I have loved Paul Johnson's work for at least 15 years, but this book simply doesn't measure up. I finally put it aside, perhaps to finish at some later date.
In his introduction, Johnson writes "I have put into this collection one or two heroes and heroines of my own, believing that an element of idiosyncrasy is a legitimate part of hero worship." I don't object to this, but he then owes his readers an explanation of why an obscure British figure is included as a hero. Lady Jane Grey is one such character. After a short summary of her brief life (she was executed at age 16), he makes no explanation of why she should be considered a heroine. A tragic figure, yes, but a heroine? He simply doesn't make his case or even explain why she is included.
He assumes that his reader is familiar with both British history and events, which is problematic for his American readers (including me). For example, he mentions Nancy Mitford, a writer whom I had never heard of. (I Googled to find out that she was "an English novelist and biographer" who died in 1973. His mention of Ms. Mitford is completely extraneous - she told him that she masturbated while "thinking about Lady Jane Grey."
The book is also poorly edited. He has long, complex sentences that sometimes make it almost impossible to understand who he is talking about - especially when he is discussing Mary Queen of Scots and Mary Stuart at the same time.
Johnson will be 80 this fall. Maybe he is just getting too old to maintain the excellence he has had in the past.
I rated the book 3 stars because his stories and anecdotes about the heroes he has chosen are often interesting.
I was reared in a Christian home but could not believe in the God of my parents so I became, like Lewis, an Atheist. I then found God and became a Christian (Mormon). I wish I had read this book when I was searching - it would have made my journey much easier. Lewis is amazing! It is one of the few books that I will listen to more than once. I will thank you, C.S. Lewis, in person when I join you.
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.