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5 Stars Out Of 5
5 Stars for Carr's Weight of a Flame!
January 30, 2012
Whether reading for pleasure or academic purposes, the story of Olympia Morata will inspire. Weight of a Flame is a well told narrative which helps to illuminate a critical time in the church's history. Set in Italy during the early 16th-century, Olympia Morata lived in an age of great upheaval and violence for Italian Protestants. It was a time when a profession of faith in Christ alone meant a choice between compromise, death, or exile. With imagination and creativity Carr brings to life one of the most beautiful and compelling female figures of the Protestant Reformation.
In each dramatic chapter, Carr helps us absorb all the historical data while we empathize with the human qualities of our heroine. More important, we identify with the young Olympia as a Christian. The stakes are high at every turn and as conflict after conflict unfolds, the reader is challenged by the faith of this young woman who did not love her life so much as to shrink from death (Revelation 12:11).
In a culture characterized by heedless self-indulgence and that extols the virtues of selfishness and ambition stands Olympia Morata, a woman whose short 29 years consisted of troubles, reproaches, persecutions, and death. Having forsaken all worldly pleasures and satisfactions for the sake of the cross, Olympia's story encourages us to run the race marked out for us with perseverance (Hebrews 12:1). It is my pleasure to recommend this book to all readers, but particularly young women, who will find in Olympia Morata, a shining example of strength and courage.
For centuries, Christians have debated--are we saved by grace through faith or through faith and works or by a choice we make to place our trust in God? I just finished reading a fiction book that addresses this same question. It is this book by Simonetta Carr. It tells the story of Olympia, a young woman who was born in Italy during the 1500s and then later moved with her husband to Germany. She lived in Italy during a time of great persecution of protestants. This book tells the very personal story of Olympia's life amidst the broad story of the persecution of believers when she lived.
The story begins with Olympia's acceptance to the court of the Duke of Ferrara to be his daughter, Anna's tutor. It follows her education while interweaving her spiritual journey and the conflict between Lutherans and Catholics within the duchy of Ferrara, Italy, and the world. The book is well written and interesting. The author, Simonetta Carr, is a native of Italy who not lives in California. It is really quite amazing how well she has written this book in her second language. It would be very readable for a middle school or high school girl. At first, I thought of it more for a high school girl, but after a discussion I had with my daughter yesterday about salvation, I realized that it would also be very appropriate for a middle school girl. The transitions between the chapters can feel a little bit jumpy sometimes, but the author was trying to cover sixteen years in two hundred pages. After the first few chapter transitions, I grew accustomed to how the story flowed. This is a very good book for young women to read and ponder. From the outset, the reader will know that Olympia dies at age 29 from the dates on the back of the book, but this book always presents life in a hope filled light--because of God's love. I never expected to be as encouraged by reading this book as I was. I simply expected a historical young adult novel. Instead, I discovered a book rich in story and spiritual ideas.
Let me explain. This book prompted me to consider several of the differences between Catholic and Protestant beliefs that I had not been aware of. It also reminded me of my strong conviction that we are saved by grace through faith. We are not saved by grace through faith and works. I cannot do anything that will save me. One of the other very interesting theological ideas brought up in the book is that Christ only had to die once for our sins. If we believe that any works, whether attending a church service or anything else, beyond God's grace is needed, then we nullify Christ's death on the cross.
While prompting me to think about these theological ideas, this book also educated me in the history of Europe during the 1500s. I had no idea that life was so difficult for protestants. Several years ago, I watched the movie Luther, starring Joseph Fiennes. That was when I realized what Luther did. Prior to Luther, normal people could not read the Bible. Luther translated it into German and in effect unified the German language. He went against the Pope and had to translate it in secret. For some reason, I had never considered what life was like for people who believed Luther's teachings. It was very difficult all over Europe for people who believed what the reformers taught about Christ.
It is always very interesting to me to realize that the same controversies that troubled people centuries ago are still around. The controversies have different main characters and the ideas are a little tweaked, but they are similar nonetheless. The belief that we are saved by grace through faith is important for us and our children to know and fully understand. I look forward to when my daughters will enter middle school and read this book. I look forward to the spiritual discussions that I hope it will prompt.
I do want to mention that there is a descriptive list at the beginning of the story of all of the characters. I referred to this helpful list several times as I read the story. At the end, there is an author's note about how much is true in the story, a list of reliable references, and a glossary of terms. All of these were good additions and answered questions I had as I read the book. I had sincerely wondered how much was true from the story and how Ms. Carr had created this story of Olympia Morata. This book is one of historical fiction that contains a lot of truth and is based on true events.
