranean world, Caldwell makes each locale’s sights and sounds come alive.

Unfortunately, she is less successful at making Luke himself come alive.

In the picture Caldwell draws, Luke is a  loner who makes friends everywhere he goes. He’s afraid of dogs, but cuddles wild jackels. If that seems plausible to you, you’ll probably accept that is a world-class athlete (judo’s his speciality),   handsome as Apollo ,the confidant of Caesar, and that he can can raise the dead when his brilliant medical skills fail.

Dear and Glorious Physician
is worth reading for the setting and scenery.

Look elsewhere for  entertainment or for better understanding of people.

Dear and Glorious Physician
By Taylor Caldwell
Doubleday, 1959
572  pages
1959  bestseller # 7
My Grade: C+
© 2009 Linda Gorton Aragoni