Most successful fiction about early Christianity—such as Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace (1880), Quo Vadis by Henryk Sienklewicz (1897), The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas (1942) and The Silver Chalice by Thomas Costain (1953)—is set in or very close to the lifetime of Jesus. Genesius takes place at the time of the last great Roman persecution of Christians. It is the first-person account of a little known saint anxious to tell his own story. "I am myth, I am man, I am martyr," he begins. "I am all of these, or I am none." Here Saint Genesius of Rome, also known as the Actor, is given a backstory to explain his martyrdom, a personality-- arrogant, funny, lusty, conniving—and a life, far too short but oh so very memorable. Genesius: An imaginative tale, a glimpse of Christian history, a benediction.
As the author Ms Davis has noted, most popular historical novels of early Christianity focus on the first century. Genesius is one of the few centered on the early fourth century and its violent persecution under Diocletian, who wanted to restore pagan devotion. Out of a few threadbare legends about a play St Genesius performed before the emperor, Ms Davis has written a compelling story filled with the sounds, sights and smells that accompanied life in central Italy during this turbulent era. Interestingly, the tale is presented in first person – from the vantage of St Genesius who refused to renounce his new belief. This format severely constrains how events can be described. An omniscient narrator can inform us of the thoughts and emotions of varied characters – as well as describe clandestine actions hidden from all but the reader. First person, on the other hand, limits the reader’s perspective to that of the protagonist – to his or her prejudice and immaturity, but draws an empathetic reaction to events that surround its participants. Other novels, such as To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins also feature this style, and render these stories more relatable to their audiences. All three describe dystopias at least in relation to the victims of injustice. Genesius differs in that while background details of foodstuffs, architecture and social interaction are recreated from historical and anthropological knowledge for late ancient Rome, the protagonist denotes an historical individual caught up in the tumultuous calamity that beset a growing religious cult despised by the ruling elite. This context corrects an unfortunate deficiency facing modern Christians ignorant of their salvation history, and apart from the style and dexterity of the author’s brief presentation, deserves commendation for supplementing our historical understanding.--G. W. Thielman
This book is a feast for the senses. We are transported to lush gardens among gorgeous flowers and fragrances. We are with Genesius in the famous Roman baths. We are experiencing ancient foods, decor and luxuries through his eyes. Whether it is a rainstorm or a sunset, we are walking through the characters' lives in a very real way. Oftentimes I found the writing to be poetry using ancient language, and it was fresh and alluring. I wanted to read more. Genesius' journey to faith is gradual, imperceptible at first, and believable. What a lovely way to lay out the tenets of the Catholic faith. The characters are wonderful, completing his world with their individual quirks and humanity. Could there be more to the story? Of course there is a long version to everything. But what we have here is golden. Emotional, beautiful, and somehow touching our Christian history in a very real way.--Denise M. McCollum
I just finished reading Genesius and highly recommend it! It's a short but packed story about Genesius, an actor saint. Just wonderfully told; I almost felt part of that time! The details about this saint's life were so realistic, and the ending tied everything together and was beautifully written. Superb job, Donna!--Carleen Delio