Does the concept of popular literature seem like an oxymoron? Can a book sell well in today’s pop culture, while still displaying a high degree of literary quality?
The answer is a resounding: Yes! This week I read a newly released book by prolific author Sigmund Brouwer that evidences excellent literary quality and is sure to skyrocket off the sales charts.
Thief of Glory engages the reader from its gripping beginning to its satisfying end, barely allowing anything beyond shallow breathing during the riveting middle. The narrative is written from the perspective of an elderly man forced to record his childhood memories of WW II years spent in a Japanese concentration camp in the Dutch East Indies. He begins with a paragraph that sings:
A banyan tree begins when its seeds germinate in the crevices of a host tree. It sends to the ground tendrils that become prop roots with enough room for children to crawl beneath, prop roots that grow into thick, woody trunks and make it look like the tree is standing above the ground. The roots, given time, look no different than the tree it has begun to strangle. Eventually, when the original support tree dies and rots, the banyan develops a hollow central core (Thief of Glory, p. 1).
That’s lovely writing, but the reader finishing the story realizes how masterfully Brouwer crafted those opening lines.
I’ve written a book review that I hope will appear in an upcoming issue of Christian Renewal, and which I intend to post here after publication. But I wanted to mention this novel now and encourage all writers to read it. After I read an extremely well-written book, I often shut it and think, “I may as well give up writing altogether.”
I felt a bit of this when I finished Thief of Glory, but primarily it encouraged me that Christians can write stellar books for popular consumption. Books that shine with literary quality while subtlety conveying faith and truth.