Monday, May 4, 2009
Lucy's Book Review: St. Thomas's Eve, by Jean Plaidy
The story begins with Thomas More’s decision to abandon his hopes of living the monastic life to opt for marriage and family life. He marries the very shy and less learned, Jane Colt. Together they have 4 children - the first-born, a daughter named Margaret (Meg), then Bessy, Cecily and finally, a son named Jack. They also adopt Mercy, who is Meg’s age.
More’s view on education was quite avant-garde for the times. More’s home is open, but not limited to, intellectuals who love to spend time at his place for conversation and discourse. An extremely rare notion back then, More believed that girls should be taught literature and be able to enjoy the same scholarly opportunities as men. He particularly loved the fact that Meg was so much like him- intelligent and compassionate. The two had a wonderful father –daughter relationship which clearly is noted throughout the novel. More, however, never lets on to show any preference for Meg since he always treated all of his children with special love and devotion.
When More’s first wife passes away, he shortly thereafter remarries a woman named Alice Middleton, who actually helped care for his dying wife. With the addition of Alice’s daughter, theirs becomes a full house of merriment, learning, studying and literature. Although More was a lawyer by profession, much of his interests and studies were focused on the Catholic faith and its teachings.
More lived an exemplary life according to the scriptures and the reasoning of the Church. He was much loved by all who knew him. His openness to understanding based upon ‘the teachings’ and his broad knowledge of the Law lead him to high places in the court of Henry VIII (then a staunch Catholic).
Along the years, all of his children married wonderful and respectable people. Alice enjoyed being the proud wife of Thomas More, Lord Chancellor. He was a favourite of the King. Known for his indisputably intact reputation, More’s opinions were respected and chided by all. So long as the King was in accordance with these opinions, More and his family lived a very fine life. Trouble began when the King’s views on a certain matrimonial matter did not match those of Thomas More.
From then on, the story of Thomas More and of his unfaltering and adamant stance for ‘doing what is morally right’ becomes a nightmare for him and his family. This much loved man was reduced to living in the lowest of conditions until he met his tragic fate.
I really enjoyed reading about such a fine man. Thomas More represents all that is wonderful and heroic in the fatherly sense. His morals and obligations towards a higher cause and the elevation of man through his spirituality and love of others are seen throughout the novel. I enjoyed everything about this novel and especially the More family life. How incredibly fortunate was this family to live in such unity and with so much love and kindness. Thomas More was a real life hero and role-model of the times.
This is the first Plaidy novel I read that has more to do with moral integrity rather than intrigue and royal complexities. A very different and reflective read- Loved it!