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Publisher's Summary

The Life of Thomas More went straight to #1 on the London Times best seller list when published in the United Kingdom. It remained in that position for over a month, garnering the kind of praise that is rarely given. Thomas More was not only a great man of the church, he was also arguably the most brilliant lawyer the English-speaking world has ever known.
©1998 Peter Ackroyd (P)1998 Blackstone Audiobooks

Critic Reviews

"When one finishes the book, one has the sense that not only does Ackroyd know all the available facts about More and his milieu, he knows More himself....[A] masterly new biography. It must be a candidate for book of the year." (The Observer)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Bryan
  • PROVO, UT, United States
  • 08-02-13

Fantastic novel; passable narration

What did you love best about The Life of Thomas More?

The subject matter is fascinating, so the author was already off to a good start.

His integrity in his presentation of More as a regular human being, with many faults, makes those remarkable moments of More's life all the more salient.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Life of Thomas More?

In the book (not considering the lack-luster narration), the ending of More's life is pithily written. In its brevity and conciseness, it creates makes indelible More's final words to the condemning priest, "[God] could not refuse one who is so blithe to look at Him."

Any additional comments?

Davidson's narration is, as I mentioned in the title, only passable.
He reads everything in such a dry manner that sometimes I have to wonder if he's paying attention to the words that are coming across the page in his hand. He also misinterprets sentences from time to time.

His reading of the climactic moment—when after having received judgement and before receiving sentence, Sir T. More declares his convictions about the King's title and ulterior motives—is so abysmal that I nearly want to pay the publisher to re-record it.

I'd recommend first watching the movie, "A Man for All Seasons," which is also about Sir Thomas More, before reading this book. The movie will help you appreciate the impact of More's life, and his stellar faithfulness to his inner beliefs.

After that, this book is a fun supplemental read.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Brilliantly researched but poorly performed

This book about the life of St. Thomas Moore is an absolutely phenomenal bit of scholarship. Exhaustively researched, incorporating source documents at every turn, commentating upon other interpretations of these documents. Interpretation is somewhat flawed by its steadfastly unsupernatural interpretation of More's life. The recording is a bit lackluster. Very slow and monotonous so I listened to it at 1.25 speed and it actually came over pretty well.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

One of the hardest audiobooks I've ever finished

This book was a slog in just about every way. I wanted to like this, I'm very interested in the subject, but this book just failed on multiple fronts.

To start I really must note how much I dislike the narrator's style. I expect at any moment for him to get a call asking for Abe Froman, "the sausage king of Chicago," while commenting that he weeps for the future. It is a terribly affected snooty English accent that is a major distraction to following the actual content, and it almost never gets any easier. He also has a really annoying habit of taking the passages that the author quotes in early Modern English, and trying to pronounce them with affected phonetics to give you a sense of the weird spelling used. All it does is make it virtually impossible to understand, and anyone being sensible would just read the word that a listener will understand.

I made a point of purging many titles from my wish list that had him as a narrator, and I'd love to see a number of his works redone by better narrators.

As to the content, again this was a struggle. I felt that a lot of this book was just "one danged thing after another" with little narrative or analysis. I'd just finished Massing's excellent audiobook Fatal Discord (about Erasmus and Luther), and I felt like much of the more interesting things about More came out there and not here.

To make a very specific complaint representative of the larger problem, there's a point where this book mentions More trying to stop Tyndale's bible from making it to England. Without Massing's book, this would have made absolutely no sense. You really cannot do justice to this need unless you put it in context of the 1525 Peasant's Revolt in Germany. Ackroyd barely touches that, instead lumping it in with his blaming Protestants for "the plague and the abhorrent violence of the Peasants' revolt in Germany, as well as the sack of Rome." Starting with the plague—which no modern reader would hold as credible—shows that he's essentially just calling it all divine wrath. The larger analysis, that the Revolt really did cause a great deal of damage and really was inflamed by unrestrained passions let loose, fall completely out of the analysis, totally unremarked. Actual context is just dropped.

Additionally there's the matter of the Richard Hunne debacle, where a man is essentially charged of heresy and either murdered or committed suicide in prison for an initial charge from the church of refusing to give his dead son's christening robe as a ceremonial mortuary gift to the clergy. This is full of really remarkable insights into the time and place, potentially; that potential is not tapped. No good explanation is ever actually given, and the whole thing is a sideshow that raises more questions than it actually answers.

