The story of one of the greatest minds of the English Renaissance told by the best literary biographer of our time.
Peter Ackroyd is an award-winning historian, biographer, novelist, poet and broadcaster. He is the author of the acclaimed non-fiction bestsellers London: The Biography, Thames: Sacred River and London Under; biographies of figures including Charles Dickens, William Blake, Charlie Chaplin and Alfred Hitchcock; and a multi-volume history of England. He has won the Whitbread Biography Award, the Royal Society of Literature's William Heinemann Award, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, the Guardian Fiction Prize, the Somerset Maugham Award and the South Bank Prize for Literature. He holds a CBE for services to literature.
According to Ackroyd (Blake; Hawksmoor), More "embodied the old order of hierarchy and authority at the very moment when it began to collapse all around him." Symbolizing that collapse was Henry VIII's defiance of the pope in the "great matter" of his much-desired divorce of Catherine of Aragon. Refusing to compromise with the break from Rome, More willed his own death. He dies well in Ackroyd's narrative, but he does not live a life as saintly as he leaves it, piously amassing wealth and power, piously writing philosophical works as ambiguous as Utopia and as scatological as Responsio, piously harassing religious reformers and smugly condemning them to the stake. As a biographer of More (the first since 1984), Ackroyd is also an effective novelist. He evokes late-medieval London in sight and in smell; sends More on his workaholic schedule of legal, political, diplomatic and courtly activities; exploits familial and hagiographic anecdotes for their story values; and repeats unscholarly untruths (as Luther's cloacal epiphanies) because fiction can be more colorful than fact. Only Henry VIII in Ackroyd's large cast fails to be realized in the round, but the king, recognizing More's loyal services, does "graciously" reduce his sentence from disemboweling to beheading. After an awkward, conditional start ("But it might be more fruitful to recognise... "/ "...but it might be worth rehearsing certain of its aspects... "/ "It has in the past been noticed... "), Ackroyd's clotted language metamorphoses into elegant English, and the nobility of More's demise will move readers who persist to the end. 27 b&w illustrations not seen by PW. BOMC, History Book Club and QPB selections. (Nov.)
Prizewinning biographer/novelist Ackroyd reconstructs the life of Henry VIII's famed adversary.
"Full of brilliant insight, and one stands in awe of Ackroyd's learning, confident that this is the life of Thomas More for our times" * Independent on Sunday *
"Thanks to Ackroyd's skill, scrupulous research and inspired interpretation of historical texts, vital sparks of life have been breathed into the austere icon" * Daily Mail *
"Marvellously vivid... He has an excellent visual sense and a sharp eye for hte particularities of daily existence... His is a reliable, colourful and deeply enjoyable life of an extraordinary man" * Guardian *
"Ackroyd tells More's story with imaginative sympathy and impeccable scholarship...masterly" * Observer *
"Comprehensive and subtle... Ackroyd imbues his book with a pregnant richness of colour which makes one almost smell and hear 16th-century London... It has been said that Ackroyd is today's best writer about London, and this biography adds to that reputation" * Mail on Sunday *