Susannah Spurgeon was the wife of the renowned nineteenth century English preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Ray Rhodes, Jr. is a pastor and holds theological degrees from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
This review is based on my preferences, and others’ impressions may differ. Essentially, there were parts of the book that interested me and parts that did not. There were snippets that allowed me to get to know Charles and Susannah better. I think of the story about how Charles on one occasion ignored Susannah because he was so focused, and Susannah was heartbroken, so her mother calmly informed Charles what he had done wrong. There was also the detail that Charles was so well-read that he could converse with almost everyone, of whatever social station, about anything. Susannah donated books to poor pastors, and there is a paragraph that explains why that would be important to poor pastors struggling to feed their families, let alone buy books that could edify themselves and, in turn, their congregations. A detail in the endnotes about Charles’s opposition to slavery and his controversial status in the American South also stood out to me.
These are the sorts of things that interest me when I read a biography in that they make the past and the people come alive. My problem with this book is that there were occasional flashes of light, but they were not really sustained, at least not enough to hold my interest. A lot of the book seemed rather plodding. Maybe I was hoping for more discussion of religious ideas. Perhaps there are things that I consider mundane and uninteresting but which actually deserve admiration, such as Susannah’s self-sacrificial attempts to spiritually educate her children. Where one is in life and one’s personal interests will influence what a person likes and dislikes about a book.
There are helpful features to this biography. There is a timeline at the beginning: what surprised me was how young Charles was when he died. The book is well-researched and draws from numerous primary sources. In the book’s conclusion, Rhodes neatly sums up the main points and what he believes Christian readers can get out of them. There is also an Afterword from Susannah’s great-great granddaughter, who lives in Ireland, where, according to her, Charles Spurgeon is not as well-known. That added a feel of coziness and historical connection to the book.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My review is honest.