The book gets better in the last quarter when we get to his defiance of Henry VIII and his eventual martyrdom. It feels like this was written first, with Ackroyd then taking all of his assembled notes for the beginning several decades of More's life and just writes down all of their content in chronological order with no real narrative. There's a brief discussion of Utopia, and I credit this for providing an insight into the work as satire. I re-listened to Utopia following my completion of this, and was better able to understand all of that. But the discussion was far too short, and lacked a really thorough discussion of that satire, it's true aims, and how much of an idealist More actually was; More's closing remarks on that work do state that he didn't agree with all of it, and I'd have liked to see a better breakdown of how far More was an idealist (given the new tracts of his friend Erasmus Against War coupled with Wolsey's aim to essentially create the first proto-UN/proto-EU grand alliance). Knowing more about More's character, there are clearly parts where I can see disagreement (hard to imagine an endorsement of freedom of religion from someone who literally persecuted and executed heretics), but for much of the content determining his aims remains untouched. That's a shame, because that was one of my primary goals in listening to this book.

Another goal had been to get a better sense of the More/Cromwell rivalry at the center of the miniseries Wolf Hall, but this is left almost completely untouched. That may well be because the main thesis of that series is fictitious (I know Simon Schama felt it to be terribly revisionist), but if you're looking into insight into that character, you won't find it here.

As a final point, I've listened to one other Ackroyd title (Rebellion) and the problems I see in this book weren't present there. I definitely feel like I retained less than I'd have liked, but there is at least a real narration and nice supporting side stories for other characters like Milton and Hobbes. This book just really didn't meet the expectations that other book had set. More remains an interesting and important figure, but this book gave me very little of what I was actually seeking.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

THE LIFE OF THOMAS MORE

Would you try another book from Peter Ackroyd and/or Frederick Davidson?

YES. IF IT WASN'T NARRATED BY DAVIDSON -- BEYOND DREADFUL

ACKROYD IS A BRILLIANT WRITER HOWEVER BUT HIS PROSE IS COMPLETELY TRASHED BY THIS READING.

What didn’t you like about Frederick Davidson’s performance?

WAY TO ARCH AND AFFECTED -- A COMPLETE TURN-OFF.

Could you see The Life of Thomas More being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

WELL PAUL SCHOFIELD ALREADY DID A BRILLIANT JOB. BUT I'D LOVE TO SEE ANOTHER FILM.

ANTHONY HOPKINS WOULD BE BRILLIANT

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Great Man

Would you consider the audio edition of The Life of Thomas More to be better than the print version?

No, but it came close

What did you like best about this story?

I loved the latin and the links between the past, his life and where we are today. I really am seeing how we got from there to here.

Have you listened to any of Frederick Davidson’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

There were several instances that were poignant and moving. When his head was cut of and boiled, had me in tears. I was also moved by the death of his first wife, his imprisonment and his service to the poor.

Any additional comments?

I could listen to this book again and again and learn something every time!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Extraordinary cautionary tale

It would be hard to overestimate the level of fascination Thomas More continues to generate. I found him at times completely medieval in outlook and at other times thoroughly modern. His particular faith was the least compelling thing about him from my point of view, though the interaction of his beliefs with those of Henry VIII set the stage for More's greatest hour: his silence in the face of lengthy persecution, and his pungent revelation of his views in the moments after his conviction. More's life and mind are worth our time.

4 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

interesting story, no so good narrator

Fascinating time in history. The author makes the time come alive. Narration was flat and hard to listen to. I have heard train arrivals read with more expression.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A very important biography

I hesitated in purchasing this book at first because one of the reviewers was critical of the narration. I thought the narrator did a very good job with a proper British accent, and while his pace seemed a little slow at first, it was necessary given the length of the book and the need to explain the type of English spoken during the relevant period and that there were Latin phrases.

Sir Thomas More needs no introduction. I enjoyed hearing about his life because it gave me insight to how people lived 500 years ago. As a lawyer, it was interesting to learn how lawyers practiced law 500 years ago.

Perhaps the most important thing to take away from the book is that the abuses of power in those days form the basis of why our founding fathers prepared a written constitution.

While I recommend a book unconditionally, I will warn you that you have to be patient in listening to it because it is a rather long work. But, it needs to be because the subject of the biography was an accomplished person and prolific writer.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A stirring and interesting story

This is a very moving tale. I'm a big fan of Sir Thomas, truly one of the greatest Englishmen of all time, and his stand for the principles on which he founded his life. Whether you are religious or not I think all take pride in his demonstration of commitment to his beliefs. The book is well written and does a good job of staying focused on More. I'm not keen on the narrator and he doesn't add to the book but he's worth enduring to hear this story.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Fascinating

Absolutely mesmerized by this. Great book. If you're in to Tudor History, to you'll want to read this.