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Thomas Becket: Warrior, Priest, Rebel, Victim: A 900-Year-Old Story Retold Paperback – 25 Apr 2013

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Product details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (25 April 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141044675
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141044675
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 56,972 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John Guy is a Fellow of Clare College, University of Cambridge, and also teaches on the Yale in London programme at the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art. He read history at Cambridge and has held academic positions in Britain and the United States throughout his career, specializing mainly in the Tudor period. He is recognised as one of Britain's most exciting historical biographers, bringing the past to life with the written word and on the broadcast media with accomplished ease. He aims for first-class storytelling and for books that read as thrillingly as a detective story. His bestselling books include A Daughter's Love: Thomas and Margaret More, Thomas Becket: Warrior, Priest, Rebel, Victim: A 900-Year-Old Story Retold, The Children of Henry VIII, and 'My Heart is My Own': the Life of Mary Queen of Scots (in USA published as Queen of Scots), which won the Whitbread Biography Award, Marsh Biography Award and was a Finalist for the National Book Critics' Circle (USA) Biography/Autobiography of the Year Award. Books for students include The Tudors: A Very Short Introduction, Tudor England, Cardinal Wolsey: A Students' Guide, The Tudor Monarchy (edited), and The Reign of Elizabeth I: Court and Culture in the Last Decade (edited). He appears regularly on BBC radio and has presented five documentaries for BBC2 tv. A Daughter's Love was adapted as a documentary for BBC4 tv. He also writes for national newspapers and magazines, including The Sunday Times and The Literary Review.

Product Description

Review

Suspenseful, meticulously researched... Guy's biography scintillates with energetic scene-setting, giving us wherever possible a tactile, visual feel for early medieval England... however well you think you know the story, it is well worth the read (Financial Times)

It is to Guy's immense credit that he has written such a lively, effortlessly readable biography - a book that not only corrects many historical errors and uncertainties, but merits reading more than once, for the sheer joy of its super storytelling (The Times)

Fine and thought-provoking (Sunday Times)

A nuanced portrait of one of English history's most controversial figures (TLS)

Entertainingly astute, and in places positively moving - essential reading (The Independent)

Meticulously sifts the contemporary sources for Becket's life (The Telegraph)

An elegantly written, scrupulously researched and original study (The Herald)

A wonderfully moving and subtle new biography - the reading of the assassination in the north transept of the cathedral is almost unbearably intense and brings tears to one's eye (Daily Express)

Thoroughly researched. . . an impressive array of contemporary accounts (Sunday Express)

The most accessible Life of Thomas Becket to be published in recent years (TLS) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

John Guy is an award-winning historian, accomplished broadcaster and a Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge. His previous books include My Heart is My Own: The Life of Mary Queen of Scots, winner of the 2004 Whitbread Biography Award and the Marsh Biography Award, the highly acclaimed dual biography A Daughter's Love: Thomas and Margaret More and a history, Tudor England, which has sold over 250,000 copies worldwide. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 49 people found the following review helpful By S. J. Williams TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 21 Mar. 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The rise of Becket to two of the most most influential positions in 12th century England (as the Chancellor and Archbishop of Canterbury - which he then trumps, so to speak, with his posthumous canonisation, his shrine becoming the object of international pilgrimage)is a fascinating tale. This is a story that many of us will feel we know. Yet while there are few outright surprises in terms of new material on Thomas in this book, the picture we get here is astonishing in its freshness and vivid detail, particularly considering the 900 years since his death.

There is a wide range of sources available, from early biographies reflecting Becket's highly politically charged martyrdom to official documents and correspondence reflecting Thomas' role at the heart of government: Guy seems to handle these effortlessly and is also admirably clear when weighing up likelihoods and possibilities. (There is an interesting, brief appendix about the 'rich and varied' primary sources.) His account of the political background to Thomas's life (the civil war between Stephen and Matilda most importantly) is clearly explained, as is the reality of the political tensions between the Capetians, the Angevins and the power of the Catholic Church: this can be complicated stuff and yet the clarity he achieves never seems like oversimplification.

What is particularly fascinating is Becket's rise in the world of power politics, becoming indispensable to Theobald, the then Archbishop and later Henry, whose virtually constant companion Becket became for the first eight years of his reign, playing an important role in supporting Henry's aspirations for his monarchy.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By John TOP 500 REVIEWER on 3 May 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
There's not a great deal I can add to the majority of the excellent reviews above. This book represents a tour de force when it comes to describing the life and times of that turbulent priest. From humble beginnings, rather like Wolsey four centuries later, Becket's rise was meteoric. What is interesting about this book is the narrative style of Guy, which as another reviewer has said, has started from scratch with no preconceptions about where the story would lead and placed Becket's life in the political context of twelfth century England. Guy manages really well in sorting out the chaff and misinformation from the wealth of material that exists about Becket and in doing so at times paints a less than glorious, albeit objective, portrait of this warrior priest. He also debunks a few of the myths and legends that arose around Henry II and Beckett.

There are parallels between the relationship of Henry II and Becket and that of Henry VIII and Wolsey four century's later which make this interesting reading.

This is a marvellously detailed, meticulously researched and objective biography of Becket and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in the history of that period, I don't think it will be bettered.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Hywel James TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 9 April 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
As he writes in his introduction to this thoroughly enjoyable book, John Guy has "tried to sweep away the cobwebs, dismantle the legends and use the original sources to conjure back to life a highly controversial figure who helped to change the course of history, and who has divided opinion ever since." He has succeeded admirably in these aims and though the work is some 400 pages long, and covers some highly complex ground - I defy anyone to summarise the course of the civil war between Stephen and the Empress Mathilda without the reader falling off his chair - it remains a readable, rewarding and entertaining book.

Perhaps the nub of the work is to found in chapter 12, 'A Solitary Man', where Professor Guy offers a profound analysis of a major source, the narrative of William fitz Stephen, written about 1173/74, and in doing so provides insights into the character and personality of Becket and his relationship to Henry II, which are entirely convincing and provide ample proof that John Guy has indeed succeeded in conjuring Becket back to life.

Highly recommnded.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Ginger VINE VOICE on 17 May 2012
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I have taken my time reading this wonderful account of the life of Thomas Becket and realise just how little I knew about the man beforehand. The vast amount of research that John Guy did is astounding, he writes about the events of 900 hundred years ago and the reader can almost feel as though it is set in the present day. For once the family background has been revealed and how a humble lad, though far from poor, rose to gain such favour with the crown. I have read many books about English and French history but this just fills in so many blanks, how the succession came to be so uncertain for years etc. and how Beckett himself had not set out to become a religious figure, let alone a Saint. There are the human stories, he was a young man with ambition but also feelings and desires which may not have been previously written about in such detail. Like other reviewers have commented the relationship between Henry 11 and Beckett were almost mirrored in Tudor times between Henry V111 and Cardinal Wolsey. This book is excellent if you are interested in history but may prove to be heavy going for anyone else. Forget what you were taught in school, this is the account of a real man before he became a Saint. I will be looking out for more books by this brilliant author.
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