Titus: A Comrade of the Cross – a classic novel for Easter

In 1894, a publisher held a writing competition to obtain the best manuscript that would inspire a child’s Christian faith. Florence Kingsley submitted her manuscript for Titus: A Comrade of the Cross and won the $1,000 award. In six weeks, 200,000 copies had been printed to meet demand.

The story is about a young boy named Titus, the son of a downtrodden mother and a poor, violent fisherman. His brother Stephen is remarkably kind, considering the fact that he was crippled from a beating by their father. Titus is cynical of what he hears about Jesus, and warns Stephen against any hope of healing.

This historical novel takes place at the time of the first Easter.

“Titus was listening with all his ears, but he said nothing, for he hoped that the man would speak further…. He could have slipped away in the dark easily enough, and was half-minded to do so.

Then he reflected that he might learn something more of his mysterious birth and parentage, if he stayed; besides, he had a strong curiosity to see the much-talked-of Barabbas; and underneath all, was an unconfessed desire to share in the exciting events which were soon to follow.”

 

Over thirty years ago, I was given a copy of this hardcover novel,. The cover was ragged, and as I skimmed the text I could tell that the language was ancient and confusing. It sat on my shelf for a long time because I had no interest in reading it, but I kept it out of affection for the person who gave it to me.

Finally, years later, I picked it up and started reading it, and couldn’t put it down. The language wasn’t a problem once I got used to it, and even though halfway through the book I found that a whole chunk of pages was missing, the suspenseful plot and true-to-life characters still mesmerized me.

I can honestly say that my faith grew tremendously from reading–and having “lived”–this story.

I was still reading it when my first son was born, and we gave him a middle name that was not the name of a relative, but of a character that touched me deeply in Titus: A Comrade of the Cross. 

 

Because Titus: Comrade of the Cross is so well-known and well-loved, this book is readily available to read online or by download, at such sites at archive.org and google books. Free audio of the book is offered at LibriVox. Hardcover copies are also easily available at various online bookstores, including Chapters-Indigo. Lamplighter.net features a great video blurb about it, and Bookworm Blessings has an excellent review and summary.

Although it was originally written for children and youth, I recommend this book for any age. Its longevity attests to its quality! The author wrote a total of 3 books in this “Comrades of the Cross” series, including Stephen: A Soldier of the Cross and The Cross Triumphant, as well as many other books.

Are you familiar with Florence M. Kingsley? Have you read any of her other books? Let me know if you have any favorites you’d like to recommend.  You can leave me a comment below. I always love hearing from you!

And I wish you a Happy Easter!

Book Review of Destiny’s Hands, a novel by Violet Nesdoly

What was it like to be an artist thousands of years ago? What if that artist was a slave? How did people in another land—a land full of other gods and religions—find their way to God, and why?

The stories in the Bible are set in a time and place that I can’t always relate to, which has sometimes kept me from “living” the story as I read it. However, Biblical characters that come to life through a novel give me a kinship with these far away people, and bring the spiritual truths of scripture alive for me.

This book attracted me because it delves into the life and heart of Bezalel, an artist, a creative carver and goldsmith. I read it because I believed that it would give me a new perspective on how others take what is in their heart and shape it into a creative, visible form for the benefit of others. Destiny’s Hands gave me that perspective even more than I expected.

The author demonstrates her own creative talents by imagining Bezalel’s desire to succeed in his craft and his developing faith as he sees the power of God with his very eyes. It was fascinating to see him sort out his beliefs from those of his family, in contrast to those of his co-workers and his community, and to find an authentically personal communion with the living God.

Just the right amount of description and scene put me into the story setting without making me restless to get back to the exciting plot. I loved learning about life in Old Testament Egypt and in the desert, and it felt so real, I was confident that the author had done a lot of research. I liked that the dialogue was easy to read with the natural conversations we would have today, yet there were times where some dialogue bumped me out of that particular world, as I would have a hard time imagining someone from that time using some of our contemporary expressions.

Destiny’s Hands was suspenseful; it kept me turning the pages past my bedtime and I finished it in two days. (I wish I’d rationed myself, to prolong the joy!) It delved into a romantic relationship, showed us the history and customs of that time and place, and made us feel the intense struggles and emotions of the main character. I’ve heard and read so often that a reader needs to empathize with a character, and this writer has skilfully enabled us to feel what he feels, at one place bringing me to tears.

I highly recommend Violet Nesdoly’s Destiny’s Hands. It is a perfect example of why I read fiction. I was inspired by this account of a true story, I was challenged and strengthened in my own faith, and on top of all that, enjoyed being immersed in a different world. I can only hope that the author is hard at work on another book!