I disagree with the previous reviewer's assessment of this book. I found it a very informative, easy to read, survey-type history. Mr. Ackermann (the reviewer I'm taking umbrage with!) ascribes labels to the author that are not evident from the book. I am an orthodox Catholic and I love Joseph Pearce's books, but Pearce is a passionate Catholic trying to prove a point in his books. Allitt is different. He doesn't put himself forward at all in the book. He's more of 'just the facts, ma'am' kind of historian. To say that Allitt reduces Chesterton to the message that Catholicism is fun is just inaccurate! I think it says more about the preconceived notions that colored Ackermann's understanding of the book, rather than what the author reports about Chesterton. And, anyway, Chesterton did have that message and at the time, it needed to get out. He said something about how joy was the Christian's biggest secret. Chesterton was known for pooh-poohing the Puritanism that brought on prohibition or couldn't appreciate a good cigar! Go to any meeting of Chesterton aficionadoes and you'll find lots of beer drinking and pipe-smoking! Just sayin'!
Anyway, I found the book most interesting. And I actually found it better organized than Pearce's, I think, because it sticks to a chronological telling. (I found Pearce's book a bit annoying in the confusing way he would refer to different people from different times, though I do think Pearce's is deeper when discussing aspects of the faith.) I like Allitt's style of not standing in awe of anyone, but telling it like it is, the good, the bad and the odd.
If you want to read an accessible, objective, clear history of American and English converts to Catholicism, that doesn't have any visible agenda, but just lays it all out there for the reader, this is the book for you.
These days, it would appear that there are few prominent converts to Catholicism apart from one or two British and American politicians. Allitt's book covers the golden age of the convert phenomenon that followed John Henry Newman's crossing over in the middle of the 19th century. Most of the expected names appear here and there are also detailed asides on some of the other relevant figures who were born Catholic, most notably Lord Acton. An essential volume clearly presented.
This book on Catholic converts of the 19th and 20th centuries puts an emphasis on the historical context of their stories. I found it a fascinating and eye-opening read, and I felt the author was very even-handed in his approach. It's not as easy to read as some of the other popular books on Catholic converts, but the issues presented make it well worth the time and effort.
Too comprehensive to fit any stock description, this book is an excellent account of the flood of english-speaking intellectuals who have converted to Catholicism in the last two centuries. The book is well written and should be of great value to anyone who is interested in the role of faith in modern life. Well done.
If you are a conservative Catholic, who love his Church, and is faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church, then this book is NOT for you.
I gave up on the book halfway through. The emphasis by this author is a sympathetic portrayal of converts from Protestantism with the agenda of changing the church to be more palatable to Protestants, but in effect this just makes the Catholic Church to be nothing but another Protestant church.
The author even portrays John Henry Newman to be a dissident Catholic, denying papal infabillity in favor of the collegiality of the bishops. This may have been true before Vatican I, but not after. Any Catholic who denied papal infallibility but upheld collegiality before Vatican I would be obligated by logic to accept papal infallibility after Vatican I. Once the college of bishops is led by the Holy Spirit to declare papal infallibility, then it would be a logical contradiction for a Catholic to uphold one and not the other. And this is exactly what Newman did not do. The author ignored the evidence that Newman later in life upheld papal infallibly in order to portray Newman as a fellow dissident.
The author's liberal Catholic bias effects his portrayal of even conservative Catholics such as G K Chesterton. Chesterton taught the beauty of the Catholic faith - that Jesus came to his us to give us life, with all its fullness, beauty and meaning. The author reduced Chesterton's teaching to a trite message that "Catholicism is fun!". This degrading summary would turn Chesterton in his grave!
To a liberal Catholic, God exists for man instead of man existing for God. If Catholic teaching prevents converts from coming into the Church, then the teaching can be discarded. Everything is about pandering to people instead obeying God and following the truth.
I should have known better by those who endorse this book where this book is coming from. It is not endorsed by anyone on EWTN or any conservative Catholic that I know of. But it is instead endorsed by a professor of University of Notre Dame, a school which refuses to obey the pope in enforcing the rule that all its theology professors must sign a paper that they will teach theology in accordance to the teachings of the Catholic Church.
Instead of this book, I recommend "Literary Giants, Literary Catholics" by Joseph Pearce.