16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
A splendid and moving recreation of a world we have lost.,
This review is from: The Life of Thomas More (Paperback)
Saints can be obstructive, difficult, dogmatic and even inherently unlikeable. In various degrees Thomas More is all of these and more. Yet in Ackroyd's sure hands he is revealed to be both a man of his time and perhaps even a "man for all seasons" with a steadfast focus on his God and what He demands.
Ackroyd patiently and sympathetically portrays More as essentially a medieval man, born into a world of obligation. It is this sense of the overwhelming obligation of the Christian man that is striking about More. He is not a natural saint - but he does have a very clear understanding of what the duties of a Christian man are. What is deeply depressing about his relationship with Henry VIII is that Henry tells him on more than one occasion that his duty to the King is, and has to be second, to his duty to God. Ironically it is this duty to God and its precedence over his earthly allegiance to Henry that becomes his undoing.
The other moving aspect of Ackroyd's vivid portrayal is the clarity with which Ackroyd explains More's notorious attitude to heresy. As he ages, More increasingly senses in the work of Luther and others the prospect of a world falling into decay and disorder - even a world where the Last Things are near. The prevention of that catastrophe and More's fear of its happening are central to his energetic campaign against heresy. Order is everything; chaos to be avoided at all costs. (It is extremely interesting to compare More's vision of what Protestantism might bring with the state of nature described by Thomas Hobbes a century later.)
For many it may appear that More's worst fears were realised and the great fracture in Christendom did indeed herald the end of the medieval world order and the birth of a world of individuals rather than a community united by the common faith of More and millions of our ancestors.