Benedict XVI: A Life; Volume One

Bloomsbury Continuum. Dec. 2020. 512p. ISBN 9781472979193. $35. REL
Journalist Seewald writes the first in a two-volume biography of Joseph Ratzinger (b. 1927), detailing his life from birth through his participation in the Second Vatican Council. The author artfully weaves together politics, church history, philosophy, and theology to show how these influenced and shaped the man who would become Pope Benedict XVI. This creates an engaging portrait that engrosses the reader in the subject. No detail of Pope Benedict XVI’s life or relevant influences is left out of this thorough biography, including details on his family history as well as discussions of the people, works, and events that influenced him. For example, the author spends several paragraphs describing the life and work of St. Augustine of Hippo. Though this kind of information may be helpful for many readers, it is perhaps not necessary to include in a work as large as this one, which is more likely to appeal to researchers and subject experts than the casual reader. While the book does not shy away from including details on Ratzinger’s personal and professional struggles, the overall tone of the work and treatment of the subject is slightly more positive than objective.
VERDICT A well-suited biography for an academic or special collection.
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