Out of the Storm by Derek Wilson is a very nice overview of the life and times of Martin Luther and a very nice introduction to the workings and beginnings of the Reformation. This work by Wilson, like any other popular history book, must be read with the knowledge that it alone is not the beginning nor end nor the last work dealing with the subject of the life of a man who had such a profound effect on Western Civilization. Out of the Storm has some very strong points and does have some weak areas. First I will mention what I did not like about the book, and which in my own humble opinion were its weaknesses.
The author has spent quite a lot of ink on the theological hair splitting of the day. Now I grant you, an understanding of these complex issues is vital to an understanding of the reformation, and indeed of Luther himself, but if the reader is not well versed in this subject, parts of this book can be a rather difficult read and a bit intimidating. The issues discussed are very complicated and in an ever increasing secular world, they are not issues we encounter on a daily basis, if ever. Like another reviewer here, I found myself constantly reaching for other reference books and having to reread portions of this work in order to understand just what the author was talking about. In all fairness though, I must admit to not being a theologian, nor have I ever had any desire to be such. Secondly; if you read this work with a certain mind set, it is quite evident that it is very anti-catholic, to the extreme. The reader must constantly remind themselves that the author is talking about the Catholic Church of that day, and not the one we presently have. Anyone who feels that the church was in great shape in those days, and that everything was as it should be, and that there was little corruption, really needs to read their history a bit closer. The church at that time was rotten to the core, from its center out. Thirdly, the author makes some assumptions as to Luther's motivations and mental state that could quite well be questioned, and indeed, should be. Speculation is fine and is quite necessary in cases and studies such as this, but the author fails at times to emphasis when he drifts into the area of pure speculation. I like footnotes, and I like a lot of them to back up what the author is telling me and in this case, there certainly were not enough to suite my needs. Forth, and this is really not the fault of the author, as I don't feel it was his intention to break new ground, but there is really nothing new to be found between the covers of this book. Most of the information found here is a rehash of what we already know but is simply written differently. I was a bit disappointed in this.
Now, what I did like about the book... The author, I feel, has done a very nice job of giving us a good look at the life of Luther, warts and all. Luther was far from a perfect person and his faults were many. The author addresses these problems and does give us reasons for these faults (this is where some of the speculation comes in), but the reasons are logical and I can live with them. Luther was also a great and brilliant man and the author has given him his due. Luther has always been one of my "historical heroes" and I liked this aspect of the work. Secondly, this work gives us a very nice and brief overview of the Reformation. It is certainly not as detailed as many hardcore students of those times would want, but for my purposes, it was just fine. It brought up points of interest which will motivate me to do some further reading in this area. The author has done a wonderful job of giving the invention of the printing press its fair share of credit. This is something that is often overlooked. Without this wonderful invention, neither the Reformation nor Luther would have had the impact it/he did. I was also enlightened as to just how complicated and complex civil politics and the politics of the church were in those days. The author does a wonderful job in stressing this point. This work does a very nice job of pointing out the effect this era had on our own times and indeed, in the overall history of Europe and the entire world. It brings home the fact that we cannot really understand what is happening in this day and age without a good understanding of what went on at that time. If also, if you read closely between the lines, points out the dangers we face even to this day when religious fundamentalist and zealots acquire far too much power and influence. This is something we certainly should take note of and heed.
There are a handful of men and women such as Martin Luther, Charles Darwin, Alexander the Great, et, who almost single handedly changed the course of world history. We need to know of these men and women as we can learn much from them. The more we know of their lives, the richer our lives will be. We may not agree with them, but we should know them and of the impact of their work.
This is a readable book, an enjoyable book for the most part, and quite informative. I do recommend it. Granted, it could have been better in some areas, but I suppose you could say that about most historical studies.
I recommend you read this one with an open mind and leave your own dead horses at home for someone else to beat. Read this work, enjoy, but for goodness sakes carry on from here, if you are interested in this era, as there are many, many other works out there that need to be read and digested.