Review: Simonetta Carr’s Renee of France

07 Mar

I am always waiting for the next book to roll off the printing press from Simonetta Carr (Amazon, Author Page, follow her on Twitter). Unlike her Christian Biographies for Young Readers (FB Page) which are beautifully bound books for children covering significant figures from church history, and unlike her Weight of a Flame: The Passion of Olympia Morata which is a more lengthy historical fiction (more historical than fiction: here, here, here, here) novel for older children, Renee of France is a Bitesize Biography written for adults.

Last year I read Weight of Flame to my eldest daughter. In this book we learned or Renee of France (Olympia Morata was part of Renee’s court in Ferrara, Italy in the 1530’s), prior to this I had never heard of Renee. Yet, she corresponded with John Calvin throughout much of her life (up to within the final days of Calvin’s life) – more than any other woman, & met him in person has he visited her court. I had to read this book!

This is certainly a bitesize biography. Each chapter leaves you wanting to know more, yet with a helpful bibliography including original source and language materials you have all you need to dive into more.

Renee of France is written with an engaging flow providing suspense and intrigue, keeping your interest, and yet Simonetta in no way sacrifices clarity and accuracy.

Here are some thoughts I had while reading this, which are perhaps uniquely interesting:

  1. Simonetta is concerned not only with historical facts, but also theology and doctrine. She writes a biography of a significant figure in Reformation history, but in the account of her life she addresses many key doctrines that were under attack at that time.
  2. Simonetta has carefully considered the implications of Renee’s life and her struggles to our lives today. You read an account of a woman who lived 500 years ago and yet you can see how we wrestle with many of the same struggles (doctrine and practice) today. In the final chapter, Simonetta takes the time to address these areas directly.
  3. The subject of this book, Renee of France, provided a unique opportunity to peer into the life and pastoral care of John Calvin as Simonetta wove quotes and allusions to their longstanding correspondence throughout the book.
  4. This book is a helpful addition to a dearth of sound resources on the women God has used through the history of His church. We have been so blessed to have many helpful books written on men throughout church history, yet this can, at times, lead to the impression that women were uninvolved. This is far from true and Renee of France demonstrates this with helpful clarity.

This book isn’t just for women to read! It is for anyone. I believe any Christian would be blessed & challenged by the life of Renee of France. (You can read Carl Trueman’s review here.)


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