Amazing Grace, book by Eric Metaxes  » Books  »
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  • Amazing Grace by Eric Metaxes is the biography of this largely forgotten figure of British Parliamentary politics, the aforementioned William Wilberforce (1759-1833) It is the story of his search for meaning, the finding of his faith, and the signature work of his life, the abolishment of slavery in the British Empire
  • I wouldn't say I agree with absolutely everything the man believed, but there's no doubt William Wilberforce is one of the heroes of history
  • If you want to know more about the beginnings of Abolition, Evangelical Christianity in politics, or just want to see the period from a new lens, I think Amazing Grace is a good biography to start with

    • by James Davenport

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      Who would you say was the most influential person of the 19th century?

      Queen Victoria of England? Her name defines an era. Isambard Kingdom Brunel? He built the bridges that gave rise to mass transit and the technology that powered a century. The American President Abraham Lincoln? His words echo through time, the “Great Emancipator” of the slaves.

      I could offer many more and another name in particular, but odds are, you’ve never heard of him. Lincoln sure had though, and the former considered this man one of his personal heroes in the struggle for abolition and one of the great visionaries of all times– William Wilberforce.

      Yeah, who? That’s what I thought.

      Amazing Grace by Eric Metaxes is the biography of this largely forgotten figure of British Parliamentary politics, the aforementioned William Wilberforce (1759-1833) It is the story of his search for meaning, the finding of his faith, and the signature work of his life, the abolishment of slavery in the British Empire. Sound interesting perhaps? Let’s take a closer look (of course we shall, why else would you be here?)

      As a point of disclosure, AG was intended to be the


      right hook companion in a one-two media punch of Amazing Grace the biography, and Amazing Grace the movie (2007 starring actor Ioan Gruffudd in the leading role.) If you’ve seen that biopic it may well compel you to read this book, however, AG the book stands on its own. Metaxes’ narrative is crisp, yet also comprehensive. I never found the pacing wearing me out. Each chapter is almost episodic in nature and virtually all of them come in at about ten to twelve pages. I chose to read one or two chapters a night, but with AG being only 320 pages, I could have easily finished the whole book in a much quicker timetable than I eventually did, had I the time to just sit and read it all. (And there were times I wanted to keep going, but real life would get in the way!) The main point here being, it wasn’t’ a burden to read at all. Wilberforce felt alive again as I followed the episodes of his life, I could identify with this guy having a great cause that consumed his energies, while also having to deal with his physical limitations (really REALLY short Yorkshire leprechaun with a stomach disease) and constant vicious ridicule by his enemies. While the main thrust of the narrative does focus on Wiberforce and his primary achievement, the legal abolishment of slavery, Metaxes is also careful to point out it was not just his subject alone who did it all, but rather that Wilberforce was a movement founder surrounded by a whole group of leading lights, involved in other humanitarian and moral causes. (His group, the Chatham Society still exists to this day as a think tank.) Also, while it is quite clear that Wilberforce was an unabashed Evangelical Christian, the book is not too preachy, focusing more on action and the surprising charisma of Wilberforce the man, rather than the beliefs that powered his greatness. In other words, whether Christian already, Jew, Atheist etc, you’re in safe waters here. Wilberforce is and was an inspiring human being–who just happened to be Christian.

      On the downside (you know I have to) AG is a fast read. It gives you little tidbits, just enough cheese and catnip about the ...


      • Amazing Grace, book by Eric Metaxes
      man’s various doings to get you interested, but doesn’t tend to dwell on any one thing (other than its main cause of Slavery.) While yes, this is what the book is supposed to do (I mean Slavery= Wilberforce that’s what the guy is known for) I still would often feel like I wanted to know more about something else he did too, but Metaxes just mentions these things (his personal life, his other pet causes, his hobby interest in new technology, the time Wilberforce met Thomas Jefferson etc). Just when you get intrigued to want more, the author’s gone again, flashing forward a few years down the road to the progress of the Anti-Slavery efforts (or lack thereof.) I totally understand why Metaxes sacrifices more details to keep the pace brisk on-subject, and fair enough, I just wish it dwelled on some of these side issues a little longer. Some of them are just as fascinating to me as the main thesis.

      Minor nitpicks aside, I enjoyed reading Amazing Grace. It originally came to me at a synchronistic time in my own life (I was 26 when I first heard

      about Wilberforce, the same age he was when he found God and his life’s work.) I’ve gone back to this book a few times since I first read it, but it never gets old to me, nor ceases to inspire. I wouldn’t say I agree with absolutely everything the man believed, but there’s no doubt William Wilberforce is one of the heroes of history. Whether its for his obvious cause of slavery, better working conditions for the poor, or better treatment for pack horses (Ever hear of the SPCA? Yeah, this guy started it!) Wilberforce’s legacy marches on. He was the original “do-gooder” that would ignite the activism of generations of Victorians and beyond. At around $9-11 whether you go digital edition, hardcover, Amazon, or Barnes and Noble, AG is well-priced pick up. If you want to know more about the beginnings of Abolition, Evangelical Christianity in politics, or just want to see the period from a new lens, I think Amazing Grace is a good biography to start with. If one of our own heroes, Lincoln, knew who William Wilberforce was, so should we all. An enlightening read.



+1
Emma Harman says :

I felt this piece was very informative and beneficial. I felt I had a good understanding of what the book was about and it’s purpose. The author gave you an interest in buying the product, which is hard to do when writing about a history book. I also like that there were small facts in the review. I think this is helpful with any type of educational product because it shows that the book serves a purpose. People love knowing facts that they believe not a lot of people know for good conversation starters or to look more impressive on interviews. I think putting facts in the reviews will make people want to buy the product and learn more.

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James Davenport replies :

Hey Emma

Glad you’re interested in Amazing Grace. As I said in my review, it couldn’t have come at a better time in my life. If you know someone, perhaps of faith, or just someone who needs some encouragement, this is a good bio for them to check out.

A single life can make a difference

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The review was published as it's written by reviewer in November, 2014. The reviewer certified that no compensation was received from the reviewed item producer, trademark owner or any other institution, related with the item reviewed. The site is not responsible for the mistakes made. 1728111639830130/k2311a1128/11.28.14
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