Peter Ackroyd's "The Life of Thomas More" is a magnificent reconstruction of the life and imagination of one of the most remarkable figures of history. Thomas More was a renowned statesman, the author of a political fantasy that gave a name to a genre and a worldview "(Utopia)," and, most famously, a Catholic martyr, who paid with his life when he refused to follow his sovereign, King Henry VIII, in severing England's ties with the Catholic Church.
Born into the professional classes, Thomas More (1478-1535) rose by dint of formidable intellect and well-placed connections to become the most powerful man in England after the king. An exponent of what was called in his day "the mixed life," More combined medieval piety with worldly mastery of legal argument and the art of negotiation. Ackroyd dramatically shows how the clouds of Lutheran reformation that swarmed over the continent unleashed the storm of the early modern period that swept away More's world and took his life. He clarifies the whirl of dynastic, religious, and mercantile politics that brought the autocratic Henry VIII and the devout More into their fateful conflict. And he narrates the unrelenting drama of More's final days--his detention, trial, and execution--with a novelist's mastery of suspense.
In Ackroyd's hands, this renowned "man for all seasons" emerges in the fullness of his complex humanity; we see the unexpected side of his character (a preference for bawdy humor) as well as his indisputable moral courage. Acclaimed for his magisterial biographies (T. S. Eliot, Dickens, Blake), Peter Ackroyd has once again scored a triumph.