When I was about twelve, a movie by the title of Amazing Grace was released in 2006, starring Ioan Gruffudd, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Romola Garai. It tells the real story of William Wilberforce, who was the main instigator of abolishing the slave trade in Great Britain. I loved the movie. I had never heard of Wilberforce until I saw this movie, but like most topics, I never found myself delving deeper into the history than the glamourized, half-fictional movie.
That is, until I stumbled upon this audiobook, which is the companion book to the movie. Out of curiosity, I picked it up off the library shelves and took it home to listen to. I am not a massive audiobook fan (I listen to them upon occasion, but not for the majority of my reading), but this book immediately took my breath away.
Release: February, 2007
Synopsis: This book tells the incredible story of William Wilberforce, a human rights activist and member of Congress who spent twenty years of his life working to abolish slavery. The book starts from the beginning of his life and goes all the way to his death.
Since this is a non-fiction book, I won’t split this review into non-spoiler and spoiler sections because, well, spoiler, Wilberforce successfully abolishes slavery!
I cannot praise this book high enough. Every criticism I have for the majority of non-fiction books is absent from this one. There are no fictionalized “creative” scenes with supposed character’s thoughts. Every comment about what the people were thinking is taken from their own writings at the time. Often times Metaxas will go out of his way to explain how we know certain information, and yet also admit that historians don’t know exactly this or that concerning Wilberforce’s life. I respect that in any writer.
Not only is the description lush and the context carefully researched, but there is a perfect balance between information and philosophy. For example, Metaxas may go into a certain topic in detail (like debauchery), but instead of simply stating what was happening at the time, he will also go into the mentality of why people acted as they did.
For those who are highly detailed oriented and have questions about every statement brought up (a.k.a., me), this book is absolutely a dream. I can safely say any time I wanted Metaxas to go further into a topic for context, he did.
I won’t say I agree with everything Wilberforce did, but at the end of the day the book portrayed him to be a good, but flawed man. I think that is all any of us can hope for in our lives: to do good with the talents we have been given. Also, as he was in Congress by twenty-four (ironically, my age), I feel like I’m doing absolutely nothing with my life.
Now, this is merely a word of caution. If you are close-minded to the philosophy of Christianity, don’t bother reading this book. Not only does it detail the mindset of multiple Christian beliefs, but the entire motivation and argument of Wilberforce is set on the Christian ideals of equality, which is absent in most other religions, that all people are created equal under God. Not only does this book detail his journey closer to God, but it spends a lot of time examining different Christian ideals of the time. If you are totally against reading anything about Christianity, then this book is not for you.
I have very little to say in criticism of this book. It is exceptionally written, though it is rather slow-paced. If you don’t mind that, then I highly recommend this book. It is probably my favorite book I read this year so far!
Book vs. Movie
Since I am a great fan of the movie, I felt myself comparing the book with the movie at every turn. Let me just say, I still love the movie, but boy does it pale in comparison with this book.
Just a few things which were completely different. First, the actor for Wilberforce is six feet tall, but the real Wilberforce was barely over five feet tall. The movie starts near the time when Wilberforce meets his future wife Barbara, when he was thirty-seven, but the book doesn’t reach this point until over halfway in (on the sixth disc of the audiobook). Also, the movie spends a lot of time on the romance between the two, while the book barely covers it. The philosophy in the movie is shallow and emotional, whereas in the book it is presented as logical and concise.
Basically, the movie is all about the drama. More violence, romance, etc. Whereas the book is all about the research and facts.
I cannot gush about this book enough. It’s definitely not the book for everyone, but for me it was absolutely amazing. It was filled with information, not just about Wilberforce, but the state of the world in general.
I also enjoyed it simply because it examines political tactics of the time, which are surprisingly similar to the tactics used by our modern politicians. It is interesting to think that the same ideals and the same evils that existed in the world still exist in the world today, though perhaps in different forms.
What are your thoughts about this topic? Have you read the book or seen the movie? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more madness and, as always,
Best wishes in your life full of adventure,