cover image Martin Luther: Renegade and Prophet

Martin Luther: Renegade and Prophet

Lyndal Roper. Random House, $40 (576p) ISBN 978-0-8129-9619-7

Timed to coincide with the anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting of the “Ninety-Five Theses,” Roper’s biography is a demonstration of her skill not only as a historian but also as a storyteller. She begins with an overview of Luther’s life and work, then explains her own personal involvement with Protestant theology and the study of religious history. It is important to note that her aim is to write a holistic biography, not just to recount the highlights of a combative life or explain why the theses were controversial. The book is arranged chronologically, and Roper starts with Luther’s family, using a variety of sources, including portraits, to discuss his background. Roper keeps her story tightly focused, never wandering too far from Luther and his intellectual work over the course of his life. A definite strength of the volume is Roper’s ability to explain complex intellectual events clearly; for instance, her discussion of the Diet of Worms and Luther’s later anti-Semitic writings are well-organized and impartial. Roper is willing to allow her subject to stand in full complexity without seeking to simplify away difficulties of character and action. This volume will be of great appeal to scholars, but it is also extremely readable and will find a welcome audience among history enthusiasts. Agent: Clare Alexander, Aitken Alexander Associates. (Mar.)