Book Review- “The Purpose of Passion: Dante’s Epic Vision of Romantic Love” by Kurt Bruner and Jim Ware

The Divine Comedy is one of the most enduring pieces of literature ever written. I remember picking up a copy of it in my high school library and beginning to read it. Even though the prose was often a bit challenging, I still found the book to be engaging and capable of provoking incredible images in my mind. I also read the book again in college. I’ll never forget the energy and enjoyment that my professors portrayed as thye tackled Dante’s masterpiece.

So even though I have a little bit of history with The Divine Comedy, I must confess that I never approached it as Bruner and Ware do. I can learn about romantic love from Dante’s journey into the frigid depths of the Inferno? That is what drew me to this book. I wanted to revisit this great work of literary art and attempt to examine it through the lens these authors proposed.

The Purpose of Passion is not a difficult read. It does a good job of summarizing relevant portions of Dante’s works so that a reader who is not familiar with them will not feel completely in the dark. That said, to really appreciate this book you need to have read Dante. The authors do a great job of explaining how many of the sins which left souls tormented in the fires of the inferno were a result of passions that had been sorely misplaced and grotesquely distorted. They use these as examples of how passion and love can be twisted and turned into something dreadful instead of something beautiful.

The authors take the reader through purgatory and into paradise and at each stop they point out a lesson that can be learned about love. The concluding portions of the book are the most powerful. Dante’s journey had been driven by his desire to once again be with his love, Beatrice. When he finally meets up with Beatrice in paradise and they move upward through the rings of Heaven, he finally encounters the fullness of love and romance in all of its perfection. He encounters God. From here the authors make their final point. Love, passion, and romance are beautiful things that God uses to paint a picture of the incredible love He has for us and that He desires us to have for Him. While human love can be beautiful, it can also be distorted into a hideous monster because of sin. Still, if we look around we can learn much about God by looking at romantic love.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read. If you are a fan of Dante or classical literature or are just in the mood for something different, this book is certainly worth the time.

Disclaimer

I was provided a copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review.


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