I highly recommend this book--to both children, grades six and up, as well as adults. It is one of a series published by P&R publishing. If you or your children enjoy it, I would look into the others!
Please note that I was given a complimentary copy of this book from P&R Publishing for review, but all of these opinions stated in this review are honest and entirely my own.
What would it be like to live in the years immediately following the Reformation? How joyful would the discovery of Gospel truth be? Yet, how terrible would it feel to know people close to you, who are suffering for their faith? The turbulent period which followed the Reformation is captured well in a new book by Simonetta Carr.
In "Weight of a Flame: The Passion of Olympia Morata" (part of the Chosen Daughters series from P & R Publishing), Carr tells the story of a Reformation-era heroine still remembered to this day. Olympia Morata was an Italian tutor and scholar, who embraced the teachings of Martin Luther and John Calvin with as much fervor as her professor father. She was fluent in Latin and Greek by the time she was 12, and at 13, she was summoned to the court of the Duke of Ferrara to tutor his eldest daughter, Anna D'Este. Morata developed into a scholar in her own right, lecturing on Cicero and studying philosophy. And she was known for her poetry, having written her own metrical adaptations of the Psalms.
This obscure historical figure is brought to life through the imagination and pen of author Simonetta Carr. Carr weaves us in and out of the tale of Morata's short life. We share her wonderment at going to court, and learn with her of the terrible plight of French refugees fleeing religious persecution. Morata's relationship with her father and her family is developed and a romance eventually unfolds.
But the story of Olympia Morata has its dark turns. She encounters suffering martyrs and survives a bout with the black plague. At one point her town is besieged and then sacked, and she and her family run for their lives. And at the young age of 28, she dies.
The author doesn't leave us with the bare facts of the case. She infuses the story with Gospel hope. The characters rehearse Scriptural promises to each other and find encouragement in the Gospel. And through this fictional account we can imagine what it really would be like to be there in Olympia's and her husband's shoes living through these difficult times.
Stories like these can help build the faith of our children. This book, directed primarily to girls, will both educate and inspire them. And the story is written well enough to captivate both children and their parents. As the father of five daughters, I can't wait to place "Weight of a Flame" in their hands. I can't thank the author enough for uncovering another Christian heroine for my daughters to look up to and to emulate. May the hope-filled life of Olympia Morata inspire many chosen daughters to trust the Gospel and risk their lives for the cause of Christ.
Disclaimer: This book was provided by P & R Publishing for review. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.
Since being introduced to her series "Biographies for Young Readers" I have become a huge fan of Simonetta Carr's writing. Her passion to teach children about church history, theology and the Word of God is so evident in her work. The 5th book in The Chosen Daughters Series, Weight of a Flame, tells the story of a girl, Olympia Morata, becoming a women wholly devoted to Christ. Though she lived centuries before us, Olympia's story will spur you on in your faith. While given many privileges in this life she came to a point of truly counting all as loss for the sake of knowing Christ - no matter the cost. I highly recommend this book particularly for young girls (and their moms!) to read.
Positives: There are so many things I enjoyed about this book. I loved the historical accuracy that is expertly woven into a descriptive story that captures the imagination and stirs the heart. I was very moved by the story of her transformed life, to see her as a young girl whole-heartedly pursue her academics and then come to the realization that she could use the mind God had given her to glorify Him. Lastly, her deep conviction to encourage others to study and understand the Scriptures and to live a pious and holy life in the face of persecution and death is a wake-up call to our American culture.
Talking Points: There are 2 verses that kept continually coming to mind while reading this story. The first verse is I Cor. 10:31. Olympia learned the value of doing all things to the glory of God. Talk to your children about the gifts, talents, abilities and opportunities that God places in their lives and how all things should be done with our utmost effort in order to give God the glory. Not only should we put forth our best effort, but our best attitude as well. The other verse is II Tim. 3:12. This verse tells us that if we desire to live a godly life, we will be persecuted. What this will look like, we do not know, but we can pray for strength to glorify God in and through whatever persecution we may face. Talk about the persecution faced by Olympia and her family, talk about the fears and doubts that they had at times. Talk about the peace that comes from a life surrendered to Christ in obedience, no matter what the cost. Challenge your children to stand firm in their knowledge and belief in Christ that they too can pass on a flame of passion for His glory to others.
The author has provided some insight into which parts of the story are true and which are fictional. HERE is a link to her blog if you would like to read about this. It is a 4 part series.
Age Level: 8 years of age and up. It will appeal mostly to girls.
I received a free copy of this book from P& R Publishing for this review.