Non-Fiction Review: Augustine Thompson, O.P.’s “Francis of Assisi: The Life”

Professor Thompson, I admire your work.

Truly, it would be a treat to sit in a class by this author, and learn from him in person, the way I learned from his book. His style is clear and bold, and teaches without confusing or making presuppositions about the reader. And the way the reader learns about Francis is through a deftly woven story, not just facts slathered across pages and slapped between two covers.

This book is an amazing character study, both in choice of subject and in execution. Even those not primarily interested in the Church, or Francis of Assisi, would benefit from the example of word craft Professor Thompson gives us here, yet I find it highly unlikely that someone could read this book and walk away untouched by the story itself. With the extensive amount of research and material used and cited throughout, all of this is just a solid foundation for the fantastic story within the pages.

The author sets forth his objective in the beginning: to provide a biographical account of Francis of Assisi, unmarred by the lofty tales spun in the religious fervor of his day, or by the clinical examinations of the 21st century historians. With the documents written by Francis and his followers placed in historical context as his guide, the author makes his own judgments and interpretations. He does not seek create his own “mythology”, and even gently refutes that of others, while creating a year by year reconstruction of Francis’s life.

As a result Francis becomes very real. The lofty saint becomes relatable, yet still honored and venerated. The reader grows to respect the Man from Assisi in a new way, understanding why he was so influential, why he deserved the praise of his peers and followers. He becomes someone of integrity and great character, who struggled with very human problems, yet overcame. No longer myths and stained glass, but a real person, who influenced others through his walk and talk.

Instead of legend, you get a legacy, and that is more enduring.

I received a review copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley

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