Reading the reviews of Wolf Hall, I thought Thomas More would be presented as a villain, but I don't think that was the case. Mantel presents More as her Thomas Cromwell would have seen him. She said in an interview that,
"I gradually realized that the confrontation with Thomas More wasn’t just a political crisis for Cromwell, it must have been an emotional crisis as well."
Mantel has two More motifs running through the book:
This is, surely, how history has patched More together. His story is too often patched from the reverential stories from his family with exaggerated evils created to quiet the shock of his execution. Cromwell would surely have felt he could see flaws in More that others could not see. Mantel says it nicely, "In real life, there is something fraying about their host, a suspicion of unraveling weave."
More is characterized nicely in some parts. He is, "a star in another firmament" and Cromwell "can hardly bear it, to think of More sitting in the dark." Even Cromwell admits:
One thing about More, he's never idled for an hour, he's passed his life reading, writing, talking toward what he believes is the good of the Christian commonwealth.
I first read Wolf Hall on my Kindle in November, 2009, and I have read it multiple times since then.
This article was originally posted on the Thomas More Book Club in March 2010.
This is the story of Margaret More Roper and her quest to preserve her father's place in history.
"Without her ... his collected works would be a completely different book and perhaps not exist at all. He would have been diffident about it, preferring to be known as an honest Londoner with the ability to make people laugh."
It seems unjust to the rest of the More children that Margaret Roper is always referred to as More's favorite child, because he loved all of them. A Daughter's Love does a good job of highlighting the special connection between Thomas More and his daughter.
Sadly, it is not available as a Kindle book...yet.
This article was originally published on The Thomas More Book Club in 2010. Since then, A Daughter's Love has been published for the Kindle by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, ASIN B003K16P5U
Jasper Ridley is no fan of Thomas More. The Statesman and the Saint is a dual-biography, and it is interesting to watch the parallel lives of Wolsey and More unfold. Jasper Ridley seems to believe the worst of More and the best of Wolsey, but he does offer some interesting views of the life of More, particularly how he separated his work life and his private life.
The unhappy aspect about this book is that Ridley seems to bent on presenting More as a dangerous man who was not capable of love; even the relationship with Margaret seems to be more of a reflected interest rather than a mutal connection. At the end of the book, Ridley goes overboard with a dramatic conjecture of how Wolsey would be in the world today. He suggests Wolsey would be a CEO of a company or some other behind-the-scenes power, and More would be a fanatical leader raising armies against those he wanted to eliminate from society.
Much like God's Bestseller by Brian Moynahan, Statesman loses some of its sense of authority by accepting the rumors of More excessively torturing people as fact. Both books are written by established, credible historians, but even stronger authorities, such as John Guy, have discounted much of those suggested abuses.
It is interesting that in America, the book was published as The Statesman and the Saint, and in England it was published as The Statesman and the Fanatic.
Ally Sharp is a teacher, writer and editor, and technology trainer.