Newman: A Short Biography
Messenger Publications, 2019, £9.95. ISBN 978-1788121057
Review by Vicky Johnson, Precentor York Minster
For anyone who wants to get up to speed on the life and work of John Henry Newman this measured and succinct account of the man from birth to death is an accessible place to start. In this carefully presented book, we are taken through a remarkable life and introduced to key moments from Oxford to Birmingham, via Dublin and journey with Newman from his life as an Anglican priest and academic to Catholic Cardinal to English Saint.
Amidst the public persona we catch glimpses of the private man, often troubled, conflicted and extraordinarily vulnerable and yet always striving after truth. Here was a man who valued friendship highly, who knowingly courted controversy and challenged the church across its’ denominational boundaries. With a piercing intellect he rigorously interrogated the prevailing theological conventions of his day by carving out a new space for the Christian imagination to flourish and genuine dialogue to emerge.
This is a factual book, which is peppered with pictures and full of anecdotes and interesting details. Michael Collins is generous enough not to impose heavy analysis upon Newman, letting the reader instead draw their own conclusions about this remarkable and unusual man. The journey to sainthood is unfolded in the final chapter of the book in a rather matter of fact way, and one is left to reflect on how close we now are to the life of an English saint, in whose flaws and foibles we can see the glory of God breaking through.
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