Get an Amazon.com gift certificate for Christmas? Looking for a good read to launch the new year – one that grips the imagination, informs the mind, and challenges the soul? Well, look no further:
Henryk Sienkiewicz’s Quo Vadis is a work of fiction that makes vividly present the time of the first martyrs of Rome. Sienkiewicz strives for historical accuracy, drawing on documents of the time – writings of the Roman historians Tacitus, Pliny the Elder, and Suetonius – but far from a dry history-book account, Quo Vadis is a story of living, breathing men and women.
Sienkiewicz lifts Nero from being a name on an ancient page and captures the emperor’s grotesquely immature self-centeredness. He brings out the shock that the early Christian Church was to the Roman empire – the clash between a religion of love and self-denial that called on its followers to love even their enemies, and a culture that put aesthetics and self-fulfillment at the center of life.
Quo Vadis is not peopled with plaster saints, however. Sienkeiwicz does not gloss over the agonizing choices that confronted the early Christians, nor the suffering and death that was the birth of the Church in Rome. Alongside the suffering, though, he reveals the grace that undergirded and overshadowed these heroic men and women – grace that did not eliminate pain and suffering, but transformed it and those who bore it.